Posts Tagged application control
We’ve all heard this saying before and it’s easy to get lost in the bewildering array of communications channels available to us. There’s the usual email, instant messaging networks (Yahoo!, Google Talk), peer-to-peer networks (Skype), enterprise IM applications (IBM Sametime, Microsoft Lync/OCS), and social networks (Facebook, Twitter). And these are just the big boys. There are literally thousands of IM, P2P, and social networks, in addition to those listed above.
To give you an idea of the bevy of tools out there, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses over 21 different email systems, but they’ve recently decided to award Microsoft a contract to provide cloud-based email, Web conferencing, IM, and collaboration solutions. Similarly, the US General Services Administration (GSA) awarded an email contract to Google. What this goes to show is that messaging in large organizations (in this case, it’s the government) is starting to move to the cloud as companies look for ways to streamline their messaging systems, improve efficiency, and cut costs.
What with all these communications options available to end users, it’s all too common for folks to use Facebook, Yahoo!, or Skype while they’re at work on company-issued computers. Oftentimes, individuals use a combination of Web 2.0 (think Facebook or Skype) and enterprise (think Microsoft Communicator or Cisco Jabber) applications. The problem with doing so is that it opens up new vectors for malware to invade the corporate network. In other words, there are far more avenues for evil to infiltrate the corporate network these days than ever before.
Thankfully, platforms like Actiance Vantage make it easier to manage the proliferation of communications tools within the enterprise. From blocking virus attacks to managing file transfers to logging and archiving of all IM activities, Vantages provides end-to-end security and compliance coverage for an organization’s unified communications.
We can all learn a lesson from the government contracts cited above. Long ridiculed for being the poster child of bureaucracy and antiquated computer systems, it must be saying something to have two large agencies moving their communications applications to the cloud. Looks like the US government has taken heed of that old KISS principle after all.
Last month we announced that Check
Point Software Technologies had purchased our application database for use in
their products. According to Check Point, this technology will “… provide
businesses unparalleled granular control over application usage and enable
security administrators to prevent threats associated with the use of certain
Internet applications. Check Point will offer this new level of security
controls as a Software Blade that will be available for all gateways.” (read their
release here: )
This deal reaffirms our leadership
in the Web 2.0 security space. More importantly, it highlights the growing need
for network solutions that provide visibility and control at the application
level not just at the port & protocol level. Check Point sees this need and
will use our database to provide application level control. Application level
control will become the price of entry in the Firewall
But beyond visibility and control,
what enterprises are asking for is “enablement”.
- How do I allow access to Facebook or
LinkedIn and stay in compliance with FINRA or FERC or HIPAA or PCI or [insert
your favorite regulation here]?
- How do I allow access to YouTube
videos but not the inappropriate stuff?
- How do I allow access to blogs and
wikis and webmail but ensure that confidential information if not getting
Our customers realize they can’t
block access to the New Internet
- they must enable it.
Which is why our mission statement
reads “Secure & ENABLE the New Internet”
How are you and your organization enabling the new Internet? What tools and applications do you need to secure to effectively enable your team?
It seems as soon as a new technology is adopted into mainstream business, a whole host of support technologies soon follow to fill in the gaps and solve the new issues that are created. Consider the enormity of the anti-virus market that was created after the ILoveYou Virus hit in 2000, and the addition of URL filtering to enterprise IT’s checklist of “must-haves” following the adoption of the Web browser.
The good news is that browser based traffic is now monitored and managed in most organizations. So, what’s the next new technology? Always one step ahead, employees have turned to other real-time applications including social networking platforms, IM, peer-to-peer file sharing, Web 2.0 VoIP and conferencing applications. And the next new technology solution? Application filtering.
This week, FaceTime announced that we’ll begin licensing our application inspection and classification technology, called ACE (Application Control Engine), to other network security vendors. This same technology is at the core of our Unified Security Gateway product, detecting and classifying more than 1,400 Web 2.0 and real-time communications applications and more than 50,000 social networking widgets – a number that grows daily.
This is the new frontier for Web security, as Sarah Perez points out in her analysis of how Web applications fly under IT’s radar,
“… when users become their own I.T. department, they’re unknowingly introducing inherent risks into the previously hardened network infrastructure. Just because a web app is easy to operate, that doesn’t make it safe and secure for enterprise use. As users upload and share sensitive files through these unapproved backchannels or have business-related conversations through web-based IM chatrooms, they might not only be putting their company’s data at risk, they could also be breaking various compliance laws as well.”
Sarah’s analysis is spot on. She goes on to point out that
“If FaceTime’s ACE or other similar technologies become a mainstay in the enterprise I.T. toolkit, the explosion of Web 2.0 for business use, a trend typically called Enterprise 2.0, may be dealt quite a blow. The only Enterprise 2.0 apps that will succeed given that scenario will be the ones that worked with the I.T. admins from the very beginning to assure them of their safety. The apps reliant on a slew of the company’s rule-breaking users for adoption, however, will be out of luck. Perhaps being sneaky may not have been a great business model after all.”
From our conversations with IT managers and through our annual study of usage trends, end user attitudes and IT impact, it’s clear that the number of unsanctioned applications on enterprise networks is exploding because the nature of the workforce is changing. In fact, one in three employees say they feel they have the right to download whatever applications they need to do their jobs, regardless of policy. And interestingly, one in three IT respondents believe that written policies are ineffective methods for controlling enduser downloading of applications.
Given not only the sheer number of Web 2.0 applications but their obvious increased rate of adoption in business, I believe we’ll eventually see application filtering become standard, and most likely even more important, than URL filtering is today.