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Why Enterprises Need To Rethink Their Approach To Third-Party Data Access

Zero-trust security environments have a major problem — once a third-party user is approved and given access they can still wreak havoc, whether intentionally or not. A new, innovative solution using virtual mobile devices solves this flaw, creating the zero-trust environments needed to help highly regulated industries keep data private and protected.

The threat landscape organizations face is constantly in flux as new ways to access and compromise data evolve. But while many of these threats will emanate from adversaries, such as hackers and cyber criminals, giving third-party employees access to sensitive and confidential data is a growing security problem. 

Full-time staff can be clampdowned upon with strict security policies, but third party vendors many companies heavily rely upon are vastly more difficult to manage. The extent of this threat is underlined by the findings of the Intel471 threat intelligence report, which found that 51% of companies have experienced a data breach caused by a third party. 

Zero-trust strategies are a key defense against this growing threat, where a barrier is created around an organization’s IT assets and the default security posture is not to trust connections and grant the minimum of privileges. This requires all users and devices to be authenticated before they connect. 

The Flaw in Zero-Trust Environments

The problem, however, is that zero-trust policies are focused on protecting and managing users, and not the actual data. So when users are granted permission, the data they access using their mobile device sits on that device. There are, of course, endpoint data protection layers that encrypt or use data-wiping tools to digitally sterilize devices of sensitive data. But this happens after the user has had access to the actual data through their devices. This is highly problematic, especially in highly regulated sectors. 

Think of healthcare facilities, for example, where thousands of remote employees and third parties (from doctors to labs) constantly need to access highly confidential patient information, known as electronic protected health information (ePHI). The confidentiality, integrity, and availability of this data is highly regulated and any breach is subject to substantial sanctions and reputational damage. The failure to encrypt and protect mobile devices containing ePHI recently resulted in a $3 Million HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) penalty for a New York Medical Center after two reported data breaches occurred from a lost flash drive and stolen laptop

The financial services sector is also governed by strict data regulations, which place substantial pressure on securing remote and hybrid work environments given the adoption of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices. 

Power plants and large utilities, where thousands of third-party contractors conduct on-site maintenance all at once, are also highly susceptible to data breaches even though it is critical they keep their highly sensitive information secure. 

The one common feature and underlying security weakness linking all these sectors is their heavy reliance on giving third-party employees access to highly private and strictly regulated data. 

Problems With Current UEM Solutions

In an ideal world organizations would simply supply every vendor or contractor with a verified, secured and compliant device to maintain the integrity of their zero-trust environment. In reality, however, this is simply too time-consuming to manage and would slow down the productivity of third parties. Trying to implement security protocols on the devices of vendors and contractors is also problematic, as many of these will already be managed by the organization they belong to. 

For those organizations that have found a way to manage third-party devices, the onboarding and offboarding of these devices is a complex and time-consuming task for the IT department. This is because the current unified end-point management (UEM) solutions and strategies implemented by organizations lack the flexibility and low-resource approach to effectively manage high volumes of end points in a zero-trust environment to ensure data remains secure and they remain compliant. 

How to Effectively Ensure Secure Third-Party Access

The use of a virtual mobile device (VMD), a solution designed by Symmetrium, can now create the zero-trust environment needed to help highly regulated industries keep data private and protected, avoiding breaches and massive fines.

These VMDs are deployed to reside in, and become part of, the organization’s own IT environment. The result is a far easier life for CIOs and IT departments thanks to the less complicated management of zero-trust security environments for third party vendors because:

  1. Symmetrium’s VMDs become a virtual extension of all existing compliance safety and IT, offering a native experience and are seamlessly deployed.

  2. They immediately allow BYOD environments to become zero trust with custom end-to-end encrypted streaming and no data at rest, for everyone. This means that each mobile user is treated as an on-prem laptop, which they can control when and where users can access data.

  3. This minimum-resources mobile management solution needs very light operational requirements and delivers high security compliance demands that integrate smoothly into existing data access protocols. The result is the easiest onboarding and offboarding of third-party users with one single app. 

Even the most highly advanced data protection solutions and authentication protocols, still allow data at rest, thus making them vulnerable. This is where Symmetrium’s zero-trust data protection solution sets itself apart — data never leaves the confines of the organization’s network. It enables organizations to provide zero-trust mobile access with no data at rest. This allows productive collaboration with third-party vendors while dramatically minimizing the risk of data breaches. 

Isn’t it time you reconsidered your approach to third-party data access? Book a demo with Symmetrium here.

2023’s Potential Big Compliance Flaw — Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Policies

Trying to safely manage a BYOD policy is a minefield of risks, which is why organizations are turning to an innovative zero trust mobile access solution to instantly resolve security flaws.

Almost 80% of US-based companies have used BYOD since 2018, but a growing number are discovering BYOD can often stand for “Bring Your Own Disaster.” This is because BYOD essentially extends the company’s network out into the world and exposes firms to risks related to client, employee, or corporate data. 

For most organizations the decision to implement a BYOD policy has lots to do with productivity and flexibility, but little to do with security. So while it can help organizations to be more efficient and effective, the security implications can quickly outweigh the benefits. Securing BYOD is a headache, and far more complicated and problematic than corporate-owned endpoints. This is why even the biggest corporations are at risk. 


Significant BYOD Data Breaches 

Global consulting firm, Deloitte suffered a substantial data breach in 2017, which was attributed to an administrator’s account being accessed after using an unprotected device. This impacted their email system and exposed highly sensitive client data, including that of the US Department of Defence. 

LastPass, an award-winning password manager, which saves passwords and gives secure access from every computer and mobile device, had its systems breached in 2022 after a hacker stole source code and technical information from a home computer belonging to one of the company’s DevOps engineers.

The growing culture of BYOD devices in healthcare is now also one of the biggest security threats facing the sector, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).


Key BYOD Vulnerabilities 

 The underlying concerns of security professionals regarding BYOD deployment are data leakage (62%), users downloading unsafe apps or content (54%), and lost or stolen devices being compromised (53%), according to Bitglass’s 2021 BYOD Security Report

While many businesses have specific BYOD policies in place to guard against security vulnerabilities, enforcing them is problematic. This leaves organizations and their data at risk due to: 

Poorly secured Wi-Fi networks: When employees are working remotely using their own devices to connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks they can expose sensitive data to potential security threats. 

Not updating software: Personal devices may not contain the most up-to-date software and security patches. This can leave them vulnerable to hacking attempts. 

Unauthorized apps: Unknowingly downloading and using unauthorized applications on personal devices provides a significant threat of malware or spyware compromising company data. 

Sharing unsecured data: Sharing data using unauthorized messaging apps and personal email accounts can expose sensitive data to security risks. 

Data at rest: When an employee accesses confidential content in a BYOD environment, the data leaves the corporate network and rests on their device, even using the most advanced data protection solutions and authentication protocols.


The Solution for All BYOD Threats

Symmetrium’s zero trust mobile access solution has been designed to help organizations keep data protected in a BOYD environment. It works by the creation of virtual devices that reside within the organization’s own IT environment. 

When remotely accessed these virtual devices act as extensions of all organizational security and compliance policies using end-to-end encrypted streaming. The result is a completely native mobile experience with seamless deployment and management.

Corporate data is always accessed virtually using Symmetrium via the organizational network, and therefore at no time sits on the user’s actual device. The result is that data remains secure and is never put at risk.

With each mobile device acting as an on-prem laptop, it allows for full control over the data employees access and shields this data from any risks associated with the BYOD device being used to access it. 

This allows for minimum-resources BYOD mobile management via a central management console for all devices, OS and brands. All is integrated smoothly into existing security and GRC data access protocols through one single app. The result is organizations can finally be confident their data remains secure and protected at all times regardless of the device being used to access it. 

Isn’t it time you reconsidered your approach to BYOD? Book a demo with Symmetrium here.



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