2021 Forecast: Overcoming the Security Risks of Remote Work
The coming New Year is poised to offer much-needed relief from the health and business challenges that plagued virtually all of 2020, but it would be a mistake to think the world will simply return to its previous state. The new paradigm of remote work gives every indication of continuing to thrive well after the social distancing constraints of the global pandemic are rendered unnecessary.
That really shouldn’t come as a surprise; indeed, the strategic shift towards remote work models has been building momentum for years. Though the health crisis of 2020 obviously accelerated this trend, the compelling business benefits of remote work have always made it a virtual inevitability. In short, it was never so much a question of “if,” but only of “when.”
While the advantages of remote work are persuasive—greater efficiency, more flexibility and significantly lower costs (both capital and operating)—those gains can be quickly nullified if businesses fail to address the security issues that may arise when large numbers of a company’s workforce perform their duties offsite.
Security Gaps: Something Old, Something New
Email is obviously a familiar tool, long utilized by organizations to communicate with their internal and external stakeholders. Its role has now become even more central as in-person meetings have become impracticable. Offering a convenient written record of topics discussed and agreed-upon next steps, email is also less disruptive to employee workflows than telephone conferences or video meetings.
Of course, email’s popularity has also made it the most utilized attack vector for cybercriminals. While email security provisions (e.g., authentication & encryption protocols, corporate information security policies, etc.) are somewhat effective, companies still remain vulnerable to cyber threats that afflict email, including hacking, malware, phishing, spoofing, and misdeliveries.
As such, deploying a dedicated email security solution should not be seen as merely a prudent “add-on” to an effective protection strategy—it’s absolutely a necessity for remote work-based companies who must block costly breaches.
A newer type of vulnerability stems from employees who now work remotely or on-the-go, typically utilizing their home Wi-Fi networks or high-risk, unsecured Wi-Fi connections (at coffee shops, hotels, airports and other public sites) to connect to the internet. Utilizing these unsafe connections to access their company’s network, such remote users unwittingly invite corporate data exposure, credential theft, ransomware and more.
The solution? A Virtual Private Network (VPN) enables organizations to protect their businesses from hackers attempting to steal their personal information and their company’s intellectual property. VPNs tunnel to remote servers that provide complete end-to-end encryption of all data that passes through them. Once the VPN app is installed on end users’ remote devices, they can automatically route through the VPN whenever an untrusted Wi-Fi connection is in use.
How to Choose Email Security and VPN Solutions
When evaluating email security solutions, it’s wise to look for a multi-layered security platform that leverages state-of-the-art machine learning technology. This enables the solution to perform multiple levels of scanning that protect against both known and emerging email-based threats, including viruses, malware, spam, bulk mail, phishing, and spoofing.
It’s also sensible to seek out user-friendly technologies such as easy cloud-based deployment and a convenient browser-based portal. The ultimate goal is to find a solution that blends advanced protection with simple management tools:
- Central console providing instant dashboard visibility into all types of email threats, including spam, viruses, and quarantined messages
- Anti-spam, antivirus and anti-phishing technology that quells unwanted or malicious messages while increasing operational efficiency
- Always-on email continuity, so users can still access emails from a web browser on any device even when the email server, like Office 365, is unavailable
- End-user spam reports and robust email logs
- Platform independence plus support for any email client or server (Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Office 365 and Google Apps)
While the security benefits of any VPN solution are clearly a key consideration, it’s essential to also evaluate its deployment and management requirements. For example, some VPN providers require costly onsite hardware to host their VPN endpoints, which can entail complex configuration procedures beyond the technical capabilities of some companies.
Thus the preferred choice is a cloud-based VPN; because all hardware is cloud-hosted, there’s no infrastructure for companies to set up or manage, saving them the cost of additional hardware and tech support. Just install the client application (typically the only setup task is entering a username and password) and all end users are immediately protected.