The Best Ways to Secure Device Onboarding in The Enterprise

With the prevalence of digital transformation in the enterprise, there is a clear necessity to balance IoT security issues and BYOD security measures that will prevent suspicious or malicious devices from gaining access to the enterprise’s assets and data centers, while at the same time, making sure that productivity and easy onboarding of devices is maintained. Employees, guests and contractors are bringing all kinds of Wi Fi enabled devices to the enterprise environment and they expect easy and quick network connectivity.

Onboarding is the process in which new devices gain access to the enterprise for the first time. Unfortunately IT departments can sometimes experience additional workloads while endeavoring to get all the devices on the network so as not to hinder business productivity. At the same time, if they are not handling the process with top security standards in mind, they could potentially place users, devices, enterprise data and the network itself at risk. The question arises: how should IT Security teams allow for BYOD, IoT, contractors, guests, etc. to securely and quickly connect to the network without placing any of its components at risk of a breach or ransomware attack? The answer: automation.

By automating the entire onboarding process enterprises can achieve the following benefits:

  • Reducing the costs that are typically associated with manual work (including configuration and support activities).
  • Enhancing productivity – getting team members, contractors and guests connected to work faster.
  • Increasing end-user satisfaction – instead of hassling end-users with onboarding procedures, the whole process can and should be seamless.
  • Decreasing the risks – unmanaged, unpatched, high-risk devices should be blocked or connected from the beginning to a separate segment of the network from where the key corporate assets are stored (the “crown jewels” of the company).

Easy Onboarding

Employees, students, contractors, partners and guests should onboard their devices once and then automatically re-authenticate after that, within an environment that continuously monitors all devices on the networks and automatically provides a risk score for every device. This ongoing scoring allows security teams to understand the security posture of the devices and the network as a whole, at any given moment. At the same time, there is no need to have end users repeatedly re-enter credentials on subsequent network connections unless a device is deemed to have a high risk-score. This way the enterprise can easily onboard BYOD devices belonging to employees that are traveling, working remotely or working at a satellite office location. Additionally, this allows onboarding of IoT and smart devices for business such as flat screens, printers and IoT devices, as well as gaming consoles, smart refrigerators and more. These items, of course, must be on a separate segment from where company assets are kept.

Reducing Risks on the Network

A while ago Ofer Amitai, Portnox CEO, wrote about tips for securing endpoint devices on college campuses, institutions that are always desiring a relatively simple onboarding process. He discussed how changes in onboarding and guest access policies could reduce risks and improve network visibility and control. The principals for securing the enterprise require these steps and more. Having a clear onboarding set of policies will allow IT teams to have automated actions applied (see examples in the next section).

After handling the company’s initial network security audit and collecting the security posture of all devices, it is important to make sure that the enterprise authorization policies include conducting automated and continuous security assessments of the network.  This way, every device employs baseline security measures before being allowed to connect.  Additionally, the IT security team should use granular policies to govern the level of access while maintaining full visibility and control over network connected devices with the ability to revoke access at any time.

Automated Device Onboarding and Network Authentication

Having an automated onboarding set of policies can allow for automated actions such as:

  • Immediately allowing Internet access
  • Blocking/ disconnecting
  • Segmenting a device to a separate network section
  • Remediation actions

For example, IoT devices are considered to be easy to hack.  Therefore, once connected to the enterprise network, these devices should be separated from where core assets are located.  Having different segments on the enterprise network is a good solution for that.  Additionally, if a visitor is being connected, the visitor should gain access to the Internet and not to company files, even when plugging the computer to the wired network.

Two important advanced guest network onboarding features are recommended to be included:

  • Easy guest access – allowing for simple and fast connections together with the ability to continuously monitor all devices and ensure security.
  • Agentless access – once the IT administrators have set up the onboarding policy – contractors and guests on protected networks should be able to self-onboard without installing an endpoint agent.

Acquiring Advanced Onboarding Capabilities

One of the technologies that can help with safe onboarding is network access control (NAC).  In the past, companies used only desktops and laptops, connected and authenticated over a wired network, however; nowadays wireless networks and mobile technologies have introduced personal devices (via BYOD policies) and Internet of Things (IoT) to the workplace.  In addition, increasingly stringent compliance standards, such as PCI-DSS, SOX, and ISO standards require companies to openly communicate their security controls to external auditing authorities.  All of these can be achieved via NAC solutions. Network access security should be a priority for all companies moving forward.

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Every enterprise today must support a rapidly proliferating world of devices and platforms.  From an operational view point, this shouldn’t pose an obstruction of workflows and productivity. Ideally, the enterprise IT team will automate and secure network onboarding and authentication so that the IT helpdesk doesn’t have to intervene when guests, contractors and IoT devices need to connect. Additionally, an effective plan for secure network onboarding will on one hand improve end-user experience for BYOD, IoT, users and guests and on the other hand improve IT security as part of a layered protection strategy.

Looking to set IT security policies and automate your device onboarding?

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