Network access control does its job – but is a dirty network such a bad thing?

Earlier this week, I was dumped from my email and intranet access (mid database update) as my employer’s VPN and endpoint protection conspired against me. It was several hours before I was finally back on the corporate network, meanwhile I could happily access services on the Internet (my personal cloud) and even corporate email using my mobile phone.

Of course, even IT service companies struggle with their infrastructure from time to time (and I should stress that this is a personal blog, that my comments are my own and not endorsed by my employer) but it raises a real issue – for years companies have defended our perimeters and built up defence-in-depth strategies with rings of security. Perhaps that approach is less valid as end users (consumers) are increasingly mobile and what we really need to do is look at the controls on our data and applications – perhaps a “dirty” network is not such a bad thing if the core services (datacentres, etc.) are adequately secured?

I’m not writing this to “out” my employer’s IT – generally it meets my needs and it’s important to note that I could still go into an office, or pick up email on my phone – but I’d be interested to hear the views of those who work in other organisations – especially as I intend to write a white paper on the subject…

In effect, with a “dirty” corporate network, the perimeter moves from the edge of the organisation to its core and office networks are no more secure than the Wi-Fi access provided to guests today – at the same time as many services move to the cloud. Indeed, why not go the whole way and switch from dedicated WAN links to using the public Internet (with adequate controls to encrypt payloads and to ensure continuity or service of course)? And surely there’s no need for a VPN when the applications are all provided as web services?

I’m not suggesting it’s a quick fix – but maybe something for many IT departments to consider in adapting to meet the demands of the “four forces of IT industry transformation”: cloud; mobility; big data/analytics and social business?

[Update: Neil Cockerham (@ncockerhreminded me of the term “de-perimiterisation” – and Ross Dawson (@rossdawson)’s post on tearing down the walls: the future of enterprise tech is exactly what I’m talking about…]

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