The challenge of change

Smart Cybersecurity Handbook 2022 Cyber Security

While many companies are coming to terms with the concept of a remote workforce and see it as a positive post-pandemic development, there are those who view the change with a degree of trepidation.

Deon Smal.

This is to be expected. Not only are a slew of new strategies needed to engage and motivate work-from-home employees, but the need to transform information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions to accommodate remote working environments has to be addressed with a significant degree of urgency.

ICT environments are complex ecosystems. Their transformation to accept a remote workforce – central to which is a shift from an on-premises server and network infrastructure to cloud-based solutions – presents a series of challenges to IT, network, HR and security managers.

The most critical of these challenges is management integrity.

Management integrity

Remote workforce management demands a mix of communication, processes and technology specifically designed for the task and tightly integrated within a centralised ICT management platform or framework which incorporates a number of key areas of focus. Some of the most relevant include IT operations management, cloud management, end-user management, desktop/mobile device management and – importantly – security management. Each area presents its own unique challenges.

As on-premises infrastructures have moved inexorably towards centralised IT operations platforms, so a cloud-based environment, overseeing a remote workforce, also requires IT operations monitoring and management to be conducted centrally from behind the now-ubiquitous ‘single pane of glass’.

The on-premises infrastructure is focused on physical servers, storage and networking while the cloud-based alternative is virtual. The challenge lies in accepting the considerable differences between the two environments and consolidating them from a management perspective.

Accommodating both the physical and virtual environments while establishing a unified IT management strategy enabling all systems and services to work reliably, securely and in harmony is the ultimate goal.

Adapting to change

What’s more, keeping pace with a burgeoning remote workforce requires information to be processed rapidly and in this light, system failure resolution and remediation also have to be addressed, incorporated and automated within this centralised infrastructure.

In this context, cloud management is fundamental to operational efficiencies. Cloud management solutions are designed to exercise control over public, private or hybrid cloud infrastructures, resources and services as well as perform a number of functions.

These include asset inventory management, self-healing and workflow automation, security and compliance monitoring, access control, provisioning, use-tracking and disaster recovery.

The shift to cloud-based solutions can be expected to have critical repercussions for end-users. One of the challenges centres on the need for organisations to update end-user services, considering issues such as current advances in network connectivity, security and collaboration tools as well as updates to help-desk and field support services. In terms of end user management, flexibility and an ability to adapt to change are fundamental requirements.

Variety is the spice of vulnerabilities

Remote working scenarios are influencing end-user computing technology in a variety of ways. For example, in many instances (up to 80% according to research) remote workers will be using their own laptop, desktop and other mobile devices.

Unlike devices in a carefully controlled, monitored and managed corporate environment, these devices may run out-of-date versions of software and applications. Many will have inherent flaws and security issues. These problems will need to be speedily and remotely rectified under the aegis of an over-arching, integrated ICT management strategy.

Another challenge facing organisations when it comes to centralised ICT management is the integration of secure employee onboarding and offboarding regimes.

When a new employee or guest user – often with multiple devices – requires access to the corporate network for the first time, security concerns are heightened. Security is also critical during the offboarding process, following the resignation, termination or retirement of an employee.

This goes hand in hand with the need to boost security around account creation and privilege management which, within the ambit of an integrated and centralised ICT management platform, should achieve the goal of ‘true least privilege on day-one’, without over-restricting users.

Centralised management platform

As organisations embrace the remote workforce and steadily move towards integrated ICT management platforms, an increase in the delivery of virtual desktops and applications to mobile devices as well as the integration of instant messaging, voice, web and video conferencing, desktop and data sharing, call control and speech recognition – together with many more yet-to-be-developed applications – can be anticipated.

These include behaviour analysis and psychometric assessment solutions designed to reveal behavioural patterns. The associated data will contribute towards policy refinement aimed at discovering every weakness within an organisation and optimising its strengths in the future.

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