By Mike East, VP EMEA, Menlo Security
The pandemic has shifted the balance in many arenas, not least in relation to cybersecurity.
Where COVID-19 has continued to have a drastic influence over economies, societies and governments globally, cybercriminals have been able to piggyback on a perfect storm of uncertainty and confusion, tapping into fears and capitalizing on new vulnerabilities.
One of the most significant indirect impacts of the pandemic has been the uptick in remote and hybrid working models.
Indeed, such models deliver a variety of benefits, from improved work life balances for employees to the ability to access wider talent pools for employers who are no longer restricted by geographies and offices.
However, with remote and hybrid operations have come distinct changes in relation to IT, revealing a host of security vulnerabilities in those organizations that have failed to adapt appropriately.
Menlo Security recently surveyed over 500 IT decision makers in the US and the UK to gain insight into the attitudes surrounding securing remote access to applications and resources and potential methods of doing so.
Critically, this survey found that while 83 percent of organizations are confident in their ability to control access to applications for remote users, 75 percent are still opting to err on the side of caution and conduct additional evaluations of their security strategy to gauge suitability in the ‘new normal’.
While a quarter of organizations are opting not to do so, the fact that three in every four companies are is a promising sign.
Critically, security protocols in relation to on-premise models and hybrid cloud-based models differ wildly. Both require different approaches, and therefore those companies that have made the shift to cloud-based operations since the pandemic first emerged must update in order to be secure.
At the same time, however, it is vital that those organizations conducting such reviews come to the right conclusions.
Our survey also found that three in every four organizations still rely on virtual private networks (VPNs) for controlling remote access to applications – this ratio rising to more than four in five for organizations with over 10,000 employees.
With traditional security tools such as VPNs being inherently insecure in the modern day, this is a challenge – yet there is significant opportunity to address this, and organizations are showing willing.
Achieving holistic protection in the hybrid era
So, what improvements should organizations be considering in order to bolster their security within an environment dominated by remote and hybrid business models that are plagued by rising cybercriminal activity?
Enter zero trust – the perfect starting point for transforming security.
Unlike traditional protocols that take a somewhat outdated ‘castle and moat’ approach to security, only working to defend the external perimeter of an organization, zero trust takes an approach rooted in three key principles:
- That all available data points must be continually authenticated.
- That user access must be limited to specific applications.
- That a breach must always be assumed to be imminent.
In simple terms, zero trust is about viewing trust as vulnerability.
While defending the perimeter once worked, today’s hyperconnected world, underpinned by the cloud and the integration of a sea of external applications, the perimeter no longer exists. As a result, the threat landscape has become increasingly exacerbated, and therefore it is critically important to limit risks and exposure.
Many of the most harmful cyberattacks in recent times have largely been the result of a lack of proper security protocols beyond the perimeter. After hackers have gained initial access to a company’s network, they have been able to move laterally to access data and elevate privileges without any meaningful resistance.
For this very reason, zero trust ensures that all external and internal traffic – be it emails, websites, videos, documents or other files that originate from either inside or outside an organization – must be verified.
Implementing zero trust: Isolation technologies
Indeed, many organizations agree that the inherent connectivity that comes with hybrid and remote working models is creating additional areas of security consideration.
Some 75 percent of Menlo’s survey respondents stated that they believe hybrid and remote workers accessing applications on unmanaged devices pose a significant threat to their organization’s security.
Further, almost four in five agreed that remote access by third parties is a cause for concern with more than half planning to reduce or limit third party/contractor access to internal systems and resources over the next year or two.
Yet such concerns could easily be addressed by the implementation of zero trust policies – given the intensity of today’s threat environment, controlling internal and external user access has never been more important.
That said, it can be difficult to know where to start.
What does zero trust look like? What technologies and tools are required? How can I implement it throughout my entire organization? Here, a security specialist can be a highly valuable partner, helping to answer many key questions and implement a zero-trust architecture that suits the specific needs and functions of any one individual organization.
Isolation technology, for example, is one tool available that can achieve zero trust in its truest sense.
Isolation essentially moves the browsing process from the endpoint – be it a desktop, mobile device, tablet or other – and executes it in the cloud. In this process, a form of digital air gap is created between the internet and endpoint where all content can be rendered safely to always deliver holistic peace of mind.
Isolation-centric zero trust therefore does not leave any room for error. Indeed, it can halt threat actors in their path 100 percent of the time.
About the Author
Mike East is Vice President EMEA, Menlo Security Mike East is Vice President EMEA Sales. In this role, he is helping to grow the business across the region and develop and manage the EMEA sales team. Mike has worked in the IT industry for 30 years, in technical and sales leadership roles, focusing on security for the last 15 years, building and restructuring the UK and EMEA businesses for vendors, including Symantec, Mandiant, FireEye, CrowdStrike and Duo Security.
Passionate about solving the ever-increasing cybersecurity issues that companies and governments face on a daily basis, Mike has experience of presenting at industry events and participating on panels and webinars talking about web isolation, network security, malware and cybersecurity resilience.