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Reimagining Endpoint Security With The Rise Of Digital Workforce
Organisations had never faced a situation in the past, that would mandate remodelling of their IT infrastructure at this scale, in a short period, in order to ensure business continuity.
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The massive migration of the workforce to remote working is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest exercises in the digital transformation journey of most organizations. From moving a major part of their operations and business processes onto cloud platforms to setting up an IT infrastructure framework to support this – the entire exercise was unprecedented. Organizations had never faced a situation in the past, that would mandate remodeling of their IT infrastructure at this scale, in a short period, in order to ensure business continuity.
While some organizations had been practicing remote working for a specific set of employees, the Covid-19 pandemic presented the challenge of extending it to a larger part of their workforce. Setting up an IT infrastructure at this scale and sourcing laptops and mobile devices in a limited bandwidth was not feasible for many organizations. Encouraging employees to use their own devices for business processes helped address this challenge.
This approach helped ensure business continuity as employees could seamlessly perform tasks on their personal laptops and mobile devices. However, it also resulted in an increased number of endpoints as employees connected to office networks with their personal devices and private networks, thereby significantly expanding the threat landscape.
Expanded Threat Landscape
Organizational trends over the past year have strongly indicated the emergence of a new digital-centric and mobile-enabled workforce. Proponents of this new work culture have highlighted its various benefits including increased employee mobility, productivity, and employee satisfaction – thanks to seamless collaboration from anywhere, enabled by SaaS and cloud platforms. Business leaders and IT decision-makers hail the remote digital workforce as the 'new normal' going forward. Along with this, it is crucial to address the concerns of embracing this shift in a secure manner, thereby making endpoint security a critical element of the overall cybersecurity best practices.
The most pressing challenge for organizations include lack of compliance and control over devices, which opens doors to security risks such as data breaches, as critical data of employees, businesses and customers is exposed to unsecured private networks of employees based in remote locations. Furthermore, an employee's device that could possibly be infected by malware could comprise the confidential data of the company and its stakeholders.
In a remote work setup, where the perimeter is no longer relevant, the traditional perimeter security approach remains largely ineffective. As employees use devices that are not secured by the company's IT teams and networks that are beyond the corporate perimeter, cyber attackers can exploit this opportunity to gain access to critical business workloads. Thus the importance of endpoint security is now more than ever before.
Securing the Digital Workforce
As the first step towards enabling a cyber-resilient remote working environment, organizations need to secure their digital workforce. The most basic measure, but an important one, involves sensitizing employees about the security best practices that would build cyber immunity for them as well as the organization. An employee who is equipped with threat intelligence can identify threats and help mitigate them, with little support from the IT team.
Uneven compliance across the workforce could limit the efficiency of security measures, hence the formation of a uniform policy is required that would require employees to comply with industry requirements with the use of VPN and device management tools. An endpoint protection solution that understands business security and vulnerabilities can further significantly strengthen the organization's cybersecurity posture.
Securing the endpoints is a highly effective step, however, it should be coupled with other best practices including identity and access management and multi-factor authorization. While endpoint security strengthens device security, a Zero Trust approach would add multiple layers of security across different levels, thereby enabling a robust, secure framework.
As business workloads move to cloud and employees use SaaS applications, it becomes essential to ensure end-to-end encryption – in transit and at rest. The primary concern of most organisation, in terms of cloud adoption, revolves around control over their data, as it is now no longer confined to on-premise infrastructure. A robust encryption mechanism would address this and enable a secure, seamless collaboration for remote workers.
Realigning with the 'New Normal'
Completely remote or a hybrid workforce, the boardroom discussions on the future of the work environment are ongoing. However, it's established that a significant part of the workforce across organizations and industry verticals will no longer return to the pre-Covid work culture. The extent of shift could be debatable, but the rise of the digital and mobile-enabled workforce is inevitable. A significant proportion of the workforce will continue to work remotely and the security of these workers will be paramount as part of the overall cybersecurity practice of an organization. Threats will continue to loom large and organizations will need to realign their IT strategies with the changing landscape.
Reaffirming the importance of this in the Indian market, in its recent report, IDC expects India to become the top spender on security solutions in APAC in 2021, accounting 26 percent of the overall security spending in the Asia-Pacific region this year, combined with Australia. It also predicts that investments in security-related products and solutions, such as endpoint security, VPN, and firewalls, will mark double-digit growth.
The report further attributes this growth to boosted cloud adoption and massive remote working migration – the two core disruptions have been emphasized in this article from its beginning. The trend will continue and is only expected to catalyze further, requiring modern digital enterprises to reimagine the endpoint security for their mobile digital workforce.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.