As the pandemic situation has entered a more stable, endemic phase, employers and businesses are looking at what their roadmaps might be like going forward.
That means deciding whether to keep employees remote, bring them back into offices full-time, or move to a hybrid schedule and environment.
For a lot of modern businesses, hybrid workplaces seem to offer the most advantages, but there are also challenges. Namely, without the presence of a traditional perimeter, cybersecurity is a challenge in the hybrid workplace that needs to be dealt with in a long-term way.
One of the best overall solutions for a lot of companies right now is the use of Zero Trust security architecture, which includes network micro-segmentation to prevent lateral movement and a number of other safeguards for a cloud-based environment.
Before businesses can delve into specific solutions and approaches, however, they need to know what they’re up against. The following are some of the specific cybersecurity challenges associated with hybrid work.
Why Remote Work Creates More Risks
Hybrid work environments include a combination of in-person and remote work. Remote work in and of itself comes with many cybersecurity risks that either don’t exist in in-person work or are amplified.
For example, remote employees may not be following cybersecurity policies, or they may be unclear or inconsistently enforced. There’s less monitoring, and admins might not have a way to gain a centralized view of what’s going on.
In remote work, cybersecurity training can go by the wayside, and there are a lot of distractions for remote workers, like clicking on links they see on social media that then put the entire company at risk.
Lack of Training and Awareness
No matter how seemingly advanced cyberattacks get, in reality, most have something in common—they target human vulnerabilities.
You need to hire employees who understand, at a minimum, the importance of cybersecurity. You need to ensure that your employees are well-trained on all policies, and on your end, you also need to update training as necessary because it’s something constantly evolving.
In general, remote workers just tend to be easier targets for cybersecurity attacks. Your employees, when working remotely, might be using Wi-Fi with weak or non-existent security, they could be sharing devices with other people, have unsecured mobile devices, or they might not update their software as needed. All of these are major weak points.
Shadow IT is another way that remote employees can put the cybersecurity of their employer at risk.
Cybercriminals tend to have a deep understanding of how to exploit human weakness and psychology, yet in training, this isn’t often touched on.
Phishing is a great example of a social engineering scam that continues working time and time again for cybercriminals. Just in 2020, Google registered two million phishing websites, which was a record at that time.
Even in organizations where employees aren’t working remotely or in a hybrid environment, cloud-based applications are growing in their relevance. This is beneficial for employees because they can access their work from anywhere, and for companies, it saves money and makes things more efficient.
At the same time, these dispersed cloud environments can create many of the cybersecurity risks we associate with hybrid work.
For example, there’s the concern about password fatigue and reuse, so if an employee is using their passwords across devices and accounts and someone gets their credentials, they could access everything.
Also, in the traditional world of cybersecurity, there was a perimeter. Everything within that theoretical perimeter was protected by traditional means of cybersecurity, like firewalls. Now, since employees are working remotely and sometimes even in different countries, there isn’t a perimeter.
Cybersecurity plans have to take this into consideration.
Zero Trust cybersecurity is the pre-eminent way to address the lack of a perimeter.
The concept of Zero Trust is an approach to cybersecurity that trusts no entity outside or within the network. Everything has to be verified, and elements like micro-segmentation reduce the potential damage that can occur if there is a breach.
In a Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity, one of the first steps is identifying the most critical and valuable assets, applications, data, and services. This helps organizations and IT teams know where to start and how to prioritize their efforts, and the creation of relevant policies.
Finally, when the admins are able to identify whatever their most critical assets are, it can help them put their focus on protecting them.