Lots of organizations have “to-do” lists.
Some items on those lists are urgent —“Review website for bugs and inconsistencies”—and some are just “nice to have” wishlist items—“Replace old office coffee machine with Frank, the automated barista”—that you might get to one day, but no worries if you don’t knock them off anytime soon.
From “Nice to Have” to “Urgent” – Remote Working in the Age of COVID-19
For a lot of organizations, getting a remote working program up and running was just another “nice to have” item on their ever-growing to-do list. Relegated to the realm of “Funny T-Shirt Day” and the “Inter-Department Brownie Bake-off”, it was long considered a project that, while important, could wait for a rainy day.
But now, in the age of social distancing, having a functional remote work program is no longer something that’s just “nice to have”. It has become a matter of company survival. It’s what is allowing employees to hunker down and “shelter in place”, while remaining productive until the COVID-19 crisis passes and we can all return to our respective places of work.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to dismantle our work-at-home programs. In truth, remote work has been a discussion point on the minds of many IT managers and CEOs for quite some time and that’s because the benefits of working from home—or anywhere!—are clear; studies show that employees who have some degree of “home hours” are less stressed and more engaged, and are thus more likely to stick around longer. They also cost less to the company, especially if remote working is enacted on a large scale. And it opens up a new talent pool, allowing employers to choose new hires from across the world, not just people who live in a 50 mile radius.
Gartner’s Rob Smith says “It’s an old-school mentality to think you have to have a presence in an office and that people only work within the office….Once people adjust to working from home, they actually do more work and work longer because they’re not dealing with commutes, they’re not dealing with being interrupted.” Overall, the advantages of working from home are many, and companies may just consider keeping them a viable option, even once social distancing is a thing of the past.
The Risks of Working at Home
But before you go and burn your work wardrobe, it would be wise to understand that working remotely comes with some inherent risks. As great as working from home is (All day PJs! No annoying co-workers! Unlimited fridge breaks!), it can greatly compromise your productivity and security if not implemented correctly.
Right up until the COVID-19 crisis began, security experts waxed on about the up-and-coming death of VPNs. This still holds true despite the fact that VPNs are the number one mechanism by which employees connect to work services and applications. At best, VPNs can effectively support between 20-30 percent of a workforce working outside of the main network at one time. This makes getting on to the network and maintaining a connection frustrating to say the least. One quick fix to this is to have employees connect in shifts, but this is clearly not a long-term solution.
Moreover, VPNs were not built with security in mind and this is something that is often overlooked in the mad rush to get up and running at home. Just because your employees are connecting over VPN, that won’t stop attackers from getting access to corporate networks. Attackers are aware of the massive increase of remote working taking place and thus are coming up with new and innovative ways to attack devices regardless of whether or not the user is connected to the corporate network via VPN.
And as we mentioned in a previous post, in hard-hit Italy, where the vast majority of employees have gone remote, there has been a huge upsurge in attacks focusing on credential stealing and phishing attempts have gone through the roof. VPNs do nothing to secure users from these threats. Another issue is that employees working at home often unwittingly bypass typical security measures that are built-in when working in-office. This is especially true when using personal devices to access corporate networks.
Staying Secure While Staying at Home
So how can you let your employees work from home without opening up your organization to major risks?
SDP, or Software Defined Perimeter solutions are allowing remote workforce to work securely and efficiently. With SDP, organizations can enforce granular identity-based access to applications that protect them from all types of threats that VPNs cannot tackle. SDP uses a “verify-first, access-second” approach which means that no one can obtain access to services they aren’t supposed to. And according to analysts at Omdia (formerly OVUM Research), Safe-T’s SDP solution is one of the only SDP solutions that is robust enough to replace VPN entirely to create highly secured access to corporate resources.
The last thing organizations need in this confusing time is more to worry about. With Safe-T SDP, you can allow your workers to remain productive and secured while the world weathers this storm. We wish you all good health and a quick return to “normalcy” so that you can knock off more items on your organizational “to-do” list.