Credits- Illustrator: S Amirthalingam

In the new normal, if your business has chosen remote operations, this might attract malicious actors. Hackers prey on the remote workforce whose vulnerability has increased in multifold ways. While infrastructural concerns, such as working outside the corporate IT network and using home Wi-Fi are inevitable, other issues, including using personal devices and retaining privileges to access more than required business resources add to the magnitude of this vulnerability.

There are other noteworthy scenarios that contribute to problems with remote work as well. IT teams must ensure that networks and systems aren’t compromised which leads to numerous business risks. Below are a few cases worth discussing:

Secured entry and access to the network:

A virtual private network (VPN) is essential to secure a connection between remote endpoints and the business network. However, if the entire remote workforce connects to the network simultaneously, bandwidth consumption will be impacted, possibly leading to temporary network drop offs and data transfer issues. To compensate, some systems might automatically allow traffic to be rerouted through the regular ISP system, that is less secure, leading to serious security concerns. Imagine losing personally identifiable information (PII) and payment card industry (PCI) details in the era of compliance mandates!

VPN capacity planning based on usage trends is one way to solve this. Also, real-time monitoring of VPN bandwidth usage provides insights about the duration of individual sessions and bandwidth consumption. Information obtained through VPN monitoring helps an organization allocate the right amount of bandwidth to business critical applications, and provides reports on security anomalies so that necessary actions can be taken, if necessary.

Use of business-approved applications:

Some workers might use third-party or even software pirated off the internet to accomplish some tasks. They might ignore the security threats that come with the use of unauthorized software for desktop and mobile devices, and might download them for on-the-go work situations. In addition to allowing malicious files into the network, important business data might be exposed to illicit third-party applications, leading to further security and compliance worries.

Organizations can ensure that only approved software can be deployed and used for work. Further, when workers require additional software, a self-service portal empowers them to install authorized applications on their own. This is efficient, since it doesn’t require workers to be located at the facility for the deployments. It also reduces the number of requests submitted to the help desk. Organizations can also utilize mobile application management so that software used by mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, can be cataloged, distributed, managed and audited, which is vital for our current remote work situations.

Identifying privileged session threats:

When workers utilize privileged sessions to view confidential resources, they may exceed the time limit of staying connected with the session, or may try executing prohibited actions, intentionally or unintentionally. In addition, if the workers have accumulated privileges, these could be exploited either by the workers themselves, or by external parties through security loopholes. If these activities go undetected due to the lack of a proper privileged access management (PAM) strategy, it can only take moments for experienced hackers to launch a cyberattack.

One way to avoid any breach during privileged sessions is to secure the remote access using one-click connections to the database via browser extensions. Another way is by accessing remote systems directly through secured tunnel connections without showing passwords to the workers. Additionally, to analyze unusual behavior during sessions, a SIEM-PAM integration gives clear reports of network activities when the session details are fed to the log collection system. By comparing the reports, actionable insights could be deployed to mitigate or avoid unusual behavioral patterns.

Organizations of all sizes face issues when dealing with remote workforce operations and management. The larger the group that works remotely, the greater the associated risks. Some preventative measures are described here, but these are just starting points to secure your IT infrastructure. To learn more strategies for safeguarding your business operations in our new reality, register for our ITCON Digital. We aren’t sure how long the world will continue in this work-from-home mode, but it is always better to be safe, rather than sorry.