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Why Securing the Remote Workforce Comes Down to Device, Data and Application Protection

While the concern around COVID-19 is driving more companies to enable employees to work remotely, the distributed workforce is increasingly synonymous with the modern workforce. Meaning, regardless of where work is conducted, companies must still adhere to advanced security precautions.

But it’s no longer just a case of a few people working from home. As thousands of people work outside the traditional office, companies need to deliver the same degree of network security for remote workers as they traditionally do for in-office workers. However, as we are learning, the security completely changes and old approaches like VPNs, which provide remote access to a singular point on the network, are no longer secure or dynamic enough.

Delivering comprehensive network security to the remote workforce is incredibly difficult – it’s not just about providing network access, but ensuring every communication between every device and person is secure – whether they’re at home, at Starbucks, a hotel, or anywhere with wi-fi.

This is the ultimate data-in-motion security challenge that companies need to face whether it’s because of a remote workforce, continued reliance on the cloud, or other market forces that are pushing security needs outside the traditional perimeter.

To do that, here are some recommendations and best practices.

Enforce Data Encryption on All Devices

Ensuring that all employees are using encryption can help mitigate the issues outlined above. Should a device be lost, or stolen, encryption can ensure that the files on the device are never accessed by an unauthorized party.

Provide Secure Access to Work Applications

Remote employees need to safely access their organization’s workloads and applications to be able to do their jobs. Granting this access from remote locations is a potential security nightmare as attackers increasingly are using Man-in-the-Middle attacks to intercept data as moves between locations. This problem is compounded when dealing with thousands of different devices across multiple locations. Legacy VPNs have typically been installed for remote access to tie a few employees to a singular location, but are increasingly being breached and targeted due to vulnerable protocols and heavy manual interventions. Additionally, performance issues can arise when the VPN connection must handle more traffic than intended or is forced to travel through multiple points to before allowing the user to access the requested data. Ideally, secure connections for remote workers essentially become an extension of your secure network, providing the same level of access (and security and redundancy) that is expected within the office setting.

New, cloud-based, secure remote access software allows remote workers to establish a secure, point-to-point connection to the network. This enforces enterprise network policies during the connection to prevent users from accessing unauthorized files, and security features such as content inspection prevent users from accidentally or intentionally transmitting malicious traffic while they’re connected.

Ensure Remote Workers Have Secure Devices

As employees work from home, the temptation to use a personal device for work purposes grows. Personal devices may not have the latest system updates, security patches and anti-malware protection as a corporate device might have. While the provision of secure devices for use in remote situations should be managed by BYOD policies, it is challenging to enforce. Secure point-to-point connections can help you ensure all business-related traffic to corporate data sources is protected, regardless of the device.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Connecting from a coffee shop might seem like a good way to work when forced to be remote – but public wi-fi represents an easy way for attackers to steal sensitive data. Paramount to security is having a corporate policy that reinforces employees should never connect to public wi-fi without an appropriate layer of security and encryption.

In a time like this, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of employees. For those who are fortunate enough to be able to do so, remote work is a great way to help minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. While getting an entire remote organization up to speed and secure is a monumental task, these steps will jump-start the process so your team can work securely and keep your business running – all from the safety and comfort of their home.