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Remote Work is Here to Stay: Here’s How to Make it More Secure

Remote Work

Remote Work

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise software categories. Steve Benton of Anomali says “remote work is here to stay,” and takes a closer look at how to keep it secure.

Now that the COVID clouds have officially parted, many businesses are rethinking their stance on remote work. Whether they decide to issue mandates that bring employees back to the office, stick with their current remote policies, or something in between, one thing is clear: more needs to be done to protect against compromised security associated with remote workers, vendors, and partners.

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Remote Work is Here to Stay: Here’s How to Secure It

Remote Workers Are Doing Everything, Everywhere, All at Once!

Post Covid, flexible working has become the new norm and, for many organizations, has netted huge productivity gains. Covid also drove an accelerated digital transformation that put a majority of organizations’ infrastructure well and truly into the cloud and, hence, much of what employees interacted with (software, applications, services) on the internet. Supply chains and marketplaces followed suit. Put simply, it has become a fact that much of what employees connect with is remote to where they are – whether they are sitting in the organizations’ office, their own homes, or a coffee house nearby– so it may be a good time to start treating your employees as remote. Now, that may sound a tad weird but, honestly, when you look at the bigger threat landscape and the risk to organizations in terms of compromise– putting all your office workers and their offices ‘on the internet’ is a smart move because you now have only one work mode to manage and secure.

Many Remote Workers Are Using Their Own Devices BYOD

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was another ‘change’ that was forced on many organizations during Covid and its associated lockdowns. Workers were sent home, and not all of them had a work device to bring with them so BYOD became the norm whether desired by the organization or not. And then, whether with a work-provided device or their own, everyone in the household needed to be online– whether they were the children using it for school, a spouse/partner needing to share a device to do work, etc. You get the picture, right?

How Can Organizations Make Remote Work More Secure?

First, you need to embrace the change. Looking back at Covid and its legacy, organizations survived and, in hindsight, even thrived through this change to remote working. And the key word here is ‘remote’ i.e., the person is outside your internal network and should be treated like any outsider.

So, priorities are:

  1. Protect identity and access: establish the user and the device are what you expect (so multi-factor authentication, linked to enrolled devices and adaptable security challenges to the end-user based on who, when, where, and what they want to do) and yes, this is indeed a zero-trust approach!
  2. Protect the workers’ endpoints: work needs to be containerized on the endpoint devices workers will use. Most remote workers will use a mix of laptops, tablet, and mobile devices that give them the flexibility to work wherever they are. The containers are essentially encrypted spaces where all the work access takes place and is separated from the rest of the devices. These endpoints should be monitored, which opens up the thorny issue of asking your people to accept security monitoring on these devices – depending on how willing they are should determine what level of BYOD activity you permit on these devices.
  3. Achieve Visibility: recognizing you are now managing a fully diverse and dispersed technology footprint – workers and the services and systems they access natively from the internet. You must be able to have visibility of what’s going on here and the security posture. You need to have the same visibility you would demand if all of this were still on-premises. Each of your cloud providers will provide the necessary tools and data, but you need to connect the dots here so you have that visibility and control across your ecosystem. This dispersion of workers and the systems that they access is your new attack surface that you must monitor and understand its posture to threats. Rest assured; attackers are constantly scanning your surface in search of an opportunity to compromise your organization.
  4. Look after your workers: workers are now remote, empowered to work anywhere but, by that very fact, remain isolated from colleagues. So, when they receive an unusual request from a senior leader, or an email with an attachment or link, or a reach out on SMS, email, or social media platform from a ‘colleague,’ they have to be able to think effectively and defend themselves and your organization. You must be assured that you have helped your people to be secure as they work from anywhere. Use of VPNs, browsing protection (safe link detonation), etc. helps technically, but awareness and a mantra to cope are needed as well. In my last organization, our mantra was simply “Stop, Think, Protect”. Take a breath, engage your logical brain, and think about what’s being asked for here, and then take action to verify the ask or report the issue to security for their help.

And finally, you must treat all of the above now as your digital assets and realize they are out there on the internet, available to be abused and/or compromised. An uncomfortable thought but part of the price we pay for the huge benefits in flexibility and resilience in operation this new way of working offers. In that regard, using a Digital Risk Protection service is a smart move. You need one that monitors all your domains for abuse or fraud as well as watches for leaked credentials, compromised device details, session cookies, etc.

Seasoned security leaders know there is never one-hundred percent security, or should I say, zero risk of compromise. It is an evitability that you as a smart security leader plan for as you make security an enabler for smarter ways of working and increased productivity benefits for your organization and employees. The smartest organizations use threat intelligence dynamically to gain and sustain a grip on their security posture and the awareness of their employees. This allows you to surface security to employees so they know that you’re also looking out for them as they drive the business forward doing ‘everything, everywhere all at once.’

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