Now that remote-working arrangements need to be implemented and secured quickly, we need to look to the Cloud for answers.

The declaration of a global pandemic by the World Health Organization underscores the fact that the coronavirus is going to cause an unprecedented level of social and economic upheaval in modern times. Organizations are facing sudden and profound challenges as they seek ways to quickly support corporate directives for employees to vacate offices and corporate campuses and start working from home. Maintaining security in the face of this global office exodus presents significant risks for most organizations.

Challenges of quickly adopting a remote workforce model

According to the latest International Workplace Group report Globally, 50% of employees are working outside of their main headquarters for at least 2.5 days per week. However, the pandemic is challenging more organizations to potentially embrace a remote work style immediately. Aside from the pressure this office exodus puts on IT teams, network architectures and even equipment suppliers, there are real cybersecurity challenges organizations need to consider.

Six key factors for remote worker cybersecurity:

  1. Make sure you have a current cybersecurity policy that includes remote working. Strong security policies may already exist, but as your organization transitions to having more people working from home than in an office, it is important to review them and ensure they are adequate. Security policies need to include remote working access management, the use of personal devices, and updated data privacy considerations for employee access to documents and other information. It is also important to factor-in an increase in the use of shadow IT and cloud technology.
  2. Plan for BYOD (bring your own device) devices connecting to your organization. Employees working from home may use personal devices to carry out business functions, especially if they cannot get access to a business-supplied device as supply chains may slow down. Personal devices will need to have the same level of security as a company-owned device, and you will also need to consider the privacy implications of employee-owned devices connecting to a business network.
  3. Sensitive data may be accessed through unsafe Wi-Fi networks. Employees working from home may access sensitive business data through home Wi-Fi networks that will not have the same security controls—such as firewalls—used in traditional offices. More connectivity will be happening from remote locations, which will require a greater focus on data privacy, and hunting for intrusions from a greater number of entry points.
  4. Cybersecurity hygiene and visibility will be critical. It is not unusual for personal devices to have poor cybersecurity hygiene. Having more employees work from home can result in an organization losing visibility over devices and how they have been configured, patched and even secured.
  5. Continued education is crucial, as coronavirus-themed scams escalate. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have already warned about ongoing coronavirus-themed phishing attacks and other malicious campaigns. Continuous end-user education and communication are extremely important and should include ensuring that remote workers can contact IT quickly for advice. Organizations should also consider employing more stringent email security measures.
  6. Crisis management and incident response plans need to be executable by a remote workforce. A cyber incident that occurs when an organization is already operating outside of normal conditions has a greater potential to spiral out of control. Effective remote collaboration tools—including out-of-band conference bridges, messaging platforms and productivity applications—can allow a dispersed team to create a “virtual war room” from which to manage response efforts. If your organization’s plans rely on physical access or flying in technicians for specific tasks (e.g., reimaging or replacing compromised machines), it may be prudent to explore alternate methods or local resources.

Below are several capabilities you can consider to help make a rapid transition and ensure security as you move your workforce from office to home:

  • Harness the cloud’s scalability and cost-effectiveness: Architecture that is built for the cloud from the ground up flexes with the demands of customers and provides enormous storage and computing power to drive real-time protection, regardless of where your employees are connecting from. Working with a cloud-native security architecture ensures that additional resources can be provisioned as needed. And as you pivot to support remote employees, there is no need to plan, prepare and provision hardware and software to keep pace.
  • Gain the highest level of security regardless of where your employees are located: Consider having a 100% cloud-delivered security architecture that encompass protection of every workload everywhere, including workloads outside of the firewall, even if they are offline, and provide real-time security functionality with the highest level of efficacy along with compliance status information. Threat hunting across every device, especially those that are not on the network, is critical. Achieving this easily—with data accessible instantly and from anywhere—can only be accomplished with a native cloud-delivered solution, in spite of cost concerns or organization-specific priorities.
  • Rely on simple security architecture that delivers comprehensive visibility: Knowing who and what are on your network is foundational to proactive security management. It is critical to have complete visibility of every device connecting to the network regardless of where it is connecting from. Some solutions do not require a reboot to install, minimizing impact on runtime performance. There should be no “scan storms” or invasive signature updates to impact end-user experience; and users should be protected within seconds. The platform should offer continuous and comprehensive workload monitoring and discovery to give security teams full visibility of every device: this includes on-premises devices, remote office and home devices, and cloud workloads. The visibility should also extend protection across containers and mobile devices.
  • Endpoint protection delivered as a service: With this platform in place, you can entrust the implementation, management and incident response of their endpoint security to a team of security experts. The result is an rapidly optimized security posture without the burden, overhead and cost of managing a comprehensive endpoint security program, freeing up internal resources to work on other projects. For example, a good hands-off and worry-free endpoint protection solution provides the people, process and technology required to handle all aspects of endpoint security. This ranges from onboarding and configuration to maintenance, monitoring, incident handling, and remediation, regardless of whether it is an on-premises workload or a remote worker.

The COVID-19 crisis is likely to be with us for a while. Organizations and their employees will be forced to make tough decisions rapidly, and enabling a remote workforce is one of those decisions. There are risks involved in accomplishing this at speed, but the security of your networks, devices and data should not be among them.