Remote Working Is Transforming The Cyber Security Landscape in 2020
By Aarushi Singh
As the world grapples into the arms of COVID-19, companies are suffering a major setback from the remote work culture. Because, let’s be honest, nobody thought that a PANDEMIC would hit us so hard that we’d be facing unemployment, poverty, illness, failed vaccines, and mass deaths. We thought our advanced technology would save us, and there’s no denying that better healthcare facilities are on the front line defending the entire world right now.
But what about other people? Those who are not doctors, nurses, or medical experts?
A staggering high number of 17 million unemployed Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks. Startups, small companies, SMBs, multinational organizations, every company is facing an operational crunch. While some companies are shifting to the remote work culture, many other companies are hanging by a thread because of lack of funds, shortage of clients, reduced workforce, and scarce resources to sustain remote work culture.
One of the biggest concerns of organizations across the world right now is cybersecurity.
Cyber criminals are leveraging the emergency situation and targeting people via phishing emails tricking them into clicking on malicious links and giving up their sensitive information. While companies continue to fight against the increasing cyber crimes and threats, there’s a lot happening around the world.
Dissecting the “Zero Trust Principle” in Cybersecurity
The term “Zero Trust Principle” has been making rounds in the cybersecurity landscape. As the name suggests, zero trust principle implies that no entity should be trusted within or outside the organization. It is a holistic approach to network security that entails a wide range of technologies and assets. While traditional IT security uses a castle-and-moat concept, where it is difficult to gain access from outside the network, but insiders are trusted by default. The zero trust principle suggests that no one should be trusted Least privilege access model is like a ruthless division of people based on how much money they have.
But to be honest, it’s much like the colonial times when only the rich, fat, and royals had escalated privileges whereas the peasants had limited resources.
Similarly, the least privilege model implies that users should only have access to what they need, for instance, developers should not have the access to the financial database of all employees, which contains sensitive information including their social numbers, personal details, bank account details, etc. Zero trust principle incorporates stringent authentication and authorization processes. This added layer of security in a company’s IT infrastructure helps ensure only authorized and verified individuals gain access to the systems. It also utilizes microsegmentation, a process of dividing security perimeters into small zones to maintain better security by using different access for different segments of the network. For instance, if both code repository and password database is stored on a network that uses microsegmentation, it will contain both these data sets in separate secure zones. Those who have access to the code repository might need more authentication access to the password database, and vice versa.
Are Small-scaled businesses or SMBs the most vulnerable?
When it comes to cybersecurity, one cannot deny its importance. Although the size of the company doesn’t matter in terms of developing a response plan to cyber attacks or cybersecurity preparedness, there is a big difference between established, global corporations, and SMBs.
Because those guys are rich!
Dang, they go to work in Mercedes and Maserati. by default, irrespective of whether they are an employee, a management leader, or a third-party service provider. It assumes that attackers can be on both within and outside of the network, so no machines, networks, or users should be automatically trusted. A primary feature of this principle is “least-privilege access” which you probably might have heard if you work in the security segment.
Who knows? You can’t ever be too sure!
But you really gotta put that left over brain cells here for me sweetie!
Well maybe not in a Maserati.
But they sure have more resources!
In reality, big firms often have the resources required to combat cyber attacks. They have a well-structured security plan in place which also entails a response plan to cyber attacks, funds required to compensate their customers or stakeholders in case their data is compromised in the breach, and skilled professionals who know exactly how to tackle cybersecurity threats and attacks. Small scaled companies or SMBs are often not as prepared for fighting cyber crimes as big companies. According to a report by Verizon, 43% of breach victims were small businesses. Be it phishing, social engineering, malware, insider threats, or brute-force attacks, small businesses often suffer the wrath of data breaches and cyber attacks.
This doesn’t mean that small businesses do not want to invest in cybersecurity, but they have a lot on their platter to deal within a limited budget which makes it difficult for them to dedicate a sufficient amount of resources towards cybersecurity. When it comes to remote working, things only get worse for every organization, but again, the worst hit due to this crisis is the small scaled startups and SMBs that are still trying to figure out how to keep their operations and management functioning without risking the security of their organization.
Managing the Cyber Risks of Remote Work
Get started with published frameworks, such as the one given by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They have a robust framework that anyone can use. It begins with the basics such as what assets do you own, how many people have access to it, what is your existing security model, what systems use your network, are these systems authorized, are these networks protected, what data do they use and store, is this data secure, and many other important questions that help you get an overview of your company’s security infrastructure.
By implementing a number of processes, training, and technology measures, companies can reduce the likelihood of cyber attacks and avoid experiencing a cyber crisis to the challenges related to COVID-19. Well, you definitely can’t overcome ALL the security challenges at once, thanks to the surprisingly smart and intellectual attackers. But, there’s definitely something you can do to protect your organization from cyber attacks caused due to remote work.
- Assess your company’s core IT infrastructure for remote working.
- Implement strong security for networks and devices operating during remote work.
- Integrate cybersecurity plans in your business model for remote working. Make sure security is one of the top priorities to consider while shifting to remote work.
- Establish security protocols for remote workers to ensure authentication and authorization
- Limit access to databases containing sensitive information.
- Use secure tools to ensure protection of data. Train remote employees to use these tools and features securely.
- Update your cybersecurity response plan to address the challenges of COVID-19.
- Maintain awareness about security, location, performance, and overall work hygiene of all employees.
While this is not a comprehensive list of security measures, these will definitely help you get started and maintain better security in your organization.