People as a risk factor

Issue 6 2021 Cyber Security

To put it bluntly, people are the weakest link at the organisation. The distributed working environment has made implementing effective security solutions an incredibly complex undertaking.

With applications providing companies with a lifeline for employees to access data, the pressure is on developers to quickly release new features. Invariably, this results in errors slipping through potentially causing backdoors into the organisation. Companies must therefore revisit how they manage user privileges in this regard, especially when it comes to which employees are allowed to access sensitive data.

Public control

One of the riskiest things with people working remotely is having them access corporate back-end systems from public hotspots provided by the likes of coffee shops, restaurants and so on. Malicious actors could be nearby harvesting credential information. Furthermore, there are physical security considerations as well. Anybody who walks past an employee can see what is happening on their laptop screen. Even something as innocuous as a phone conversation can be overhead.

This is where the concept of digital distancing can come into play. As the name suggests, digital distancing means that within a home environment, work devices should not be on the same network as other smart devices, or any devices household members use for recreational or personal purposes. Of course, this is not always possible especially when employees use their personal devices for work.

Best practice

To this end, the following best practice should be considered. Cloud-native technology and service providers are best suited to serve a globally distributed and remote workforce. But within this, companies must focus on the context versus the threat to better prioritise and coordinate countermeasures. For instance, social engineering requires a different approach to ransomware.

Finding the balance between securing the environment and still making it functional for remote employees is difficult. Businesses need to consider how to safeguard systems without impacting on the work performance of people in a distributed environment. This requires unified, community-sourced intelligence across the organisation for orchestrated coordination across control points. In this way, the company can remove blind spots by gaining visibility of what a cohesive defensive approach across the remote environment will require.

Think SASE

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) has emerged as an increasingly viable option for companies to deliver secure connectivity. Remote workers need to be seen as branches of one. In this way, SASE allows companies to unify their network and security tools in a single management console – providing simple integrated management independent of where employees and resources are located.

In a traditional network model, data and applications live in a core data centre. SASE satisfies the need for a centralised, software-defined security architecture when the apps and users are remote. It does this by combining SD-WAN flexibility with a full suite of virtual security services – all delivered from the cloud.

Security in the current environment comes down to limiting the access privileges of employees working remotely. This is not to say making it impossible for them to do their jobs, but reviewing things that have been put in place in the pre-pandemic times. Today, it is about restricting the download of sensitive data to unsecure devices.

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