Is your business ready for permanent remote workforce? One lesson we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we should prepare for future disruptions.
Is your business ready for permanent remote workforce?
One lesson we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we should prepare
for future disruptions. We need to adopt more digital technology and develop an agile workforce
to be ready for what's to come in the new normal and beyond.
Remote work will become a permanent arrangement for many organisations beyond COVID-19. Some are also considering hybrid or flexible work arrangements, where employees can work from home several days a week. But the question is, are businesses ready for permanent remote workforce?
Though abrupt, shifting to remote work enabled businesses to ensure continuous service delivery during the pandemic. However, it also revealed security and control gaps, and weaknesses in their IT infrastructures.
Businesses that did not implement digital transformation pre-pandemic are now rethinking their investment strategies. They are looking for solutions to ensure continuity during unprecedented events or crises.
A solid technical infrastructure and modernized network of systems can help employees become more agile and resilient. Adopting more innovative solutions and increasing automation efforts will also ensure businesses can recover, evolve, and thrive during disruptions.
However, while businesses are applying these solutions, they must also consider the security risks and challenges of the new normal operations.
What are the risks?
Businesses with digital transformation strategies in place could pivot and adapt to operational changes in a short amount of time. Whereas businesses that did not invest in upgrading their technology found it more challenging to navigate new workplace arrangements.
Since remote work is now a permanent workplace environment, businesses must ensure their workforce is ready and agile. Moreover, they must implement solutions to resolve the issues they experienced during the transition to mitigate risks while operating in the new normal. This includes:
Remote Access Management
Lack of clearly defined access protocols was one of the many challenges of transitioning to remote operations. Working remotely would mean that employees will use public networks, thus making them vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.
Company-sanctioned VPNs, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and secure sign-in extensions helped ensure data security during the transition to remote work. However, businesses must now look for long-term solutions to control and limit exposing the business network to a public environment.
Monitoring data being sent and received online, and identifying unapproved file sharing applications can reduce security risks. Implementing policies on authorisation levels also helps limit remote access to business assets and sensitive data.
Simultaneous VPN connections and access to systems increases network traffic, which requires more capacity. The surge in demand for bandwidth could overwhelm the IT infrastructure and result to downtimes or service drops.
Allocating access levels to critical systems can help reduce the strain on the network bandwidth. However, increasing the capacity of the entire IT infrastructure will be more beneficial in the long-term.
Deploying IT environment redundancies can help ensure high availability of data and applications. Redundant IT environments also keep your servers running smoothly to avoid overcapacity. They also serve as a backup solution for disaster recovery.
During the height of the pandemic, cybercriminals took advantage of insecure home networks used by remote workers. They launched phishing campaigns e.g., email spamming, malware, ransomware, etc., targeting remote employees.
Remote workers using personal devices for work are even more at risk from cyber attacks. This is because their hardware may not have enough security controls to prevent attacks.
To support the remote workforce, businesses need to upskill their IT team. Thus, enabling them to enforce more advanced cybersecurity and protect all endpoints from breaches.
Clearly defined security protocols and instructions for identifying malicious emails should also be available, so employees can be more aware. A robust disaster recovery and business continuity plan is also critical for recovery after a breach.
Access to Communication and Collaboration Tools
One of the many concerns with remote work is lack or little communication and collaboration between teams. This not only affects their individual performance, but also the entire team’s productivity.
While there are several applications available online, the security may not be enough to prevent unauthorized access to meetings or conference calls. Also, not all online platforms have end-to-end encryption for secure information sharing.
Access to organisation-managed tools for chat, video, and conference ensures secure communication between teams. A safe channel for collaboration can also make employees feel more at ease and motivated.
A unified communication platform can also help IT teams manage cybersecurity better. They can properly enforce exceptions and whitelisting, restrict and filter audiences, monitor data transfers, and identify security breaches immediately.
Access to Applications to Complete Tasks
Businesses using a complex IT environment found it harder to transition to remote operations. In particular, those using a hybrid IT infrastructure had difficulty provisioning the solutions their employees need for work.
A hybrid IT model is when legacy applications are being run on-site with cloud-based services as extra resources. Since most of their applications depend on on-premises data centers, their remote employees had limited solutions to use for work.
As a result, some employees bypassed protocols and used unauthorized applications. While this practice called shadow IT can help get the work done, IT teams cannot monitor the solutions employees are using. Hence, it puts businesses at risk of losing sensitive data.
Using employee’s own device for work
Because of tactical and logistical challenges, some businesses allowed the use of personal devices for work during the pandemic outbreak. However, IT teams do not have full access or control over the employees’ personal devices.
With no control, IT teams cannot monitor data access and detect data breaches from these devices. Also, not all endpoint security systems, e.g., antimalware software, firewall restrictions, etc. may be available on the employees’ devices.
Businesses should impose strict policies on using only company-owned devices to access data and cloud services. These devices have device IDs for better monitoring, and configured for remote management.
Personal use of office equipment
Visiting insecure websites for personal interests puts company-owned devices at risk from being infected with a virus or malware. Downloading, storing, or copying non-business related data also gives cybercriminals an entry point into the network.
Use of personal external storage devices such as USBs can also compromise company-owned devices, as they often carry viruses. USBs do not have built-in security assessments and are often used by cybercriminals to spread various viruses.
Strict policies on the proper use of company-owned devices will make remote employees aware of the security risks. IT teams should also disable or limit active USB ports to discourage remote employees from plugging in their USBs.
Personal use of office equipment
Remote desktops are at risk of cyberattacks since they lack the internal security of a business network. Extending security controls e.g., antivirus solution, firewall, and intrusion prevention systems to remote devices help increase cybersecurity.
IT teams must also ensure that the solutions are always up to date to continue protecting the remote workforce. Moreover, they must proactively deploy patches to reduce security vulnerabilities and fix bugs on software updates.
Though IT teams can deploy patches remotely, the process requires greater bandwidth and could compromise the IT infrastructure’s stability. A reliable remote patch management system can avoid stressing the IT infrastructure’s capacity.
How can DBA help?
The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for businesses around the world. It showed us just how vital digital transformation is to succeed during disruptions. However, not all organisations have the capacity or capability to implement and adopt digital technology.
Outsourcing managed IT services helps businesses without enough manpower or resources to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Moreover, outsourcing provides them access to the right solutions to boost their cybersecurity and be ready for permanent remote workforce.
DBA is a premier Professional Services Outsourcing firm catering to local and international businesses. We are a multi-industry and technology firm, committed to delivering first-class IT solutions and administrative support to our clients anywhere in the world.
Our certified Systems and Network Engineers offer expert advice and assistance in deploying high-quality software and applications. With our proven best-in-class capabilities, we can streamline your operations and increase your cybersecurity. Thus, giving you a competitive advantage to thrive even during the most dire circumstances.
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