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  • Writer's pictureDoug Ennis

IT Security Strategies in a Work From Home World

These are chaotic times! We’re socially isolated, working in our sweatpants, hyper-caffeinated, and the once-ordinary run to the grocery store has turned into a very surreal experience. Good things can happen in chaos. I’ve stepped up my cooking game, turned video on during conference calls, and developed a higher respect for teachers, as well as new family activities to keep us sane.

Chaos isn’t all fun and games. Whether your organization had an existing WFH Culture or not, there’s been a massive disruption into our lives. The bad actors out there are using this time wisely and they’re looking to capitalize during the confusion.

How can we keep a focus on security during these times? Engagement with your users is essential to both to create a feedback loop and to communicate information. How did you engage with users before? What gaps exist today?

How can we keep a focus on security during these times? Engagement with your users is essential to both to create a feedback loop and to communicate information. How did you engage with users before? What gaps exist today?

Data Creep –

The impact of this will greatly depend on how digitally transformed your organization is and the technologies leveraged to share and collaborate with. Where does your critical data reside at rest? How many versions of it exist in the world? What is the master version? Has the master version changed in the last few weeks? Not sure? That is where the problem lies; our master data is becoming a harder to define and restrict. One’s problem is another one’s opportunity.

Does your organization leverage a windows file share, legacy database, or other internally located data source as the “Master” for daily business activities, sharing, and collaboration? If so, the shift to WFH will cause significant data creep. Another area of concern is communication and collaboration of these activities. Is it via email? We’ll talk communication in a bit, but first let’s consider access to this “Master” version of data. Has your organization had to rapidly ramp up external access of late? If so, the next one is for you.

Burdened Access –

Do your users need to make a VPN connection or access internal resources through VDIs? Are you leveraging collaboration and sharing tools that are new to your organization, yet rapidly rolled out to empower WFH users? How many users were supported by these technologies pre-COVID compared to now? The rapid deployment of these new technologies is another problem that could become an opportunity for the bad actors out there.

Communication –

Without the water cooler or ability to brainstorm face to face, much more sensitive, strategic, and valuable information is being relayed over email or conferencing tools that might be foreign to users of the technology. Many of the organized attacks seen today are combination of some basic hack, hijacking of credentials, discovery of organization, and a social engineered compromise of either business or financial data. The more they can discover about you, your organization, vendors, customers, and business processes, the more successful and disruptive the breach can be. Have you noticed a change in content in your inbox? Anything that shouldn’t be there?

What can you do about it –

Engage with your users. Use surveys to ask users how they’re storing and communicating information. Ask them if they’re having issues accessing or sharing resources. This would be a great time to perform a Phishing test to both gauge user awareness and to keep the conversation about security going. Training is another great engagement mechanism and opportunity to educate users on the new conditions and tools that they’re facing.

  1. Tune your monitoring and analysis. With access mechanisms changing, the trip wires, smoke detectors, and motions sensors should adjust as well. Ensure the integration and configuration between your SaaS platform and monitoring system is working effectively to both detect aberrant behavior and restrict it. Also, ensure you have the same visibility of your environment you had before.

  2. Harden email communications. Leverage encryption, message classification, and data loss prevention options and configurations to ensure the safety of information or valuable organizational details. These options might already be available to your organization and just require configuration. If not, they should be evaluated.

  3. Review security controls. Evaluate who has access. Is it warranted? Is it recorded? What happens when a request is denied? With the quick pivoting and rapid deployment of technologies, I’m willing to bet some corners have been cut. The review will help ensure that controls are in place, and you might see them differently in the new world we live in.

COVID-19 has swept in and affected the lives of every person on the planet. Although there are a lot of negative views on the pandemic, it doesn’t all have to be negative. This is the time to review your environment, processes, and technology and prepare for the “new normal”. Chaos can create innovation that brings more efficient processes and allows you to offer flexible working schedules while keeping your environment secure.

Conclusion -

We’ve had to adjust just about everything over the past month. Shouldn’t we also communicate with our users how we observe our networks and how we control access differently as well? Many organizations dragged their feet adopting cloud-based technologies that have made working in isolation possible.Often this pause was impacted by effort of undergoing such change, impact on users, and security of information.Well, that ship has sailed! Transformation and adoption of cloud-based technologies is now a necessity. The key will be organizations that adopt more than just these collaborative tools.Adopt a new defensive posture. Adopt new ways of engaging and communicating with users.Review your policies and controls and ensure they encompass this new world.

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