Working from home is having an impact on network shape and traffic. Organizations are recognizing the severe security implications from a sudden reliance on the cloud, mobile devices and unfamiliar Wi-Fi network connections. Access to corporate resources is occurring from a greater number of endpoints and from further away than ever, and the visibility of corporate networks is at an all-time low. Now is the time to rethink and possibly reinvent remote-access policy.

Updating Remote Access Policies

The first step in understanding whether your access policy is geared for a remote-reliant workforce is by auditing it against your organization’s security objectives. One common mistake that security teams make when designing and updating their security and remote-access policy is not fully understanding the extent of their network — or accounting for employees’ changing locations and access.

It’s important to revise policies designed for on-premises work. Bring your IT team into the fold and get them to diagnose how users are connecting and where gaps appear. Too often we see security teams stuck using the template they previously relied upon. It’s crucial that they understand that the audit is less about erasing the old template, and more about making it flex around individual users. A user-centric policy best fits the needs of a remote workforce.

Focus on Users: Who, What and How

It’s not a new idea that supporting remote workers increases the number of security risks facing your organization. However, with a massive increase in successful ransomware and phishing attacks since the pandemic started, it’s become more obvious that remote employees are opening entry points for attackers.

To address remote-work security, customized access controls are more critical than ever. A key fundamental of remote access policy is the identification of users and groups with similar access needs. That allows you to assign them rules and enforce those rules automatically. Enforce the use of Identity Providers before access is granted, and then define the teams of employees that need a similar access type to do their jobs.

Next, segment your network based on resource sensitivity, then decide which of your user groups should and should not have access to individual segments.

The final step in access control in a remote work environment is to enforce encryption processes for remote network access. This will allow you to mandate secure access to corporate resources for remote employees while verifying each user.

Authentication and Authorization

Strong passphrase practices and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) are the capstones to your remote access policies. Require all remote employees to use a company-approved password manager. While most employees know they should be using unique and long passwords for each account, it’s a challenge for anyone to remember which password is for what. A very common mistake is using the same password for many different accounts, which widens the attack surface in a way that IT can’t directly fight.

Instead of relying on every individual employee’s password hygiene, it’s best to implement a password manager or Single Sign-On (SSO) solution into your organization’s policy. These generate a unique password for each account and simplify the sign-in process. And MFA should be mandatory for a more secure authentication process.

Securing Remote Workspaces

Reducing the risks of remote work starts with updating the remote access policies. This is the biggest and most crucial effort, and the first step involves throwing away the old perimeter-focused access model and adopting a user-centric approach. It’s not a matter of simply integrating new technologies and tools, but also encouraging a new school of thought within the IT department itself.

Involving zero-trust components like micro-segmentation, SSO, logging all traffic and more, the move to fortify networks against new remote access needs is multi-faceted and has countless benefits. Companies that manage the transition will gain a lot more than just security – they can finally align IT and its goals with executive priorities and the business’s bottom line.

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