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The new normal includes a regular remote workforce, which increases security challenges.
March 30, 2021
Sponsored by Kaseya
The migration to a remote workforce hit fast forward in the past year as businesses around the world asked employees to do from home what they used to do in the office. For some companies, this was an expansion of existing remote work activities, while it was a sudden shock for others.
But after a year of attending business meetings in pajamas and zero-minute commutes, many employees are eager to keep their current work-from-home arrangements, at least some of the time, even after the pandemic is under control. At the same time, businesses are realizing they can save money by reducing their office footprints or eliminate them altogether while tapping into a much broader talent pool.
As businesses transition to a new normal that includes remote work as a regular part of everyday life, they face a host of extra security challenges. More employees working remotely means more opportunity for cybercriminals to breach weaker defenses across a distributed network of personal devices, corporate laptops, unsecured Wi-Fi networks, and exponentially more remote connections to their servers and applications.
MSPs have a unique role to play in this new IT ecosystem. On one hand, they have customers struggling to navigate a remote work world, unsure of how to manage this diaspora of employees and endpoints. At the same time, MSPs are on high alert for security breaches into the systems they manage, desperate to avoid damaging attacks, data theft and outages.
Here are the three top things MSPs should focus on to secure their clientele’s remote workforce:
An IT network is only as secure as its weakest point. And in a world where employees are logging in from their apartments, coffee shops and coworking spaces, those weak spots are in the hands of well-meaning employees in vulnerable situations.
To protect those endpoints in a remote work environment, MSPs must deploy pervasive monitoring while minimizing employee disruptions. These frequent check-ins to ensure a secure environment should be largely invisible to remote staff who don’t want their productivity interrupted by automatic reboots in the middle of the workday or background processes that grind their other applications to a halt.
VPNs, two-factor authentication and cloud backups are no-brainer tactics MSPs can employ to increase endpoint security with minimal end user disruption. And, when issues do arise, MSPs need the ability to support users without requiring them to come into the office, which may not be open or anywhere near their physical location. MSP staff with the right tools can initiate remote control sessions to update settings and solve problems as they arise.
Keeping software up to date is a no-brainer, but the degree of difficulty increases significantly when they’re not all under the direct control of IT. The combination of personal devices and client-owned devices distributed to remote workers makes it much more challenging to keep them all running the latest-and-greatest versions of operating systems and applications.
Many of the assumptions MSPs make about an IT environment are now out the window. Not every device is on the corporate network, and those that connect remotely may be doing so at odd or inconsistent times using more tenuous network connections.
This may require a rethinking or moderate adjustment of how MSPs both check to see what all those endpoints are running and how they distribute and install updates. Taking inventory of each device’s current status, as well as scheduling and rolling out those updates, may need a modification, which may even include barring worker access to critical systems until patches are installed.
While MSPs eat, sleep and breathe IT security, that’s not the case for most workers. There may be some vague awareness or maybe their social media account was hacked, but for the most part there’s a baseline assumption that securing their work devices and network is someone else’s problem.
However, the actions and precautions every employee takes are an essential component in fortifying the entire IT environment’s defenses. Whether it’s not clicking on a “phishy” email link or using a harder-to-crack password, there’s a lot each remote worker can do to help out the cause.
Since most employees won’t proactively seek out best practices, MSPs must help their clients train up their staff on essential security protocols. This begins by explaining what threats are lurking out there that workers should be aware of.
Phishing is an obvious place to begin. Staff must be overly cautious when it comes to opening suspicious emails, clicking links and filling out forms on unscrupulous web sites.
While this is somewhat well-socialized in an office environment, remote work blurs the lines between personal and business usage of devices. It’s more likely than ever that the same computer or smartphone an employee uses to log into a corporate application is also used for perusing Instagram and TikTok, playing games or purchasing goods from e-commerce merchants.
This increase in the amount of usage and the variety of sites and apps being utilized on each endpoint creates exponentially more opportunities for someone to fall prey to a spoofed form or fake email from an otherwise trusted site. Now, not only is the remote worker’s personal information in jeopardy, but that threat can easily spread to corporate IT assets as well.
Ransomware is another prevalent threat that’s compounded in a remote work setting. Workers are far less likely to try and install things on locked-down devices only used for business purposes. But hybrid usage and unsecure network connections open the door for malware to slip through the cracks.
Keeping those bad actors from gaining a foothold to steal data is critical, particularly because suspect network activity is more difficult to detect when connections are coming into the network at all hours from hundreds or thousands of locations. MSPs can help themselves and their clients by offering robust employee training that can minimize exposure to these threats.
Streamline Sustainably with Automation
MSPs inevitably have more on their plates than ever, thanks to the challenges noted earlier and others posed by remote workforces and evolving cyberthreats, and there may not be an immediate opportunity to offset the additional resources required with a boost in revenue. To keep the books in the black and not burnout already overworked staff, MSPs must invest in tools that simplify and automate frequent and repetitive tasks.
Remote workers are the present and the future. MSPs and their clients can no longer ignore the additional security challenges that come with this, but with the right game plan and purpose-built tools, IT environments can still be protected from the most common threats corporations face.
Matt Solomon is Vice President, Business Development, Kaseya.
This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.
Read more about:MSPs
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