How Cloud Desktops Can Address BYOPC Security Challenges

Thanks to bootstrap startups and other culture-centric tech companies, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) permeated workplaces at an astonishing rate. Although initially resisted by IT departments, employees championed the freedom to use their own tablets and smartphones to access corporate resources. However, with BYOD in place, many workers are starting to eschew company-issued PCs and demand that they be allowed to use their own PCs for work-related activities. Bring Your Own PC (BYOPC) is the next generation of BYOD– and comes with its own set of security challenges. Fortunately, cloud desktops can address many of them.

As with BYOD, security is chief concern for organizations that are reticent about implementing BYOPC. With BYOD, employees want to use their smartphones or tablets for “light work” activities such as catching up on email or viewing an online presentation. They revert to PCs for “real work.” However many organizations have built Standard Operating Environment (SOE) PCs that comply with data security policies set forth by their IT director or newly-hired Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). These standard operating environments ensure comprehensive protection against security threats while meeting compliance regulations that pertain to the organization’s business. Key elements in an SOE include the following:

  • Installation of antivirus software and other security-related software
  • Restrictions on the number and type of applications that can be run on the device
  • Encryption of company data at the file level or for the entire hard disk
  • Controls at the network layer to ensure that only SOE devices are permitted to connect to the corporate network
  • Installation of “wiping” software that enables remote wiping of corporate data on a PC in the event that device is lost or the user is no longer employed with the company

Each of these factors can be compromised by an employee using his own computer for work. Since the device is owned and managed by the individual rather than the organization, new issues arise.

  • Lapses in installing and/or updating antivirus software can lead to security breaches and malware incidents
  • Regulatory and compliance concerns can crop up, particularly around data encryption and decryption
  • The risk of having untrusted devices connecting to the companies’ servers
  • Difficulty killing access to company data while retaining the individual’s own data on the PC for personal use

Additionally, organizations, particularly those with dedicated IT resources, are more vigilant about updating operating systems and applications with upgrades and patches as a means of preventing viruses, malware and cyber attacks. Most individuals are less aware of these measures and are sporadic in implementing them.

So how do organizations address the security challenges of BYOPC? Many are turning to cloud desktops. By leveraging cloud desktops, organizations can create virtual PCs that are built to the same standards as their physical equivalents.

Cloud desktop features include:

  • A client hypervisor which isolates the virtual PC from the underlying host operating system, adding an additional layer of defense against hackers
  • A standard corporate desktop that can be remotely activated and decommissioned over the Internet. Sensitive data can also be securely wiped at any time.
  • Encryption solutions, available in some cloud desktops, provide encryption of the entire virtual PC, preventing access to data while the user isn’t logged in
  • Restricted access to external media such as USB drives and memory sticks

Since the virtual PC sits on the user’s own PC, there is a “separation of state” when it comes to browsing. The host’s browser can be used for personal activities while the virtual PC’s browser can be used for work-related activities. This separation reduces the risk of viruses and malware incidents.

Cost and quality pressures, combined with stringent compliance regulations, are driving many organizations to adopt cloud desktop solutions. The healthcare industry is among the leaders in this adoption, with other industries following suit. Interested in learning how your organization can leverage cloud desktops? View our on-demand webinar, Cut the Cord – Leveraging Cloud Desktops in Healthcare IT. You can also contact us anytime to discuss your specific needs.

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