NASA's Tips on How to Manage and Secure Apple Devices

NASA officials recently sat down for a discussion on how they manage devices across the space organization's workforce.
Chris Young

How do you secure an IT network to space? Computer systems on Earth are connected to systems aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and many other satellites, spacecraft, and probes.

That means it is crucial to secure and manage these systems in the best way possible.

In a blog post on the subject, a software company has just detailed a discussion with NASA officials about the ways in which they secure and manage their Apple devices.


NASA and computers

NASA knows a thing or two about computers. You may not know that NASA took humans to the Moon thanks in large part to incredibly complex calculations made by humans. Several of these humans, known at the time as "computers", went on to become computer programmers for the earliest versions of our modern computers.

NASA's Tips on How to Manage and Secure Apple Devices
In this photo from 1959, a human-computer works with an early machine-computer called the IBM 704, Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Of course, computing has come on in leaps and bounds since that time. Today, we rely on software to make huge calculations for us, and even help us to manage and secure our digital life across various devices.

Securing and managing NASA employee's Apple devices

In a discussion from last year, recently posted on Jamf's blogJosh Harvey and Allen Golbig of NASA joined a room full of IT admins to share their knowledge about securing and managing Apple devices within a government agency.

According to Golbig, around 2015, NASA had a conversation with its employees about having more choice in the devices they use — ultimately, this resulted in the company extending its selection of Apple devices.

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Golbig said they collaborated with Apple and Jamf Professional Services to ensure a successful pilot program that would meet the space organization's security needs and standards.

Having the Apple devices become "a first-class and secure option amongst their large Windows fleet was a priority," the blog post says.

The first step was to consolidate multiple management solutions from across the organization into one.

“Moving macOS management to Jamf allowed us to have consistency for our Apple devices,” Golbig said.

The NASA official said that getting colleagues in different locations to path their systems at the same time or get upgrades didn't always prove easy. However, using Jamf, they could keep everything secure.

It's all about training

Once everything was moved to Jamf, Harvey's team hosted monthly agency-wide training sessions for System Administrators.

"These training sessions really helped get the System Administrators on board with using Jamf and got each of the silos to talk to each other!" Harvey said. "We would discuss the settings requirements Golbig's team publishes, break-down why they are needed and, most importantly, show them how to take advantage of Jamf to apply them . . . and like all good training sessions, we used a lot of memes!"

In the discussion, Golbig also explains how he set up smart card authentication in macOS by creating his own custom script that allows users to map their smart cards to their Mac via Self Service.

The full post and discussion are well worth a look as it gives a window into the solutions that NASA use to consolidate their entire workforces workflow within a digitally secure environment.

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