Use Your Own Device is the fast track solution the UK Government needs to mobilise its staff

Written by Citrix on 28 May 2020 in Sponsored Article
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Stephen Twynam of Citrix argues that by adjusting Bring Your Own Device to Use Your Own Device, the sentiment shifts and the negative connotations of BYOD are alleviated

Amid the global pandemic crisis, it has never been more important for public sector staff to be able to work from home. While they may not be at the coal face necessarily, like NHS staff and police, for example, central government departments and services still face unprecedented levels of enquiries from citizens, businesses and other public sector organisations, which all need to be managed and processed quickly. However, at the same time, thousands of public sector employees have been sent home without the means to work remotely.   

To date, the UK government has been reluctant to embrace a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) mentality. Fundamentally its IT teams have been distrusting of the level of security that can be guaranteed with BYOD, owing to the lack of visibility on the device and the risk of it carrying malware, among other things, and so and have prioritised the protection of its data and systems over and above the preferences and convenience of its staff. It is a perfect case of convenience clashing with security.

However, as a result, government departments are struggling with the current situation and for them to be able to respond effectively to the needs of UK citizens, they must quickly mobilise staff to be able to work securely and productively from home. It seems they have few options left and allowing staff to work from their own devices at home is the simplest, most affordable and most realistic solution.

BYOD versus UYOD

BYOD, which encourages employees to work on a device of their choice, is widespread in the private sector. It has proven itself effective at boosting employee satisfaction (being able to work more flexibly), while delivering cost savings (reduced hardware spend, software licensing and device maintenance) and productivity gains (employees are happier, more comfortable and often work faster with their own technology).

However, for UK government, the ‘B’ in BYOD has been problematic: for understandable reasons, IT teams have been reluctant to allow staff to ‘bring’ their own device into a secure environment. Many departments have been unwilling to allow corporate data to be accessed on personal devices which they have little or no visibility or control over.

The easy solution is to change the acronym, to one that is more fitting and less worrisome. 

The benefits of Citrix’s UYOD approach

Granted, BYOD deployments may come with greater security risks than a traditional setup. However, guidance by the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), published in January, endorses a best practice BYOD approach for organisations. As part of this, it advises: “You should provide workers with a ‘presentation’ of information on their device, rather than storing it locally. You could do this using remote apps or remote desktop technology.”

The key benefit of Citrix’s UYOD solution is that rather than encouraging staff to ‘bring’ their device to the network, we are simply giving them a view in via the device they choose. And even if, in the future, they physically bring their device to the office, the end point remains segregated and at no point does the user device ‘touch’ the data. This gives IT teams the reassurance that staff will not be able to take or download sensitive information and store it locally on their own device, where it could go astray. Additional controls can be put in place to mitigate risks further which include making sure that data can’t be copied and carrying out posture checks on devices to ensure they meet the minimum criteria.

At a time where thousands of government employees are at home, unable to fulfil their role, UYOD offers the best solution. As NCSC advises, with the right technical and procedural controls, many of the perceived risks associated with BYOD can be managed fully. Furthermore, providing a best practice approach is followed, IT will have reassurance that the trust that comes with UYOD won’t be abused, whether accidentally or deliberately.

The situation is changing hourly, and the timeframe for UK government to enable remote work is closing. For existing Citrix customers, the good news is that UYOD can be up and running in a very short timeframe. And once government and its workers have experienced the benefits of UYOD, they probably won’t want to go back.

Stephen discusses UYOD in greater depth in the on-demand webinar Is the civil service ready for a new age of remote working?

Stephen Twynam is Technology Strategist, Central Government at Citrix

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