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January 2021
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IronKey Stands Shoulder to Shoulder with The Royal Marsden to Secure Data

The Royal Marsden is a National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust in England that specialises in cancer. Situated primarily over two main sites, one in Chelsea and one in Sutton, it also has a number of satellite locations, an area of the business that is being developed. Today, it has a staff of approximately 2,500 all of whom, in one form or another, are responsible for protecting the data they access.

The Royal Marsden is committed to promoting excellence in cancer research, treatment and education. Alongside its academic partner, the Institute of Cancer Research, it is considered one of the leaders, and at the forefront of many major cancer breakthroughs.

The NHS Trust is involved in tackling and taking data breaches very seriously. At the helm is Jon Reed, IT Director for The Royal Marsden, who is responsible for its entire IT infrastructure and the development of all in house clinical applications.

The Story So Far…

According to Reed, -The Trust takes the handling of information very seriously, which is what you would expect of an organisation of our standing, and my defence strategy to protect data in transit began many years ago, back in 2006, long before publicised breaches by public bodies.

Following the high-profile cases, a central policy was introduced by, David Nicholson CBE, NHS Chief Executive stating that every organisation within the NHS must fully implement the policy that all removable data must be encrypted, and also follow the recommendations of the report of the Cabinet Office Data Handling Review, which contains mandatory security standards for the public sector. As The Royal Marsden had already begun researching various solutions it was ahead of the game.

The Royal Marsden encourages its staff to not carry data unless it is absolutely necessary. It recognises that on occasion, patient identifiable records, staff information and commercially sensitive information such as research projects and data, amongst other documents, will be transported and shared and this must be done in a secure manner.

And the Solution of Choice Is…

The Royal Marsden quickly honed in on about six offerings, and it looked to see what other NHS Trusts were doing. One of The Royal Marsden’s key concerns had been that organisations would lock down their infrastructure and would only allow certain models of USB devices to be used. This Jon’s thinking, too – the Trust didn’t want to run into a compatibility problems. Jon made a decision ahead of the game, and chose the IronKey as the best solution for The Royal Marsden which would not cause a problem amongst other trusts accepting it.

Jon clarifies his reasoning, -We chose the IronKey solution as it is AES standard hardware encryption which can’t be circumvented, which then puts the onus on the user to make the decision. The central policy management combined with the managed service was another key criteria, so we don’t have to worry about deploying server infrastructure on our network and applications to manage the devices. The fact that we could disable a device if missing in action, and that it would self destruct following a set number of failed login attempts was another strong selling point. IronKey’s onboard digital certification for RSA to consolidate encrypted mobile storage – and strong two-factor authentication in a single device – fitted with what we wanted to do around making it easier to connect to our infrastructure securely from remote locations. Finally, the aesthetics of the device played a part, as it looks credible and from an infection control point of view, it is a waterproof device with a rubberised cap so it can be disinfected – essential for a healthcare institution that prides itself on the standards it sets across the NHS.

Once the decision had been made and the devices purchased, The Royal Marsden had a two-fold challenge: getting staff to think differently about security and getting staff to remember to use the devices.

Jon explains, -Planning is important with the implementation of any system. Don’t think of IronKey as a straight replacement to your existing insecure USB devices that you buy off the shelf like blank CDs. It’s a key part of your security infrastructure and so you need to think of it as part of your security strategy, and plan how you’re going to deploy it.

We Told Everyone…

The Royal Marsden thinks as a whole about information security and has a structured communications campaign to ensure information security across the organisation.

It introduced a policy that specifically covered the transfer of any data to a USB device. To avoid any ambiguity, it decided to not make a distinction between sensitive and indifferent data – it classes all data equally (when being transferred from the Trust’s PCs) – taking the dilemma away from its staff. The Trust’s policy states it must be on an IronKey.

It ran a number of specific communication campaigns to encourage awareness of new policies, and the introduction of IronKeys, which included: top down management briefings; it sent out leaflets with payslips; and targeted emails for key individuals.

We Led from the Front…

The next approach employed by The Royal Marsden to reduce potential negativity was the tactical deployment of a few initial devices to selected key users. This secured general acceptance within the organisation, prior to critical mass roll out, which it believes has removed resistance to the devices. As knowledge of the security programme and policy on the use of USB devices filtered through the organisation it has found that users proactively request devices, driving their demand and adoption.

The Royal Marsden found the deployment to be quite straight forward with only a few minor difficulties – as it familiarised itself with the technology – which were from an operational standpoint rather than the end users experience. Jon explains, -There have been no real problems with the product itself. The technology has been made quite simple to use, but having a strong password protection on USB devices was alien to our users – which they initially struggled with – and which have been down to our zero tolerance policy rather than caused by IronKey.

Prior to IronKeys deployment, The Royal Marsden had another solution for remote access and has found the integration seamless, creating a more flexible easy to use solution for its staff. As the RSA token facilitates secure access to the infrastructure, users have just one device – which is also their security device – making it easier for them to think and remember to use it.

When asked for any other advice Jon could offer, he said, -Tackle any areas of weakness on a risk priority basis. You need to think of your whole infrastructure and the way that users handle information right through from careless conversations in the canteen that might be overheard through to moving personal information around on USB devices to confidential faxes being left lying around.

So introducing technology to combat a problem is just one part of a programme on information security.

The Future with IronKey …

Since introducing IronKey some devices have gone missing in action but The Royal Marsden has simply disabled them centrally. Tongue in cheek, Jon says -It doesn’t quite self destruct but very close to it! You have the peace of mind that if one should end up in the wrong hands after a few attempts at access it will be permanently inaccessible, which is a strong feature. In terms of what central policy requires us to do – it has certainly met that, and I would go as far to say that it’s better than what some others are using.

Going forward The Royal Marsden is quite excited by the opportunities IronKey offers in terms of taking remote access a step further. It has a vision of giving employees a virtual machine that’s run from their IronKey. This will enable staff to work from anywhere securely, thereby controlling how the Trust’s infrastructure is accessed and where data is stored – either the network or an IronKey – with obvious saving implications. It has just started to examine this, and has taken some soundings from its key users, with the possibility of rolling it out early in the New Year, if everything goes to plan.

Jon sums it up when he concludes, -If the unthinkable happened, and our data was breached, personally I would be devastated, by both the reputational damage and the shattered trust of the individuals involved. As I have got the responsibility of sourcing and purchasing a solution, I’m not going to settle – to meet the bare minimum to meet Government standards, I’m going to invest in the strongest solution that I possibly can.

For Government & Public Sector Journal/magazine

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