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Q&A: CISO sees ‘enterprise’ browser as easier way to monitor employee web use

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Over the past several years, Ashland Specialty Chemicals, a global specialty materials and chemical company with about 4,200 employees, has been downsizing. It shuttered its physical datacenter and adopted more of a software-as-a-service strategy for business apps such as Salesforce and Workday. With the shift to the cloud, the company also had to address keeping web traffic secure as its hybrid workforce accessed sensitive data online.

While the company continues to use more traditional, and costly, firewalls such as Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) to secure web gateways, it has also been testing an enterprise-specific browser from a start-up company named Island. 

The Chromium-based browser offers a variety of granular security capabilities for controlling what users can access online. Admins can fully control last-mile actions, from advanced security demands to more basic data exfiltration protections such as copy, paste, download, upload, screenshots, and other activities that might expose critical data.

Bob Schuetter, CISO at Delaware-based Ashland, purchased 4,000 seats for the Island browser, though he has only been piloting it over the last six months with about 100 employees who downloaded it to their PCs. For Schuetter, the biggest benefits of browser-based security include controlling the data entry point and ease of use. His hope is to eventually consolidate security around the browser if it pans out.

headshot of Bob Schuetter Bob Schuetter

Bob Schuetter, CISO of Ashland Specialty Chemicals

The following are excerpts from an interview with Schuetter: 

What prompted you to pilot the Island browser? “We got out of having a datacenter about five years ago. All of a sudden, your strategy as a much smaller company is lots of SaaS…, where you’re no longer doing a lot of internal development; you’re buying stuff as fast as the company can consume it. I think that’s the biggest piece. So, everything we used to do as security was kind of force the applications to work the way we wanted them to. We changed networking, we changed how the network flows, we tried to get everything coming into us so we can get visibility — break encryption.

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