Why Geofencing will become the next endpoint security innovation

Opinion by Roman Foeckl

Geofencing can restrict access to devices or applications while inside a company's perimeter, making it impossible for devices outside the perimeter to access the network explains Roman Foeckl

As data breaches continue to grow in complexity, severity and frequency, and organisations face growing threats - internal and external, deliberate and unintentional  - new and more advanced technologies are needed to keep critical information safe. As demonstrated by the Anthem Insurance breach in the US, when sensitive information gets in the wrong hands, it can be incredibly costly – experts are estimating it could cost the company upwards of US$100 million (£66 million) in this case.

In addition to the immediate monetary impact, a company's reputation and brand can face irreparable damage. A recent survey, for example, found that 40 percent of potential customers would not work with a company that had suffered a recent data breach. How can an organisation hope to succeed if it cannot attract the best employees or customers?

What should be of even greater concern is that a majority of IT employees fear their organisation does not have the necessary solutions in place to prevent a security breach. They believe they don't have the budget (64 percent) and/or the expert personnel (65 percent) to address these threats, according to a recent survey.[i]

While the mainstream media loves to run headlines about the world of data breaches, the cause is usually that the company does not have the proper systems in place. There are solutions available right now, one of the most promising of which is geofencing. By using this solution as part of a larger data loss prevention (DLP) strategy, organisations can control access to devices, and applications on these devices, within a certain physical perimeter.

The great value of geofencing is that it can be used both to keep information in by restricting access to devices or applications while inside a company's perimeter, and out by making it impossible for devices outside the perimeter to access the network. It works by using location-based services such as GPS, Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi network proximity and cell tower triangulation.

Geofencing is a powerful addition to your other data loss tools and will help you manage the explosion of the BYOD phenomenon. We're all accustomed to bringing our iPhone, tablet or smartphone with us everywhere to access the information we want, when we want it. While this creates the potential for great productivity, the potential security threats cannot be ignored. If a junior engineer can access the inner workings of your network while dining out, it is much easier for a black hat to do so as well.

When geofencing is used in combination with a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution and other endpoint protection solutions, IT administrators can establish very granular restrictions. For example, IT can create location-based policies and company-wide restrictions for the use of camera, AirDrop, iCloud, and other functionalities within the perimeter of a certain building or room.

When IT departments develop a strong mobile device strategy and combine it with geofencing and a strong MDM solution it sharply reduces the risk presented by employees-owned devices. MDM is your insurance policy but geofencing is your offensive strategy.

Before, if the previously unnamed engineer accessed the customer database while dining out, all types of things could go wrong, even on a company issued device. A broad and complex MDM solution keeps control in the organisation's hands by limiting access to critical data. Depending on how strict your policy is and how strong the MDM policy you set, even the CEO could be restricted from accessing their email while dining out.

Geofencing is that add-on step that prevents data loss by simply shutting off the access to the data. We must also consider that, like all fences, they can be adjusted as needed. It is the part of your data loss prevention strategy, which defends by keeping the threats out.

A home-owner builds a fence as a part of a larger strategy to keep out trespassers and vandals and to keep the prized family pets from wandering off. As the fence around your property serves as a part of a greater security and protection plan, so the geofence serves as a greater part of an overall Information Security and data protection plan.

Contributed by Roman Foeckl CEO and Founder CoSoSys

[i] Lockheed Marting, Intelligence Driven Cyber Defense Survey

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