Before the pandemic, the conventional office setup was the main method of working. This changed with the advent of the pandemic, making working from home the predominant trend. While these two options stand at opposite ends, currently, most businesses find themselves somewhere in the middle.
More than ever, businesses are embracing hybrid work models, combining the flexibility of remote work and structured arrangement of office setup. This is frequently done as a necessity to maintain operational resilience. While this trend benefits everyone, it's also something that has created both opportunities and threats for managed service providers.
This article delves deep into secure remote network solutions, touching upon the challenges of changing work habits and identifying the use cases when a hybrid model truly shines.
Hybrid work models blend the flexibility of remote work with operational efficiency of traditional office setups.
Hybrid work expands the network perimeter to home and public networks, leading to varied security risks.
Data privacy challenges arise from its storage on personal devices or using non-approved cloud services and software.
External collaboration tools are the new main targets for hackers as sensitive information is shared and exchanged on these platforms.
Businesses need to adopt modern cybersecurity measures to ensure the safety of their remote workforce.
The rising tide of hybrid work: challenges and threats
Many companies have adapted to hybrid working models where employees split their time between working from home (or another remote location) and working from the office.
It's expected that by the end of 2023, 71% of the US workforce will be made up of individuals who either work entirely remotely or adopt a hybrid model, according to Gartner.
Two primary reasons mainly drove this:
Flexibility. It caters to different personal preferences and situations, allowing employees to choose how they want to work.
Productivity. Many businesses found that employees can be just as productive from home while having fewer people in the office can reduce utilities, office space, and resource costs.
It's a mix of keeping employees happy and benefitting the business financially and operationally. However, this mixed environment is both a threat and an opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs).
Traditional security models operated under the assumption that most assets and users would be within a defined corporate network. With hybrid work, the network perimeter extends to home and public networks, making it harder to define and defend.
Employees' home networks vary greatly in terms of security configurations. Some might have outdated routers, weak passwords, or other devices connected to the network that could be compromised. This variability presents potential points of entry for attackers.
Where and how data is stored, backed up, and handled can be a concern. Employees storing data on personal devices or using non-approved cloud services could expose them to unnecessary risks.
Employees might also use unapproved software or applications to complete their work. These unauthorized tools can pose significant data privacy risks if they don't adhere to company data privacy standards.
Employees scattered across various locations require collaboration tools to move forward with projects. This also means that cybercriminals can focus on vulnerabilities of these collaboration tools. As these tools are beyond the control of the organization, there is always a risk that the vulnerabilities can be exploited to retrieve sensitive company data.
As the use of these tools increases, so does the need for enhanced security to prevent data breaches and phishing attacks.
Not all remote setups have the same security standards as corporate networks. Personal devices might lack up-to-date security patches, firewalls, or other security measures, making them more vulnerable to attacks.
There's a higher risk of data leakage in a hybrid work setup, especially if employees use personal devices to access corporate data. Without proper endpoint security, sensitive data can be exposed or transferred to insecure locations.
The evolution of work habits
COVID-19 has changed work habits that have seen people opting for various remote working setups. From working in summer residences to exotic destinations, the notion of a 'workplace' has expanded immensely. This has spawned a few main trends that have to be kept in consideration, especially from the perspective of MSPs.
Work from anywhere (WFA)
Employees now have more liberties regarding their work location. Companies can reduce office costs, and employees save on commuting. WFA also opens up a global talent pool, offers a better work-life balance, and reduces environmental impacts. The pandemic proved its effectiveness, with many businesses seeing stable or increased productivity.
The pandemic has given rise to the digital nomad culture, where individuals work while constantly traveling. To maintain productivity and remain secure, they heavily rely on network solutions.
The focus has shifted from hours worked to actual output. As businesses operate globally, physical presence becomes less vital. This lifestyle encourages personal growth and cultural exposure. Many cities support digital nomads with coworking spaces for work and networking.
Essentials for securing remote teams
Remote work has presented new cybersecurity challenges for businesses. To counteract them, businesses must keep up with the times. Here are some considerations that are relevant for MSPs.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring two or more verification methods. The user must authenticate through two checks to access an account or system.
Without MFA, attackers can use brute force methods to guess passwords. With MFA, even if the password is guessed, the attacker would need a second form of authentication. MFA is a powerful and relatively simple solution to many of these challenges and is an essential tool in the modern cybersecurity toolkit for remote teams.
The primary function of a VPN is to encrypt data being sent between the remote worker and the company's internal network. This encryption ensures that even if hackers intercept the data, they cannot easily decipher its contents.
With a VPN, remote workers can securely access files, databases, and applications on the company's internal network from anywhere. This access is often facilitated through secure authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, ensuring only authorized individuals gain access.
Regular security training
Cybersecurity coaching is essential for all employees but especially critical for remote teams. Many security incidents occur due to a lack of awareness. Employees may not know the latest phishing techniques or understand the risks of using public Wi-Fi networks. Training sessions keep these issues in front of mind, reminding employees of best practices.
With regular training, companies can set clear expectations for employees regarding what behaviors are acceptable and what are not. This clarity helps reduce mistakes and ensures everyone is on the same page.
As the number of remote workers has risen dramatically, so too have the security challenges associated with managing and maintaining devices that are not physically present in a central office.
Device management systems allow IT teams to control all company-issued devices. This ensures that the devices adhere to corporate policies and compliance standards, regardless of physical location.
How can NordLayer help?
Secure remote network solutions are vital in today's changing work environment. As businesses continue to adapt to new ways of working, ensuring the safety of their data and systems remains a top priority for MSPs.
By recognizing the challenges and potential threats, companies can better prepare themselves, ensuring seamless and secure operations. Yet, for that, turning to trustworthy partners might be necessary.
NordLayer helps growing teams seamlessly transition into hybrid models by providing network and resource access management solutions. The Zero Trust approach at the core of our offerings allows us to protect online resources and ensure easy access for employees. Virtual Private Gateways offer top-tier security with dedicated servers. They encrypt your online data, are highly customizable, and let you control access with role-based privileges. They also work smoothly with major login providers.
Benefit from premium VPN protection, enhanced security with multi-factor authentication, and continuous network monitoring. Plus, there's no hardware needed, and it's easily tailored to your business.
Interested in becoming a partner? Protect your clients and broaden your market opportunities with NordLayer.