Almost overnight, driven by global health concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, the distributed workforce is upon us, what we’ve been thinking would take 5-10 more years to completely happen – happened in just few days. Not surprisingly, only a fraction of companies worldwide were truly prepared.
A massive strain on networks is occurring from two sides simultaneously: Networks have suddenly onboarded ten times more remote workers and connection points than ever before, while hackers are having a literal field day with the world’s obsession about the coronavirus, churning out thousands of new coronavirus-related scam sites daily. Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on human health, but when it comes to its effect on networks, there already is a vaccine.
In the business world, “unhygienic” security conditions have been rampant for years among companies that follow a mobile cloud model, meaning they put more of their resources in the cloud and enlist the help of VPN software to let employees use their own devices to work wherever they please. These trends are positive in several regards, from cost efficiency to productivity, and IT spending has ballooned worldwide with teams now allocating 30 percent of their budgets towards the cloud exclusively. If you’re an employee at an average size organization, chances are you use five SaaS applications daily, making it easy to work from home or your local cafe.
The migration to a mobile cloud model looks great on paper, but truth be told, network security has struggled to keep up. IT teams have found it difficult to adjust to new realities and struggled to adapt to many different vendor solutions that include legacy hardware and firewalls. Moreover, as organizations continually stack new SaaS applications and remote collaboration tools on top of their network, obtaining visibility over who is accessing it (and what they are accessing, where, and how) requires a hefty investment of manpower and time. Unfortunately, a lot of this capital goes toward making the stack work. Under these conditions, gaps appear more frequently and are exposed more deeply than ever before.
As organizations rapidly embrace the concept of remote work, this trend is nearly ubiquitous. Before COVID-19, no single incident had universally forced employees off-premise in this quantity. Organizations were free to pivot lethargically towards the future, trusting service providers with their data’s safety often taking two steps towards the cloud and then dragging network security a half-step back. This haphazard adoption of remote work safety was typical, but COVID-19 has changed that point of view and now has heads spinning.
IT leaders under pressure to bring their organization’s network security into the 21st century can focus on three critical areas to shore up network security:
- Implement User Centric & Zero Trust Access Solution: Network and application access should move away from the site-centric security model, whereby the gates to the whole castle swing open for all who have a password. To allow secure network connectivity from both managed and unmanaged devices (as many of the employees are having desktops within their offices which they couldn’t take home). More organizations are moving towards Zero Trust and the user-centric model, which gives IT the ability to monitor users within the castle, and enforce specific access policies based on their device, role, and more. Whereas one small password may have once provided a skeleton key to the network, hackers now must deal with activity monitors, device 2-factor authentication, and a limited variety of resources available to the average employee.
- Build A Strong Cloud Edge Network as a Service: There is no need for hardware to protect the office and it doesn’t make sense to ask all the remote employees to backhaul to the office to consume network connectivity and security . Employees are outside the office working from home and resources are moving to the cloud. Delivering a unified networking and security service that is region agnostic and provides low latency from the cloud edge is a key for both security and employee productivity regardless where they are. As the service is cloud based is easy to scale and manage. Any solution that doesn’t integrate seamlessly into a company’s cloud applications will burden IT with configuration and management nightmares. At the same time, even for IT teams finding it easy to manage the network through a single interface, remote employees don’t crowd at the office or in any one space. It’s then vital to make sure your network is connected to local servers through the cloud (often called gateways) so that employees far from the office don’t suffer lag or stuttering service.
- Implement a unified cloud management console: As the team is remote and across many locations there is a bigger importance for a unified management, policy and audit platform that will allow you to manage, monitor and secure your network and that you and your IT / Security team can access anywhere / everywhere and get alerts and events on the go.
As remote work has suddenly become the new reality, companies have the opportunity to dramatically improve their network security. Like with COVID-19, the result of a more proactive and scalable approach to lower the risk will set companies on a path – one that many have never imagined they would need to take in such short order.