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Mobile security lessons from Treasury

Hamish Barwick | May 28, 2014
Managing a fleet of iPhones that used containerisation to separate The Treasury data from employees' personal information has been a journey of mistakes and lessons for CIO Peter Alexander.

Alexander said The Treasury spent $50,000 on Good licences and software.

However, Alexander said it is not "wasting" the Good licences as it has offered them to a couple of smaller federal government agencies that run unclassified networks.

"We learnt a lot from the Good project. The mobile security guide we wrote for the ASD said that if you have an unclassified network — and a lot of agencies do — Good [Technology] is not a bad solution for you. If you are running a protected network you could use [Good] but you are taking on some additional risks," he said.

However, Alexander said that AirWatch's MDM solution was not perfect as The Treasury has a "really painful issue with backups".

He explained that this is because iPhones and iPads use a backup service called iCloud.

"iCloud is fantastic — unless you are running a government protected network where we don't want staff to use iCloud," he said.

"That is because iCloud backs up content from applications along with [security] certificates. For active sync to work, the certificate that we use in The Treasury has the user name and password on it so we don't want that backed up in iCloud."

Alexander added that he is working through the backup issue with AirWatch.

The Budget

Turning to the Federal Budget 2014, Alexander said that even The Treasury was not immune to government agency cuts.

"We hit a funding peak in March 2011 when we had 1053 staff. We're down to 890 staff and we have another 15 per cent [reduction] to go over the next two years," he said.

"We have had a 30 per cent cut [in staff numbers] over the last four years. It makes you think a lot about the way you do things and how you operate. We have taken an alternative approach where people have said `How can we be innovative and spend our money better?'"

For example, Alexander recently told CIO Australia that it is planning to build virtual desktops for mobile staff and make that standard across the organisation.

A tender is being finalised at the moment, with Alexander also testing technology from Citrix and VMware.

The virtual desktops will first be rolled out to 50 mobile workers and then the whole organisation. Alexander will supply a mix of devices to staff and then allow for BYOD.


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