Remote work is here to stay.
In March of 2020, businesses quickly shifted from old ways of doing things to remote work out of necessity due to coronavirus shutdowns.
They were existing with legacy systems and on-premises functionality, like the LDAP protocol.
Most companies were also using a cybersecurity philosophy that was perimeter-based. Employees were working onsite most of the time, if not all the time. Therefore, all traffic that was within the on-premises network was considered inherently safe.
Not the case now. Employers are moving to the cloud, and they’re also thinking about Zero Trust security architecture, where nothing is considered safe, even within the network.
While those are specific technicalities, before an employer can even get to that point, they have to know what the best practices are for remote workers to securely access the network.
The following are some of the most high-level, fundamental things you need to be considering right now if it’s likely that the return to the office isn’t going to go as you expected it to.
Understand Why Secure Access is So Important
Cybersecurity threats change quickly as it is, and dealing with these should be a top priority of any business no matter where their employees work from or how big, or small they are.
When your employees are working remotely, these already massive threats change and grow.
Secure remote access is a broad term referring to any solution or strategy that you’re using to prevent unauthorized network access or to any of your IT resources or data. Secure remote access isn’t one particular thing. It’s a broad strategy and a collection of approaches when done well.
Some of the things that factor in when there’s remote network access include employees on personal devices and routers and the lack of overall control IT has.
Employees also have to send and receive data and sensitive information over public or unsecured internet connections.
There’s a larger potential attack surface with remote work for a cybercriminal.
There’s a human element to think about too. When your employees are in the office, they might be more mindful of things like phishing attacks than they are when they work remotely.
They may not have cybersecurity as much in the forefront of their mind when they’re offsite, plus their personal devices are less likely to be patched to protect against malware threats.
Assume There Will Be Threats and Create Specific Policies
Things you can start doing right now as part of your efforts to secure remote network access is first to assume that there are threats and they will affect your business. Facing that reality is a big step, and it’s one that not all companies are ready for.
From there, you need to do an audit of all access points, where and how employees are working, and what data and information most need to be protected first.
Once you’ve done an audit, you need concrete policies in place. You need telework rules that don’t leave any room for ambiguity.
For example, are employees allowed to access the network on their personal devices, and if so, what are the limitations to that?
When employees have clear guidance, it can go a long way to helping reduce some of the security risks that come with remote access.
Types of Secure Systems
The following are examples of systems that can be part of a strategy for secure remote access:
- Virtual private network: This is probably one of the most critical tools in your arsenal for secure network access right now. A virtual private network adds a good layer of security for employees who are working remotely. It provides secure access by routing connections through an encrypted server. Then, public or home Wi-Fi can be used.
- Endpoint security: This can include security on all devices that are used, like computers and phones. Endpoint security includes firewalls and antivirus protection.
- Single sign-on: With SSO, the user authentication process grants access to different devices or applications with one set of credentials. It allows for productivity and fights password fatigue while also securing network access.
- Multi-factor Authentication: MFA requires that users provide something they know and something they have to access a network. This might be a password and a token, for example.
Finally, you need to make sure that your users are well-educated. They need to understand their role in cybersecurity and the threats as they exist in a world of remote work.