New Charter Housing Trust Group has been one of the first organisations in the industry to recognise the potential security threat posed by the ubiquity of portable and removable media devices such as MP3 players, PDAs, USB drives, digital cameras and the latest generation of mobile phones.
These devices can aid productivity and support flexible working but also present a security risk through confidential data being lost or downloaded inappropriately, or bugs and viruses being introduced unwittingly on to the network while uploading data.
When New Charter, which owns and manages 15,000 properties in north-west England, identified this loophole during a security review, it knew it could not introduce a complete ban on mobile devices without affecting productivity. The answer was to monitor and control what devices were being connected to its network, and by whom.
John Westwood, IS infrastructure manager, New Charter said, “Many colleagues take work home, but we had no idea how the information was being transferred in and out of the office. We didn’t want that commitment to compromise our security, but we needed more than just a written policy to change behaviour. We needed to change how staff thought about removable device use.”
Having explored the options for intelligent device control, New Charter chose Centennial Software’s DeviceWall. This lets New Charter set up groups with their own access rights; for example, property inspectors are allowed to connect digital cameras while staff in the finance department cannot do so. Furthermore, most of New Charter’s employees need approval from the IT helpdesk in order to connect a removable device, greatly reducing the number of connections.
John Westwood said, “Knowing what devices were being brought into the office showed us where our vulnerabilities lay. Our user policies are now based on what was actually happening in New Charter, rather than theoretical information. Monitoring and tracking mobile device usage across the organisation allows us to see trends emerging, which can further protect the business.”