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

By

Omer Cohen

| March 09, 2023
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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.

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