Common Practices to Secure Hybrid Workplaces
A few years ago, the hybrid workforce model became widespread, reflecting the necessity of the pandemic time when businesses were looking for ways to continue operating and managing their workforce remotely. Due to its convenience, flexibility, and newfound possibilities, this approach has turned into a trend that is likely to be the future of the workforce. It proved both practical and advantageous for all parties involved. Workers have got the freedom to work from anywhere, improve their work-life balance, reduce overall expenses, and save time. Businesses benefited from the hybrid work as well. It has the potential to increase organization’s productivity through improved employee satisfaction, better collaboration, and the added benefit of hiring from a greater talent pool regardless of location and even time zone.
However, this modern approach does not only come with merits. It also includes some notable threats. First of all, companies implementing the hybrid work model have faced security challenges, which forced them to think of ways to secure their hybrid workplaces. In this article, we’ll outline the most common practices for organizations to safeguard remote employees, secure their sensitive data, and address cyberthreats.
Compared to corporate networks with highly controlled on-site infrastructure, hybrid workplaces are exposed to greater internal and external threats. Remote employees access company resources via public and home-based networks that are vulnerable to data breaches. Unsupervised and unmanaged access to a company network can end up in the loss of confidential information and dramatically affect business, employees, and customers. According to the IBA report, data breaches cost companies $4.24 million per incident on average. Therefore, ensuring network and endpoint security is of primary importance, as is implementing adequate management of identities and access to company resources.
It’s very difficult to offer security when employees do not work in a dedicated place during working hours but switch workspaces from an office to home or a coffee shop. Another issue is the extended usage of personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets that can lead to unwanted events. Credentials or potentially sensitive information can be stolen if a work-related device is left unattended in a public place, even for a moment. Unfiltered website browsing, potential downloads of viruses, infrequent updates or low-security settings on personal devices leave windows of opportunity for attackers aiming to access sensitive data. Besides, when workers use their own devices, the organization has limited insight into how and where data is being used. Given this, organizations need to be aware of the risks and put the right controls in place.
Secure network with VPN
Within the established on-site infrastructure, in-office employees access the corporate network through local network credentials or a virtual private network. Implementing hybrid workforce models requires new security architecture strategies. Many businesses rely on Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology to secure hybrid data. It offers the ability to encrypt and secure traffic between any device and a VPN server. Thus, employees working on the road or from home on a personal device have secure and seamless access to the corporate network and can perform their daily tasks without putting company data security at risk. However, it’s advisable to carry out regular security and software updates to avoid speed and capacity issues, so workers can stay productive and connected at any time.
Secure remote access for hybrid workforce
Access control plays an extremely important role in creating a secure hybrid environment. Organizations must be sure that users within a company network can be trusted to avoid any potential threats. However, in a remote work environment, there is no confidence in who is accessing a company network. This puts identity management at the forefront of security.
Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one step that businesses need to take to prevent unauthorized access to company assets. It is a simple authentication method that requires workers to identify themselves by providing two or more verification factors. Aside from the username and password, they are also asked for a phone number, a thumbprint, or a physical hardware key, which reduces the likelihood of a successful cyberattack.
As companies move their systems to the cloud, where people can access corporate applications, workloads, and data anytime and from anywhere, organizations should rethink cloud security and choose cloud-based solutions that provide the level of security needed. For instance, a hosted private cloud option that meets the most stringent security requirements. Additional security needs to be put into place to secure network access and avoid security breaches. In this respect, implementing MFA can help, ensuring that users accessing corporate systems are who they say they are.
A secure access service edge (SASE) network architecture is another replacement option for securing remote access. It unifies all networking and security tools into a single, integrated cloud service. A SASE architecture identifies users and devices, applies policy-based security, and delivers secure access to the appropriate application or data. This approach allows organizations to apply secure seamless access for users no matter where they are located, and due to centralized management, increases network and security staff effectiveness. SASE ensures that data is sent securely, which is essential for organizational compliance. It is also less costly and time-consuming compared to traditional networks. It makes this technology the operational reality for many organizations. Gartner expects that by 2024, at least 40% of enterprises will have explicit strategies to adopt SASE.
Verifying employees through facial recognition
When it comes to inside workplaces, it is critical to leverage face recognition technology to ensure secure access control. With lots of employees and visitors coming and going to the office, it can be hard and time-consuming for security personnel to keep track of which employees have authorized access to certain areas at certain times and which don’t. With AI-powered solutions that utilize face recognition technology, security can implement schedule-specific and conditional access control. Integrated with on-site cameras, face recognition software scans workers’ faces to verify their identification right when they walk in the door. The system grants verified workers access and sends real-time alerts to notify security staff about unauthorized entries. The face can be easily observed from a distance, so the screening process goes fast, which enables frictionless entry for all employees. Compared to iris or fingerprint, facial biometrics is more accurate and secure and is much more difficult to hack than to steal a password.
Face recognition can be also used as a part of multi-factor user authentication for employees working from home. By matching a valid ID with a live face image capture, facial recognition software can ensure that an employee working remotely is truly who they say they are. Employees may also use face recognition to log into computers and access data in the corporate network.
Automation is critical for streamlining monitoring operations and increasing the efficiency and productivity of a hybrid work environment. Gartner suggests that in 2023, 60% of networking operational activities will be automated, which is twice the number in 2019.
In a distributed work environment, monitoring security operations turns out to be a hard task. With numerous endpoints, managing incidents requires a lot of time and work resources. Automation can solve these problems and reduce human errors that exponentially increase in a remote work environment. Automation tools can provide an analysis of the security landscape, detect deviations in real-time, and automatically apply security policies and responses in accordance with user behavior, network-connected devices, and other factors. For instance, temporally stop the network connection when anomalous activity is detected. Automation can also better ensure safety and compliance through automating employee and visitor access requests and adjusting access rights for all employees remotely.
According to a Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 85% of breaches relate to a human element. 22% of all breaches were caused by human error and ignorance. Therefore, it is crucial for every organization to grow employee awareness of the importance of security and build knowledge of their personal responsibility. They need to educate workers about potential security hazards and safe practices and provide training about their own home network security.
While the hybrid working model has many advantages, it also poses many security risks. Businesses need to consider all the pain points and apply relevant technologies to mitigate them and secure their assets and data, no matter whether their employees work in the office, remotely, or somewhere in-between. It’s critical to adapt network infrastructure to the hybrid work environment, mitigate device security risks, and control access to company assets. Automatization and security awareness training are also instrumental in making a distributed environment more secure and more productive.
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