This article is part of our Distributed Enterprises Series
We talked a lot about the hybrid and remote work models throughout our Distributed Enterprises series. Digging quite deeper, we covered topics such as the importance of distributed enterprises, shared insight into devising a coherent plan, and presented the diverse approaches to a distributed staff, complete with the advantages and downsides of each one. One subject, however, remains to be discussed in more detail: the importance of crafting a specific security strategy for distributed enterprises.
It’s blatantly clear that transitioning to a distributed model isn’t simply sending your employees home for 3 days a week, providing them with credentials for remote access, and conducting an exhaustive amount of conference calls throughout the day. Companies must formulate a detailed plan that includes the changes in everyday activity, the strategies for keeping every task on track, and the point-by-point plan to keep everything and everyone safe.
Identifying the Most Common Risks
Before starting to formulate a comprehensive safety plan, it’s imperative to understand and map out the most evident and urgent liabilities. Companies need to conduct a thorough risk assessment through analyzing the routine processes with a hybrid and remote work mindset.
What do we mean by that? Well, something that wasn’t considered a risk when done on the office premises may now be an issue you have to pay special attention to. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind.
Infrastructure and Operations
Threats to a company’s day-to-day processes may affect its ability to function appropriately and even hinder its business operations. If they happen to bypass the security measures, these risks may force everything to come to a halt, at times indefinitely.
A great source of concern when we’re dealing with hybrid or remote work is the devices employees use. Whether the enterprise chooses to operate with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach or if it supplies workers with everything they need to fulfill their duties, every device should be thoroughly configured and reviewed following the company’s standards.
Evidently, BYOD makes it harder to put these regulations into practice, since a company has no right to interfere with a worker’s personal device or dictate how it should be set up.
Corporations that wish to offset risks associated with staff devices and don’t intend to invest in acquiring a large number of appliances can always resort to the Device as a Service (DaaS) model. This allows companies to outsource the provisioning of devices to their employees, be they computers, monitors, tablets, printers, or any other piece of equipment.
Data and Access
A well-configured device, however, will only go so far as to secure your operations. No matter how up to par a laptop is, it might still be a source of concern if it exposes your company once it’s remotely connected to your servers. That’s where accessibility becomes the focus of your safety efforts.
Unfortunately, hacking attempts and online attacks are as diverse and plentiful (or even more so) as the safety measures we can adopt to defend ourselves. Data hijacking, ransomware, and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks are some of the most common advertised threats nowadays and can bring catastrophic results.
The latest State of Ransomware report released by IT security company Sophos shows that 37% of respondents’ companies were targeted by ransomware attacks throughout 2021, with only 65% of the encrypted data being restored even after the ransom was paid. To make matters worse, Sophos estimates that the average cost of an attack, including costs associated with devices and networks, downtime, and the ransom itself was in the vicinity of US$ 1.85 million.
Luckily, there’s a broad range of products and services that a company can employ to tighten its grip on security when it comes to data protection. Encryption, two-step identification, Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB), and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are just a few of the strategies that will make your operations more secure on a day-to-day basis.
Reputation and brand
When we talk about safety we often focus on securing systems and data and forget that behind (or rather, around) all of the employees, devices, zeros and ones there’s a company with a reputation at stake. Even if an organization that was the target of hackers is able to quickly repel the attack and mitigate its effects, the corporate image might be seriously damaged.
Data breaches are serious and no one wants to be associated or involved with an enterprise that puts their information at risk or that attackers may perceive as an easy target. Consumers’ trust and public confidence are fragile and precious, hard to acquire, and easy to lose. A well-thought-out security plan can contribute to preventing the impairment of a company’s reputation, which can at times be damaged beyond repair.
Despite the abundance of risks, not all is lost (not by a long shot). There are plenty of strategies an enterprise can develop and put into practice to make every step of its operations more secure.
First and foremost, we must think about endpoint security. It’s imperative that you provide employees with dedicated devices that the IT department can configure and leave airtight in terms of security and efficiency. Coupled with that, it’s important to set up the actual remote access to your internal systems. Two very common and interesting strategies are utilizing either a VDI or a VPN.
Although similar in nature, these methodologies are fundamentally different. VDI, which stands for virtual desktop infrastructure, allows the user to access office-based machines while working from a remote location. It relies on a centralized management system to configure and maintain the workstations and makes it possible to restrict access to specific files and locations, as well as block users from copying confidential information.
VPN, on the other hand, is a way to encrypt the information and traffic on unsecured networks. A VPN acts as a direct pathway from the company’s private network to the remote end user’s device. Since it’s highly dependent on the end user’s resources, it’s more difficult to manage, despite being more cost-effective for exactly the same reasons.
Lastly, the organization must clearly communicate to employees how imperative are data security and network safety. This should be part of the onboarding process for new employees and must be emphasized as the reason for some of the most bureaucratic processes, such as the need to use the VDI or VPN.
Some workers may find these extra measures to be a hassle when they’re just trying to copy an internal report to use as a reference, but they need to understand that there can be no room for any kind of vulnerability that can be easily avoided.
Rethink and Revisit Your Plan
Scenarios change. That is even truer when we’re talking about technology, with the constant development of new tools, techniques, and approaches. And, as we’ve stated before, what can be said for safety measures is also true for penetration attempts. That is why there’s no point in charting a safety plan and sticking to it indefinitely.
Constantly reassessing how the most sensible (and potentially fragile) operations are being conducted is the first step in identifying if the vulnerabilities have changed or remain the same. After that, it will be possible to imagine the most convenient and effective way to secure your processes end to end without compromising on efficiency.
The most important thing, however, is to maintain a safety-focused mindset, to be aware of the repercussions of what’s being done, and how these can be mitigated or even resolved. If the company has the added bonus of a dedicated department to deal with these issues, all the better.
An active and vigilant posture with regards to digital security is the first step towards (attempting to) make sure you run an enterprise as safe as possible from digital attacks.