Despite security issues and concerns resulting from the massive and sudden increase in work-from-home (WFH) initiatives caused by the global COVID-19 healthcare crisis, one-third (38%) of U.S. companies observed productivity gains during remote work and a staggering 84% anticipate broader and more permanent WFH adoption beyond the pandemic, according to new data released by Pulse Secure, the provider of software-defined Secure Access solutions.

Anticipate positions moving to permanent remote work

The 2020 Remote Work-From-Home Cybersecurity Report, sponsored by Pulse Secure and produced by Cybersecurity Insiders, offers an in-depth perspective on WFH challenges, concerns, strategies and anticipated outcomes. The survey, conducted in May of 2020, polled over 400 IT security decision practitioners across a broad representation of industries and companies between 500 and over 5,000 employees. The survey found that 33% of U.S. companies anticipate some positions moving to permanent remote work and over half (55%) plan to increase their budget for secure remote work in the near-term.

This new research provides organizations comparative insight into how enterprises are addressing immediate work-from-home requirements and cyber threat challenges to ensure business continuity and employee well-being,” said Scott Gordon, chief marketing officer at Pulse Secure. “Beyond offering a wake-up call for emergency preparedness, the findings indicate a strong likelihood of organizations permanently extending work-from-home flexibility and advancing secure access capabilities.”

WFH adoption accelerated cloud app growth

The research indicates that three-quarters of businesses now have more than 76% of their employees working from home compared to just under 25% at the close of 2019.  While a third of respondents cited their business being “ill prepared or not prepared” for remote working, 75% of businesses were able to transition to remote working within 15 days.

Surprisingly, less than a third expressed cost or budget problems, demonstrating the urgency to support their business. Additionally, more than half (54%) expressed that COVID-19 has accelerated migration of users’ workflows and applications to the cloud.

In terms of security risks, two-thirds (69%) are concerned with WFH security risks with the majority expressing low user awareness training, insecure home/public Wi-Fi networks, use of at-risk personal devices and sensitive data leakage as prime threat contributors.

WFH adds security and compliance challenges

In terms of application exposure, respondents feel anxious over file sharing (68%), web apps (47%), and video conferencing (45%) risks.  Two-thirds of IT security professionals anticipate malware, phishing, unauthorized user and device accessWhile 78% expressed enforcing the same level of security controls and data management for on premise and remote users, a further 65% allowed access from personal, unmanaged devices. Two-thirds of IT security professionals anticipate malware, phishing, unauthorized user and device access, and unpatched/at risk systems to be the most exploitable WFH attack vectors.

In addition, 63% expressed that remote work could impact compliance mandates that apply to their organization; especially GDRP, PCI-DSS, HIPAA and those with data breach notification.

Survey respondents employed various tools to secure remote work / home office scenarios with the top four controls being endpoint security, Firewalls, virtual private networks (SSL-VPN) and multi-factor authentication (MFA).  According to separate research by Enterprise Management Associates, 57% of organizations regard the consolidation of access management solutions into a single platform to be a high or extreme priority for their business this year.

Wider trends toward security tools consolidation

Adoption of WFH has highlighted the need for organizations to embrace more holistic secure access strategy"

The mass adoption of WFH has highlighted the need for organizations to embrace more holistic secure access strategy that supports both flexible working and the growing shift towards hybrid IT. The most effective IT management solutions are platforms that are both modular and integrated,” noted Steve Brasen, research director with Enterprise Management Associates. “Modular solutions allow organizations to adopt the exact feature set they require to meet business needs. However, solutions must also be fully integrated to yield desired management efficiencies. Solutions, such as Pulse Secure Access Suite, address broad secure access needs while yielding operational and economic benefits.”

The WFH and tool consolidation trends coincide with a recent update to Pulse Access Suite, a secure access solution set that provides easy access for mobile workforces and a single-pane-of-glass to streamline provisioning, management and scalability. The Suite integrates adaptive identity and device authentication, protected connectivity, extensive visibility and analytics, and threat response for hybrid IT. Organizations can centrally orchestrate Zero Trust policy to ensure compliant access to applications, resources and services across cellphone, network and multi-cloud environments.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security
Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security

At an Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility on Feb. 5, an operator watched a computer screen as someone remotely accessed the system monitoring the water supply and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. The chemical, also known as lye, is used in small concentrations to control acidity in the water. In larger concentrations, the compound is poisonous – the same corrosive chemical used to eat away at clogged drains. The impact of cybersecurity attacks The incident is the latest example of how cybersecurity attacks can translate into real-world, physical security consequences – even deadly ones.Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. The computer system was set up to allow remote access only to authorized users. The source of the unauthorized access is unknown. However, the attacker was only in the system for 3 to 5 minutes, and an operator corrected the concentration back to 100 parts per million soon after. It would have taken a day or more for contaminated water to enter the system. In the end, the city’s water supply was not affected. There were other safeguards in place that would have prevented contaminated water from entering the city’s water supply, which serves around 15,000 residents. The remote access used for the attack was disabled pending an investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. On Feb. 2, a compilation of breached usernames and passwords, known as COMB for “Compilation of Many Breaches,” was leaked online. COMB contains 3.2 billion unique email/password pairs. It was later discovered that the breach included the credentials for the Oldsmar water plant. Water plant attacks feared for years Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.” “The incident at the Oldsmar water treatment plant is a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is continually at risk; not only from nation-state attackers, but also from malicious actors with unknown motives and goals,” comments Mieng Lim, VP of Product Management at Digital Defense Inc., a provider of vulnerability management and threat assessment solutions.The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online “Our dependency on critical infrastructure – power grids, utilities, water supplies, communications, financial services, emergency services, etc. – on a daily basis emphasizes the need to ensure the systems are defended against any adversary,” Mieng Lim adds. “Proactive security measures are crucial to safeguard critical infrastructure systems when perimeter defenses have been compromised or circumvented. We have to get back to the basics – re-evaluate and rebuild security protections from the ground up.” "This event reinforces the increasing need to authenticate not only users, but the devices and machine identities that are authorized to connect to an organization's network,” adds Chris Hickman, Chief Security Officer at digital identity security vendor Keyfactor. “If your only line of protection is user authentication, it will be compromised. It's not necessarily about who connects to the system, but what that user can access once they're inside. "If the network could have authenticated the validity of the device connecting to the network, the connection would have failed because hackers rarely have possession of authorized devices. This and other cases of hijacked user credentials can be limited or mitigated if devices are issued strong, crypto-derived, unique credentials like a digital certificate. In this case, it looks like the network had trust in the user credential but not in the validity of the device itself. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is what can happen when zero trust is your end state, not your beginning point." “The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online for the first time as part of digital transformation projects,” says Gareth Williams, Vice President - Secure Communications & Information Systems, Thales UK. “While the move towards greater automation and connected switches and control systems brings unprecedented opportunities, it is not without risk, as anything that is brought online immediately becomes a target to be hacked.” Operational technology to mitigate attacks Williams advises organizations to approach Operational Technology as its own entity and put in place procedures that mitigate against the impact of an attack that could ultimately cost lives. This means understanding what is connected, who has access to it and what else might be at risk should that system be compromised, he says. “Once that is established, they can secure access through protocols like access management and fail-safe systems.”  “The cyberattack against the water supply in Oldsmar should come as a wakeup call,” says Saryu Nayyar, CEO, Gurucul.  “Cybersecurity professionals have been talking about infrastructure vulnerabilities for years, detailing the potential for attacks like this, and this is a near perfect example of what we have been warning about,” she says.  Although this attack was not successful, there is little doubt a skilled attacker could execute a similar infrastructure attack with more destructive results, says Nayyar. Organizations tasked with operating and protecting critical public infrastructure must assume the worst and take more serious measures to protect their environments, she advises. Fortunately, there were backup systems in place in Oldsmar. What could have been a tragedy instead became a cautionary tale. Both physical security and cybersecurity professionals should pay attention.

What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?
What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?

The COVID-19 global pandemic had a life-changing impact on all of us in 2020, including a multi-faceted jolt on the physical security industry. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see more clearly the exact nature and extent of that impact. And it’s not over yet: The pandemic will continue to be top-of-mind in 2021. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What have been the positive and negative effects of Covid-19 on the physical security industry in 2020? What impact will it have on 2021?

Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More
Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.