Recently some IT leaders discussed with me their experiences managing a secure environment amidst the COVID upheaval. – Charlie Tannous, Director of Technology.
Learnings from the Curve 2020.
Business disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of quickly identifying security challenges and how to mitigate them.
To determine the most prudent steps forward in 2020, let’s go through some best practices for remaining secure during rapid change. The more we understand about emerging threats the better prepared we will be.
Taking control of the challenges
With so much developing change and the associated challenges, Australian organisations need to be proactive managing and securing their new working environments.
The nature of the challenges include fragmentation, obsolete controls and a lack of visibility, which can arise from digital transformation, remote working and cloud adoption. In the case of remote access, there is a demonstrable failure of the traditional VPN.
As the workforce rapidly disbanded, organisations learned that not all VPNs are created equal. A lot of them are not designed to scale, so they fail from the perspectives of both capacity and licensing – key drawbacks of on-premise VPN as opposed to a Cloud-based option.
Before the pandemic struck, one customer revamped its firewalls and started rolling out a Cloud-based VPN straight to them. This simplified administration and when it came time to move to working remotely, the team was able to do it in less than about two weeks.
Another security challenge has been with the rapid uptake of Cloud-based collaboration apps, such as those for video conferencing.
With better network access controls, you can play “traffic cop” and decide who can use a cloud app and perform inspections of the application traffic.
Are we even aware of what apps we have in the cloud? Most people are aware of the services they have, but they often don’t know the workloads or the type of data that they’re hosting and where it is. That type of fragmentation is the source of all problems when it comes to cyber security.
Securing the new distributed workplace
Security is always important, but it has become a more significant issue in the new distributed workforce as cyber-criminals are very adaptable and able to exploit technology trends like videoconferencing.
We are already seeing an increase in targeted email phishing, scam and ransomware attacks exploiting the COVID-19 uncertainty.
During this time, security education campaigns are more important than ever. In addition to awareness, multi-factor authentication is needed as a default component of security tools to prevent the sole reliance on passwords, which can be stolen or cracked.
At one organisation, the attacker actually responded to an email which helped scam an unsuspecting staff member.
With rapid change already forced upon every industry, here are some steps you can take to improve the security of your distributed workforce:
1. Secure work that is coming to people. People will not be working in central offices as much and will work from home or other remote locations. Security must adapt to keep ahead of this change.
2. Network security is now more important. With more cloud apps and remote locations in use, the traditional on-premises VPN is becoming obsolete. Organisations should look to cloud-based VPNs to ensure they are covered regardless of which apps they are using.
3. Education must change to meet new attacks. With the changing nature of work and collaboration, attacks are also changing. Secure organisations will keep their staff informed of new and emerging threats and how to prevent them.
The post COVID-19 world will be a lot more distributed and agile, but let’s not allow a new generation of security threats to dictate how we operate.
Find more lessons from the curve at covidlearningcurve.com