In 2020, companies worldwide scrambled to adapt their work practices to fully-remote or hybrid models as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, even as the effects of the pandemic begin to ebb nationwide, the hybrid workforce is still becoming the primary operating model for organizations less interested in returning to the office.
However, in the initial scramble to take work online, many companies have overlooked all the steps needed to establish a secure hybrid workforce. Many times, organizations focused more on getting their employees online and working amidst global disruptions, rather than strategically deploying security measures.
Now that we all have time to take a step back and breathe, it’s important to ensure that your organization is doing everything it can to keep all data and information security.
Here are five often-overlooked things you should be doing to secure your employees and your organization to ensure that every arm of your operations is hybrid-ready.
Zero Trust is a security concept built around the belief that organizations shouldn’t automatically trust anything – whether it’s something inside or outside its perimeters, and should instead verify anything and everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access.
This means that organizations need to leverage micro-segmentation based on users, locations and other data to determine if a user, machine, or application should be granted access.
Expanding your zero trust policy to home devices is essential, as is helping employees segregating their networks so home devices are in a subnet separate from their work laptops. Your employees’ homes should be treated as an extension of the enterprise network.
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In a hybrid workforce, the physical security perimeter no longer exists, and the ability to ensure that on-premises employees have the same security measures in place that remote workers do.
The same zero-trust mentality must apply across the board, and your virtual private network (VPN), if deployed, should always be used regardless of location. It’s also mission-critical to have your employees run multifactor authentication as well.
Also be prepared for new challenges as a result of a renewed focus on VPN use. If there’s a sudden surge in VPN usage, you may need to pay to increase capacity.
If you find yourself needing to shift VPN usage to mitigate threats or other security concerns (depending on your industry), prioritize that. After all, you have nothing if you don’t have secure networks on which your employees can work.
Delivering and installing security updates to systems when employees are working from home can be tough, but can and must be done regularly.
Patching software has become a more routine and stress-free process, but it’s important to extend your patching software to any systems that were not fully patched at the time.
If your company had no choice but to allow employees to work from their personal devices when your organization first went remote, now is the time to go back and take a look and make sure that they’re secure.
Data generated by employees – whether they’re remote or on the premises – should be backed up and tested constantly. This includes data on employee devices and cloud-stored data.
While in the past organizations may have adopted the mindset of “It’s only a problem if it’s a problem,” now is the time to ensure that you have put every measure in place to protect your data and all of the places its stored.
If you can store primary and backup data on different clouds, pivot to that model as soon as possible, and ensure that every employee is briefed on secure data storage and backup methods.
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In addition to reflecting on – and mitigating – security concerns previously overlooked in the pandemic-caused remote work frenzy, it’s important to ensure that your employees have regular security awareness training.
At the end of the day, most hackers are going after people from a social engineering perspective, rather than just blanketly attacking machines or networks.
While working in the office, employees could be constantly reminded about the importance of security. In a remote work environment, ensuring that they’re not only constantly aware of how to keep their devices and data secure but also that they know what to do when they see something that seems malicious or fishy.
Especially when it comes to email security – the number-one thing that causes employees to inadvertently compromise organizational security – it’s important that a security mechanisms is in place to prevent phishing or malicious emails, but it’s even more important that employees know what to do if an email slips through the cracks…before disaster strikes.
Ultimately, the best piece of advice when it comes to securing your hybrid workforce is to slow down. Take the time to carefully reflect on the security measures you let slide when converting from an in-person to remote workforce, build new employee training systems that prepare them for changes in VPNs, data backups, and security challenges, and put mechanisms in place that will help you stay updated and safe no matter what this new way of working throws at you.
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