COVID-19 has changed the way we operate in our daily lives, to say the least. Everything from school and shopping, to finances, family life, and work, were overturned seemingly overnight. As with many crises, most of the world began COVID-19 in a state of denial—”it’s not really happening; it won’t impact us.” This quickly moved into a state of shock when it did. Then, for employees who are able to work-from-home (WFH), there was near euphoria when we realized we could work productively with the benefits of eliminating commutes and spending more time with family for a while.
Of course, “a while” has ended up being much longer than anyone anticipated, with no clear end in sight. It is highly unsettling and worrisome from IT infrastructure and business health standpoints. Because just when the need for confidence in our digital infrastructure is more crucial than ever, the costs of supporting WFH and the risk of cyberattacks are higher than ever.
It’s a Great Time to Be An Attacker
In a recent Team8 survey, 70 of businesses reported that 75+ percent of their employees are currently working from home, and 80 percent are seeing an increase in phishing attacks since the onset of COVID-19. And with 25-30% of the workforce expected to still WFH multiple days a week by the end of 2021, this increased cyber risk isn’t going away. If anything, it’s accelerating.
With so many people suddenly working from home, many on their own personal laptops, and few companies and employees having the infrastructure needed to keep all these remote endpoint devices secure, attackers are working overtime to take advantage of the situation. The fact that some organizations have lowered their requirements about who can access what resources, makes it even easier for unauthorized people to infiltrate and do damage.
Remote Working Challenges
The IT challenges organizations are now facing because of COVID-related WFH aren’t new. They are the same challenges you can encounter with remote road warriors, partners, temporary workers, and branch workers accessing the corporate network. For instance:
- Security – Businesses have to decide whether to give users corporate-owned, managed (e.g., secure) laptops or a BYOD model where employees can use their own machines, sometimes a mix of both. Having them use their own unmanaged device can certainly be easier, but remember if you do it’s not just BYOD (bring your own device). It’s BYOM—bring your own malware. If a malware-infected device connects to your network via VPN, it could be game over.
And don’t forget all the family members who may be sharing a user’s personal laptop. That brings on a whole new level of insider threats, even when unintentional.
2. User Productivity – When all or many of your users connect simultaneously to VDI or VPN, responsiveness and user experience can take a hit. Even if your organization has a strong network/compute/storage infrastructure, the user’s own network could be overloaded.
3. IT Costs and Manageability – The costs of deploying and supporting solutions like VDI and VPN can’t be underestimated. Nor can the costs of fixing the damage done by cyber attacks.
Reflect and Rethink
Now is the time to reflect on what has and hasn’t been working for your WFH users and IT organization. It’s time to rethink your approach to remote workers and remote endpoint security.
There’s no one right approach. However, there are some best practices:
- Don’t compromise user productivity by over-relying on solutions like VDI that can slow them down.
- Enable certain information to be stored on the user’s local device for fast access.
- Keep sensitive information away from the internet, USB devices, and other vectors that can expose you to risk.
- Be wary of requiring people to have separate endpoint devices for sensitive information (corporate-owned, locked-down, no internet access) and general information (unmanaged, open to the internet). Swiveling between two devices is a productivity sink. It can also be a nightmare from IT management and cost perspectives.
Watch this webinar to learn more about how COVID-19 and working remotely has changed organizations’ approach to endpoint security.