Managing the risks of the emerging hybrid workplace is challenging for many companies, but it’s not impossible with the right combination of solutions, policies, and practices.
The hybrid work model that evolved from pandemic-induced work from home initiatives offers several potential benefits for businesses and employees: greater flexibility, improved employee health and safety, and lower overhead costs – to name a few.
However, the model also carries some significant security risks that organizations need to control to succeed in this new work environment.
Why The “Weir Ditch” Approach No Longer Works
Companies are faced with both technical and cultural risks, which are sometimes intertwined. Before the massive shift to remote working in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many, if not most, companies followed a “moat” approach to cybersecurity (“castle-and-moat”). Company firewalls protected the company networks and ensured the security of the on-site devices, systems, and data.
With so many employees working on the go, at least part of the time, this approach no longer works as well as it used to. Many IT resources are now located outside the moat – i.e., the firewall – and are susceptible to all kinds of cyber threats.
The trend towards working outside company boundaries has been evident for years, but the regulations about working from home have given it a huge boost. Today, many workers prefer the freedom to work from home, and management in many cases approves of this idea, so this has become something of a cultural issue for businesses.
The Risks Of Working Remotely
The ability to work from anywhere is an attractive option for many more people today than ever before. The large-scale departure to the home office was a show of strength for many companies and required major adjustments from employees and employers. A year and a half later, most of them have adjusted to the new circumstances and now see no need to work in the office five days a week again. Many think that a hybrid work model has improved their quality of life and reduced time and costs (commuting, etc.).
Moving work to the home office has led to new ways of working. For example, many team members now use online video conferencing and collaboration platforms instead of meeting in a meeting room. More and more people are accessing business applications via the cloud using their own mobile devices.
In general, during the pandemic, the rules of what people can and cannot do to get their work done have loosened to some extent. Often, employees working remotely have to deal with sensitive data, such as personal information about customers or their company’s intellectual property.
That doesn’t mean that every company supports or is satisfied with this approach. Many are even concerned about the employees working in an uncontrolled environment and want them to return to the office. They are not used to employees accessing corporate networks and data on their own devices.
Remote Work Obscures The Phenomenon Of Shadow IT
The phenomenon of shadow IT has been around for years, but by working at remote locations, employees now have even more options to go their way in providing hardware and software. While it can be beneficial for business units and users to use tools according to their needs, it also poses security risks. In addition, a lack of coordination and standardization can lead to higher costs for the company.
Many companies are concerned about these trends for good reason because the security risks are greater than ever. The situation becomes even more threatening for companies that stick to the old methods of IT security, such as B. the “weir ditch” approach, and pretend that the digital circles of the company end on the company’s premises.
One of the shortcomings of this approach is that it does not provide transparency about what remote users are doing, what data they can access, what devices they are using, and the security of their devices.
The Hybrid Workplace Revolution Is Here To Stay
The model of the hybrid workplace is accompanied by a threat scenario that should not be underestimated: many end devices that were only sparsely managed during the pandemic are now returning to the company’s offices and then commuting back to the employees at home.
If companies cannot manage the security of these devices regardless of their location, they are a great target for cybercriminals and a great risk to the company. It would help if you had endpoint security tools that take the cloud and remote work into account without choosing between productivity and security.
Building a business case for some of these mitigating or management technologies is often difficult because finance managers want to know the return on investment (ROI) in real business terms.
In reality, the ROI is reducing the risk of ransomware and other costly attacks and reducing the risk of GDPR fines. These factors are difficult to quantify from an economic point of view, as they are more like what-if scenarios. Building a business case can be even more difficult when multiple tools are implemented.
One Platform Approach For Hybrid Working
Perhaps the best option for many companies is to use a single platform to manage and secure their IT infrastructure in this new environment. Such a platform can provide real-time visibility and control over data and workloads. It can also help eliminate the need for multiple standalone solutions that don’t work well together while also integrating existing platforms.
With a single platform, a company has insight into many different work environments – a hybrid, remote, and office environment – for work processes in the cloud or the data center.
Another benefit of this approach is that it reduces the occurrence of gaps that can occur with standalone solutions. Gaps always arise when separate and isolated systems manage different environments.
Gaps also arise when different departments work with different data or tools. When everyone is working on the same dataset, and there is only one place to find that data, the process is much easier and more effective.
Companies can use the platform to publish new user profiles, new software, new hardening measures, new configurations, etc., to ensure that all employees have access to these updates.
In addition to providing a technology solution, companies must also consider the process and policy changes they will need to support the new work environment. It’s not just about creating new guidelines; it’s also about making sure they are followed. A single security platform can help here too.
Managing the risks of the new hybrid workplace is challenging for many companies. But with the right combination of solutions, policies, and practices, they can effectively contain the risks and thrive in this new environment.
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