The impact of COVID-19 has changed the dynamics and landscape of remote work for at least the foreseeable future and, probably, forever. All of a sudden, organizations across all industries had to scale remote workers at unprecedented intensity and speed. Perhaps even more importantly, IT had to secure these workers and make sure their interactions were safe and secure for the organizations and themselves.
The challenges have been exacerbated by enthusiasm among bad actors to exploit the increased attack surface created by a displaced workforce. As just one example: A report on SearchSecurity.com notes that Google’s Threat Analysis Group has been detecting 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages a day related to the coronavirus.
If you are a business leader, IT manager or cybersecurity professional, one of the takeaways is to be prepared for anything. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to adopt best practices in securing remote workers so they don’t inadvertently cause harm to your organization or themselves, now or in the future.
What are some of the best practices in securing remote work? Here are five that will make your organizations and workers safer, more secure and more productive.
No. 1: Look for an integrated, end-to-end platform model.
One of the biggest problems that has beset cybersecurity teams the past few years has been the proliferation of point solutions. Some companies have dozens or even hundreds of point products. An integrated platform, with solutions designed to work together, eases the burden on cybersecurity teams that are already stretched thin. This model is not only more effective in supporting the remote workforce, it is also more cost efficient. To learn more about cost efficiency, read here. As one example: customers using Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for identity and access management (IAM) saved an average of $8.8 million over a three-year period, according to a Forrester Total Economic Impact™ Study.
No. 2: Leverage cloud-based security for a single management view.
Because of their reliance on multiple point products, most organizations manage their security products with separate consoles, creating visibility silos. This model is not only inefficient in today’s environment, it is risky; it limits your ability to get a single view across all environments, including multiple clouds. With cloud-native platforms like Microsoft Cloud Security solutions and Azure Security Center, you can protect every layer of the cloud, regardless of the cloud provider. You can identify, react to and mitigate threats before they are able to inflict harm on your organization.
In addition, cloud is a much more efficient model for delivering security solutions than on-premises infrastructure. With an integrated, end-to-end cloud platform, you can deploy innovation faster while simplifying and accelerating the processes involved in issuing alerts, updating protections, identifying threats, managing policies and ensuring secure remote access.
No. 3: Start building a Zero Trust architecture now
With the unexpected shift to remote work, a Zero Trust architecture is becoming table stakes for many organizations in managing user identity and access. With a Zero Trust architecture, the model is “never trust, always verify.” This means every request from every user is authenticated, authorized and encrypted in real time. While the value of Zero Trust has never been questioned, some organizations have had issues around how to implement it seamlessly and cost-efficiently. Microsoft customers have a huge advantage and opportunity because they can easily adopt Zero Trust across their entire portfolio with solutions many organizations are already using, such as Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Cloud App Security.
No. 4: Modernize your SOC with automation and intelligence
Machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation and shared threat intelligence are revolutionizing the world of Security Operations Centers (SOCs). If your organization is not leveraging these capabilities, you are fighting a losing battle: You won’t be able to keep your best people and you won’t be able to keep up with adversaries, who are adept at using automation and machine learning to launch a wide range of attacks.
A modern SOC should be cloud-native, built on a security information and event management (SIEM) foundation that features built-in automation, AI and machine learning. A cloud-native SIEM will not only be much less expensive to manage, it will also deliver improved response times and a better user experience, according to a report from IDG called SEIM Shift: How the Cloud is Transforming Security Operations.
For example, a cloud-native platform like Microsoft Azure Sentinel serves all four aspects of security operations: Collecting data a cloud scale; detecting threats; investigating threats with AI, and responding to incidents rapidly with built-in orchestration and automation of common tasks. Azure Sentinel helps to secure your entire enterprise by integrating with existing tools, applications and other security products. In addition, Azure Sentinel can be deployed as a service to lift the burden on your own SOC teams and leverage the security expertise of Microsoft.
No. 5: Establish ongoing cybersecurity training and awareness
Not every cybersecurity challenge can be solved with technology alone. In today’s environment, many employees are working remotely and from home for the first time. The shift happened quickly and many workers have never been trained on basic cybersecurity hygiene, such as using strong passwords or not using the same device for business and work applications.
Solutions such as Zero Trust can help, but there is also no substitute for cybersecurity training, awareness and practice. Even with cybersecurity teams working remotely, training can take place without disrupting workflows or productivity. This is not a time to ignore cybersecurity training for the remote workforce; it is a time to strengthen it.
Taking the Next Step
For many organizations, this is—and should be—a turning point in cybersecurity. The rapid expansion of the remote workforce is forcing companies to come to grips with modern security challenges and shift to a security model that is integrated, end-to-end, automated, cloud-based, centrally managed and increasingly intelligent.
Microsoft has the strategy, solutions, expertise and vision to help organizations of any size in navigating this transition. For more information on how your organization can leverage best practices in securing your remote workforce, please review the articles and resources cited in this article and throughout this special information hub.