A zero-trust future: Why cybersecurity should be prioritized for the hybrid working world
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the way we work, and one of our recent research studies found that nearly 65% of companies expect some or all their workforce to remain remote indefinitely. Unfortunately, last year’s sudden transition has created numerous cybersecurity challenges for businesses as they attempt to adjust to this new way of working.
Some of the new security challenges – both for employees and employers – include BYOD policies, sharing the same network with relatives or roommates, using the same devices for work and personal activities, VPN security issues and, of course, working from home with more distractions in our personal lives. In addition to this, businesses have the difficult responsibility of securing multiple endpoints remotely, while keeping further employee process friction to a minimum.
In this piece I will explore why, in the face of such rapid change and related security challenges, it has become crucial for businesses to have a robust and secure zero trust model in place. This approach supports the mutual needs of businesses and their employees for the present and future hybrid world of work.
Hidden threats in plain sight
Remote working and the accompanying device proliferation have increased the organizational surface attack area available to cybercriminals. The quick transition to remote working has left many organizations struggling to implement the needed infrastructure. Our research showed that as many as 61% of surveyed organizations had difficulty switching their workforces to a remote work paradigm. This has meant that organizations lacking robust cybersecurity systems have become attractive targets for cybercriminals, who are taking advantage of vulnerabilities and, in some high-profile cases, holding company data at ransom.
The inability to regulate the behavior of remote workers is a common challenge, as many employees are faced with more distractions at home, and/or are engaging in riskier than usual cyber behavior (e.g., clicking on phishing email links, leaking confidential data, and using unsanctioned apps).
Similarly, a recent spike in ransomware attacks is proving to be a major threat and continuous business worry. Cybercriminals typically gain access to company systems by luring employees with fraudulent phishing emails. In such cases, all it takes is a distracted individual and one click to give a ransomware gang unauthorized access to a business’ systems.
With ransomware threats on the rise and evolving, and an ever-thinner line between internal and external networks, businesses must seek to priorities cybersecurity for the good of all parties. Many VPN solutions struggle to accommodate the volume of employees working remotely, making it harder for teams to perform at necessary speed and capacity. This is where a more efficient and capable alternative operating model, such as zero trust, is needed to meet the cybersecurity needs of a modern enterprise.
Embracing zero trust
Zero trust is a simple concept: Trust no user or device, and always verify. This means all devices – whether inside or outside the office perimeter – must go through a verification process before gaining access to the corporate network. By combining “least privilege” access policy with multi-factor authentication (MFA) and micro-segmentation, organizations can maintain a more agile security model that is right for a cloud- and mobile-first era.
Endpoint security is a critical part of the formula for successfully adopting a zero-trust model within an organization. The current reality is that mass remote work is here to stay, with numerous devices to manage and secure. As such, businesses require a security model which can attune to this paradigm and help them directly tackle the related challenges posed. Zero trust does this by allowing IT and security teams to maintain visibility across all endpoints within a company’s network.
As a requirement, all endpoints and endpoint activity (like downloads, file transfers, etc.) need to be authenticated, so this minimizes the chance of unwanted access to company networks. If any devices are compromised, they can be identified by the IT and security teams and quickly isolated before they infect the organization’s entire network.
Zero trust has additional benefits that cannot be offered by VPNs. It can, for example, help workplaces restrict permissions across a network. Also, when the network is under a heavy pressure load (i.e., being used by many remote workers simultaneously), zero trust is better equipped to perform, and therefore better suited for aiding organizations maintaining a hybrid working model.
A robust cybersecurity strategy for the present and future
Overall, to be properly equipped for working and the new normal, businesses should take a zero-trust approach to empower their IT and security teams. By providing them with the visibility they need to keep business endpoints and networks safe, the entire enterprise is set up for success.
The increased level of visibility offered by a zero-trust architecture helps organizations tackle many of the persistent security challenges mass remote working has created. They can now verify all endpoints for threats; before opening business services to employees – an ability that is crucial to taking preventative measures against cyberattacks. This is possible regardless of employee location, making zero trust the ideal model for a hybrid working world. Such flexibility will continue to be critical to ensuring security defenses are adaptable, allowing the business to stay protected regardless of what comes next.