How to protect a dispersed workforce – Securing the Perimeter

Editorial Type: Opinion Date: 10-2020 Views: 924 Tags: Networking, Cybersecurity, Hackers, Security, CIS Ltd.
Neill Lawson-Smith, MD at CIS Ltd, details the steps businesses need to take to strengthen their network security and make their network suitable for a distributed workforce.

With the changing landscape to a flexible distributed workforce, the traditional security perimeter to protect business systems requires reinforcement to meet the onslaught of the cybercriminal. Channel Partners can help their customers understand the fundamental shift in how the nature of IT and Data has changed. New security risks are emerging based on the unintended weaknesses introduced through staff working remotely where the traditional office firewall-stops-everything approach is no longer sufficient or appropriate.

Every location where data is accessed remotely can also be the transit point for hackers to bypass traditional protections and commence their ransom or other malicious activities. Therefore businesses need to protect each individual's access as well as the office in which they were previously based.

By helping their customers understand where the weaknesses lie, channel partners can help put in context the real risks and impacts of working remotely. They can show how these risks are mitigated through using modern security technology, building resiliency as the norm and carrying out staff training to ensure a comprehensive, coordinated approach.

Following lockdown, there are natural opportunities for IT security consultancies to assess the risks so that a suitable Business IT Security Plan can be built and then actioned in order of highest risk. There are a multitude of technologies which are resurfacing, such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, where centralised computing is coming back into fashion.

Where centralisation is not appropriate or practice, it will be vital to have a capable Endpoint Detect and Response (EDR) protection technology installed on every external device to ensure that secure and consistent policies are in place. EDR will ensure that potential threats are detected and defeated at the earliest initial points of attack.

IT Partners could introduce automated Penetration and Vulnerability Testing on all networks and devices to ensure a continuous assessment and proof that obvious weak points in IT systems are closed. Traditional Firewall technology does not currently proactively test for the operating system and application-level vulnerabilities.

Channel Partners could help customers implement Network Access Control and Digital Health Policies. This ensures that any devices accessing the network via VPN or secure Wifi comply with patches and updates to their systems – denying access to those devices until they are updated. The most significant risk to IT systems once modern and correctly configured security systems is that staff override or bypass that protection. Ultimately there is a tremendous opportunity for staff training and education.

Clients will be looking to their channel partners to support and underpin the prevention of accidental data disclosure. IT channel partners will need to look for solutions that heavily feature Digital Rights Management, Encryption, and Data Loss Prevention filters to negate data being accidentally or otherwise accessed.

In the modern era, features that the channel and their customers will be seeking will need to be automated and intuitive to be able to compete with automatic hacking attacks. Undoubtedly machine learning and artificial intelligence will play a large part in identifying short and long term unauthorised access by spotting trends in unusual behaviour and then automatically fixing those emerging risks without requiring manual intervention. Partners that are looking at security in a complete context of assessment, planning, technology and human factors are going to be the big winners in the digital era post lockdown.