Bracknell Forest Council says a cloud-based asset management service is key to compliance for connecting to the UK public sector data-sharing network.
The Government Connect Secure Extranet (GCSX) requires local authorities to meet stringent security standards.
"We were faced with nearly 100 new controls that we had to meet to achieve compliance in June," said Richard Dawson, IT services manager for Bracknell Forest Council. One of the biggest challenges was finding a cost-effective way to secure data on portable computers that could be rolled out relatively quickly, he said.
Dawson conducted a trial of an asset management system from Canada-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider Absolute Software. The council approved the supplier based on its established user base of four million subscribers around the world.
"The SaaS model means that no hardware investment or maintenance is required and the system can be rolled out quickly and scaled up as required," said Dawson.
The system uses a small agent that is loaded in the computer's firmware in the factory, which means it is invisible to users and therefore tamper-proof, he said. This met the council's requirement to achieve its security goals without making it more difficult for IT users to do their job.
"The agent checks in with the monitoring centre every time it connects to the network, which gives us the visibility and control we need," said Dawson.
Since starting the pilot last year, the council has added around 400 computers and has used it to recover four laptops. "As soon as we knew the laptops were missing, we were able to remotely delete all data on the machines and subsequently trace and recover them," said Dawson.
The system has also been used for HR investigations into alleged breaches of security policy. "If machines are taken out of the country without permission, for example, the software provides us with the evidence," said Dawson.
Reports on where and how the machines are used enables the IT department to update hardware and software to match users' real needs for their jobs, he said.
If anyone in the council needs a laptop, the system also enables the IT department to identify and locate any idle machines, said Dawson.
"Since rolling out the asset tracking software, I have been able to rest in the knowledge that none of our laptops will be making the data breach headlines," he said.