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Work securely from anywhere

by Mark Rowe

What should a ubiquitous office look like in the hybrid world of work? asks Samir Desai, VP of product management at the networking and professional services firm GTT.

The pandemic has redefined what it means to have a team in the office. In today’s typical work environment, a ‘team’ now involves collaboration between employees across multiple locations and settings.

However, with that comes a new challenge: securing this worldwide office. For example, cyberattacks have risen by 238 per cent since the start of the pandemic and home workers have become the primary target of cyber criminals. It’s increasingly important for leaders to ensure a consistent office experience regardless of where the workforce is. Enterprise IT governance needs to adapt to this new paradigm with businesses treating management of remote workers as a priority.

The ability to work

In the past, corporate IT security would trust every user equally inside their network mainly driven by office-based employees accessing the corporate networking environment from traditionally “safe” locations. As a result of remote working, one key shift that business leaders should consider is “zero trust “networking.

Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) works by granting access to networks based on the identity of the user and their context (eg. which applications being accessed). Users are first classified based on their business roles and the levels of access they require. Next, the context of the request is assessed – like where the user is connecting from, through what device, and whether the device is secure. The key aspect of ZTNA is the concept of “never trust, always verify” which means the user access session is continuously verified.

This way, users can access their resources quickly and efficiently, no matter where they are. At the same time, IT leaders can maintain a zero-trust approach across their entire network for enhanced security of vital corporate IT and data resources.

Adopting these frameworks will result in increased agility, resilience and reliability, as well as the ability to prioritise traffic to key applications and securely access SaaS and cloud applications across the internet. Given the effective access security, it will also provide a good user experience for employees, allowing them to work securely regardless of location.

Understanding of user habits

It is critical to strike the right balance between user access management and effective, secure remote access to on-premises resources, hybrid cloud environments, and business applications. But before initiating any policies to do so, leaders need to run a deep audit to continually review and assess their internet-based and cloud-centric application environment and understand how their end-users engage with them.

Adoption of ZTNA takes some consideration around tailoring the capability to the specific needs of the organisation. IT leaders should use this opportunity to question everything, from the organisation’s information and communications technology strategy to current IT governance – and, in the process, identify gaps and opportunities to enhance.

A more educated remote user

The single best tactic for keeping confidential data safe is remote user awareness. Keep employees informed – not only about what they should do but also about why they need to do it. And if done right, you’ll set the organisation up for success.

Training materials should focus on the employee’s understanding of the importance of data security and cyber hygiene. Leaders should also consider defining an Acceptable Use Policy, so employees know what websites, apps and networks are permitted for accessing data.

A network with more intelligence at its edge that balances performance with user, device and application security management will be key to navigating the new hybrid way of work and ensuring a ubiquitous office. To succeed in this current era of work, companies must adapt their networking approach to this new distributed environment to avoid putting the productivity of employees and the security of their business at risk.

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