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This past year has seen multiple changes to how a business operates, especially the way we work. Lockdowns have triggered a mass shift to remote work and now businesses are setting their sights on hybrid working models as the world opens up again.

However, there's a growing issue to contend with this new hybrid workforce model – the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks as new security risks and cyberattacks are by no means slowing down. Cybercrime, which includes everything from theft and extortion to data breaches, has increased by 600% since the start of the global pandemic.

So, how can IT ensure they have security measures in place to not only protect enterprise networks, but the information and data within them?

It’s imperative organizations ensure they’re supporting employees in the best way possible from their remote locations. This means IT managers must consider how they can manage and protect the enterprise network. In doing so, IT teams can keep their enterprise networks and the information within them safe.

What does a typical home environment network look like?

Unsurprisingly, with many employees still working from home, large organizations are reliant on secure remote access to corporate Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). To drive productivity, employees must be able to access enterprise networks with ease and go about their day-to-day work uninterrupted by network-related incidents.

The harsh reality is cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated and employees working remotely are no longer protected in the same way as they would be in a typical office LAN environment. As a result, cybercriminals are taking full advantage of the situation.

A typical home working environment is often a localised, mixed-use network connecting corporate devices, that can include personal devices and shared accounts as well as vulnerable IoT applications. This type of network environment broadens the “attack surface,” thus making it an easier target for cybercriminals. The top priority for IT leaders then is to make sure the organization is protected and employees can work securely from their remote locations.

Regardless of whether employees opt for a trip to the office or decide to work remotely, protecting them from cyberattacks come first

Tactics to consider when protecting remote employees

Firstly, employees’ awareness of safe remote working practices is critical to a secure working environment and maintaining data confidentiality. For example, IT teams should consider sharing a handbook containing best practices, such as enabling two-factor authentication and requiring VPN login to applications and programs containing sensitive information. They should also consider defining an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), so employees understand cybersecurity best practise, to avoid succumbing to potential threats.

If remote working cannot be restricted to a VPN, then there’s the risk of opening services directly to the internet for hackers to exploit. Any new internet-facing application needs to be planned, understood, tested and secured before and during use. Enterprises should always strive to balance the need for cybersecurity against the requirement for a more accessible internet-based and cloud-centric application environment.

Consider how remote users can locally access their key applications and data with minimal latency impact using a global secure remote access platform. Flexibility in augmenting additional remote users as the need arises via a simple per-user seat commercial model should also be a consideration going forward.

Don’t forget the remote end-user

So, regardless of whether employees opt for a trip to the office or decide to work remotely, protecting them from cyberattacks come first. As hybrid working becomes a full-time practice, there needs to be flexibility in connecting to their enterprise networks. By adopting a “zero trust” approach, enterprise ICT teams can make securing network infrastructure a top priority.

With a “zero trust” approach, businesses can plan their shift to the cloud, allowing employees to access their data, regardless of where they are. Technologies such as Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) technology help employees by opening access to corporate resources based on end-user and device identity, security posture and their agreed privileges. In turn, this allows for effective access security while also giving employees their choice of devices, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

To take a step further, organizations must implement Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) core network and end-user security functions with Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) capabilities. This helps to spot sensitive data which needs protection or any malicious malware, while simultaneously decrypting content in real-time. These capabilities are delivered and distributed through the cloud, meaning remote employees can access them from anywhere.

With SASE, end users can quickly access what they need no matter where they are.  What’s more, IT leaders can simultaneously maintain a zero-trust approach across their entire network. Overall, with the added support of a managed service provider, employees can be protected and work efficiently whether they’re at home, in the office or in a nearby café.

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Author profile

Samir Desai Director of Managed Security Services, GTT Communications Inc

Samir Desai has over 15 years of experience in telecoms product concept development, specifically in fixed, wireless managed data and information security segments. As Director of Managed Security Services, Samir oversees GTT’s global portfolio of managed services, including next-generation enterprise WAN solutions such as SD-WAN, Application-Aware Networking, Cloud Connectivity and Security Services on the GTT global network. 

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