The importance of zero-trust in a COVID-19 world

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COVID-19 is impacting everyone and, with government-mandated lockdowns, businesses and workers across the world have been faced with the same challenges – to enable business continuity while minimising the risks.

During a recent Webex conference hosted by Cisco South Africa, Evelyn Rhoda, a cyber security specialist at the company, outlined several solutions that address these challenges, and that the company is offering free access to.

Firstly, Cisco is offering a free licence for its Web and videoconferencing software WebEx.

Next, existing Cisco Umbrella customers can exceed their user limit, allowing them to support an increase in remote workers, while new customers can access a free licence. Cisco Umbrella is delivered from the cloud and protects users from malicious Internet destinations, whether they are on or off the network.

“In a normal office-based environment, all of us would traditionally go throughfirewalls and we would rely on the corporate IT team to look after security,” said Rhoda. "Now companies need to secure the perimeter for those who are working from outside of the company buildings and extend it into their homes."

Cisco’s Duo Security multi-factor authentication product enables businesses to verify users’ identities and establish device trust before granting access to applications. By employing a zero-trust mode – the default position being that any user is untrusted until their identity and the health of their device has been identified – it decreases the attack surface and reduces risk. Existing Duo Security customers can exceed their user limit to support an increase in remote workers, and new customers can access a free licence.

Finally, Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client empowers employees to work from anywhere on company laptops or personal mobile devices. It also provides the visibility and control security teams need to identify people and devices that are accessing their infrastructure. The free licence is available here.

“Our VPN solution ensures that when users connect into their network or any other company resources from home, communications between the end-user device – be it a laptop or a mobile device that connects to the network – is secure,” Rhoda explained.

Traditionally, in a business continuity environment, tools such as VPNs have been set up to work almost as a backup, for when a user is not in the office and needs to get something urgently, or if there’s an ad hoc request by a user working from home. “VPNs were seen as temporary usage tools, but have now become a primary means of connectivity into the network, which has taken a lot of people by surprise.”

She said some companies were experiencing capacity issues associated with this because while initially only 10% of the workforce was dialling in remotely, that figure was now 100%.

“From a Cisco perspective, we have made these solutions available for free to help our customers, potential new customers and even some home users, to leverage our technologies,” said Rhoda.

“Remote working can place a strain on network resources and the IT team has to make sure that business systems stay up and accessible to enable staff to do their jobs. However, using Cisco's solutions collaboratively is taking some of the risk away from the professional," ended Rhoda.

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