‘New normal’ requires new security measures

In what is becoming an increasingly ‘work from anywhere’ environment, IT teams are faced with the challenge of securing connections, resources and devices, wherever they are.

Johannesburg, 17 Mar 2021
Pieter Nel, Regional Head: SADC, Sophos.
Pieter Nel, Regional Head: SADC, Sophos.

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the driver of a massive increase in remote working. This can, in many ways, be viewed as a win-win situation for companies and staff. After all, employees save commuting time while enjoying added flexibility and greater productivity. Meanwhile, organisations reduce both costs and turnover rates.

However, while it is a positive situation for the business and the staff, for IT teams, long-term remote working creates a host of additional security challenges.

In fact, Gartner indicates that 74% of organisations expect a percentage of employees to work remotely once the pandemic is over. Add to this the fact that the resources people need to do their jobs are now found in multiple locations – these could be servers in the office; cloud-based applications and even in private or public cloud environments – and this increases the security risks.

For an IT team that is tasked with protecting every user and every resource, no matter where they are, this creates a huge challenge, explains Pieter Nel, SADC Regional Head at Sophos. Even more so as cyber criminals continue to find better and more subversive ways to penetrate these increasingly virtual enterprises.

“In security terms, what is required is no less than a complete portfolio of next-generation security products, packed with advanced protection capabilities and controlled via a single, Web-based security platform. This single pane of glass approach is what will make it simple for IT teams to manage their company’s security from anywhere,” says Nel.

“There are several requirements that must be met if an enterprise is to properly secure its people and resources in this manner. The first of these is secure connectivity, enabling access to resources from any location, be it home, on-site or in the office. Here, the implementation of zero trust network access (ZTNA) is a great alternative to remote access VPN, enabling users to connect to corporate resources from any location in a straightforward, secure and transparent way.”

At the same time, he continues, it also enhances corporate security by constantly verifying the user – typically with multi-factor authentication and an identity provider – and validating the health and compliance of the device.

“Secondly, you need protection for the devices used to make these connections, such as desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Here you will need anti-ransomware protection, deep learning AI to help analyse threats and prevent both known and never-seen-before malware, anti-exploit technology and foundational signature-based protection.

“It is worth noting that those businesses that may not have the time, capacity or expertise to run their own threat analyses can utilise a managed threat response (MTR) service. This encompasses 24/7 monitoring, detection and response capabilities, delivered as a fully managed service.”

Nel suggests that a unified endpoint management solution is also important, as it lets you protect any combination of personal and corporate-owned devices with minimal effort, and is ideal for bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios.

He adds that protection for the data and workloads that users need to access, whether they're in the cloud or on your local network, is also vital. A good solution will enable you to lockdown your server workloads, control what can and can’t run and get notifications for any unauthorised change attempts. Moreover, you can manage everything centrally from a single console, including mixed scenarios that include cloud workloads and on-premises servers.

“To guard your resources, you also need to secure the networks that they run on, so – while it may seem obvious advice – a strong and effective firewall is still important. Choose one that delivers unmatched protection and visibility via integrated, multi-layered protection, as this should stop even the most advanced threats,” says Nel.

Running this type of advanced cyber security system will give you next-generation protection, he adds, via a single management platform that enables the sharing of threat intelligence along with automated incident responses. This is a combination that should deliver tremendous efficiency and productivity gains for IT teams.

“It should be clear that there is no turning back from the move to flexible, remote working and the growing use of the cloud. Although this poses new challenges for IT teams and new opportunities for cyber criminals, it is an approach that makes lives easier, so it is here to stay.

“Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, your business implements a system to secure this new environment. When you do, make certain it is one that enables you to secure connections, secure resources and secure devices, wherever they are – without adding to your IT overheads,” he concludes.