Virtualizing the workplace in the cloud or a data center received a huge boost through COVID-19. It’s safe to say that Citrix is leading the way when it comes to virtualizing the workplace with Citrix Workspace. More and more companies will opt for a virtualized workplace, particularly from a security point of view. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the latter.
Now that employees are increasingly often working from home and will continue to do so, the demand for Citrix Workspace has increased. The new hybrid way of working, where one can work from any location, creates new challenges — especially in the areas of management and security. Having employees log into a virtualized workstation in a data center instead of a local PC creates security and management possibilities. It also becomes easier to cover risks and meet compliance requirements.
Physical versus virtual workplace
By choosing virtualized workstations such as Citrix Workspace, you move the working environment of every employee from a local desktop or laptop to a cloud or data center. The employee’s PC turns into a mindless client. It’s more or less a controllable video stream. Powerful PCs become redundant because computing power is delivered from the data center or the cloud. Despite the fact that a virtualized environment has higher costs, you save money on hardware. Additionally, the fact that an internet connection is necessary isn’t much of a problem nowadays.
Citrix Workspace goes further. It also allows employees use their personal device (bring your own device). A separate, secure business environment is created on this personal device, allowing one to log in to the central Citrix Workspace.
A large, secure work environment
Because all virtual workstations are stored centrally, you more or less go back to a time before the Internet played a major role. With all workstations in a single location, security becomes more manageable. In addition to workstations, you can provide external company data and applications from the data center. The most important aspect involved is user authentication. Before someone can access their virtual workstation, they must authenticate to prove that they are whom they claim to be.
Upon logging in, users are required to pass multifactor authentication, preferably of the biometric sort. Whether it’s a fingerprint or a face scan: biometric authentication provides an additional layer of security that delivers great value. Additionally, it’s possible to recognize and remember devices to force additional authentication when a user logs in from an unknown device. The connection between a PC and a virtual workstation is always secured with end-to-end encryption.
Citrix offers context-based policies
Furthermore, Citrix has taken security a few steps further with context-based policies. Because all applications and company data are located in a central environment that users must log into, it becomes possible to limit access to specific company data and applications. It’s also possible to track the IP address from which an employee is working, be it from home or an office.
As a company, you can adjust and create policies accordingly. Think of allowing access to confidential product designs or financial data from an office location — but not from home. It’s also possible to set preventive policies. Suppose a company operates locally. The company can opt to only offer access from Dutch IP addresses. A simple rule that makes life more complicated for malicious parties.
Citrix uses AI and machine learning for anomalous behavior
In recent years, Citrix has invested heavily in its reporting capabilities with Citrix Analytics. For example, artificial intelligence is used to map employee behaviour. This allows Citrix Workspace to know what an employee’s natural behaviour looks like. If behaviour suddenly deviates from the norm, action can be taken automatically. Think of simple measures, such as additional authentication or an additional password prompt. Or a restriction of user rights, such as barring access to confidential data until an IT administrator verifies the user.
Citrix Zero Trust
All in all, security is one of the most important pillars of Citrix Workspace. Because logging in to a cloud or data center Workspace environment is secured with end-to-end encryption, it’s impossible for malicious parties to access a company’s network and data down the road. A more robust system than measures like VPN, which become redundant when server access is compromised. Encryption combined with extensive authentication and context-based policies sums up to very secure access to business applications and corporate. In addition, virtual workstations reduce the attack surface because company data and applications are stored in a data center: a central loction that’s easier to secure than hundreds or thousands of endpoints.
Citrix defines its high level of security with ‘Citrix Zero Trust’. A more liberal definition of ‘zero trust’ than we would personally use, but understandable nevertheless. Only users that pass a tight authentication process are permitted access to the data. Citrix Workspace doesn’t trust anyone by default.
Citrix Workspace cloud versus on-premises
Because of COVID-19 and the security concerns of hybrid work, Citrix Workspace has gained a lot of traction. We asked Peter van Leest, Regional Director at Citrix, how the traction has developed. Have customers stored virtual workspaces primarily in the cloud, or on-premises in their own data centers? And does that make any difference in terms of security?
Van Leest says: “Citrix Workspace is a cloud-based solution delivered from the Citrix cloud. Virtual workspaces can indeed be delivered from the cloud or a data center. We see most customers opting for a hybrid strategy. Some applications are better suited to the cloud, while others need to run on-premises due to compliance requirements or high costs. Security is all the same: Citrix can link an on-premises environment to a cloud environment and secure it in the same way. The zero-trust concept is always applicable.”
Thus, many companies opt for a hybrid environment. Cloud-only is no longer realistic. The cloud-only world envisioned and promoted by hyperscalers is outdated. Citrix claims to offer a highly secure solution for hybrid working, in which all workstations are stored centrally and securely. This can be done in the cloud, on-premises in a private data center, and therefore in a hybrid form as well.