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The new security demands of our hybrid working future 

For technology leaders around the world, one of the silver linings of the pandemic was that it acted as an accelerant for digital transformation.

While the disruption was mercifully temporary, some of the coping mechanisms deployed by businesses to get through it are likely to persist as we emerge into a post-pandemic landscape. 

One of those mechanisms is hybrid working, which has now had the chance to prove its worth in the biggest remote working experiment in history.

According to the latest figures, more than two-thirds of business leaders are now planning to reconfigure their office space to accommodate hybrid working permanently, and 73 per cent of employees say they want flexible, remote work options to stay as a condition of their employment.

The imperative is there, and businesses are already making adjustments to their physical and digital infrastructure, but what about security? 

Network security in the new normal

The shift to remote networking over the course of the past 24 months has been nothing short of profound. Nonetheless, the rapid move to remote-enabled working has been driven by necessity rather than natural innovation within the market, and that means some businesses are not adequately prepared in terms of their security setup. 

Remote user access has become the new normal, offering greater agility and arguably better productivity, but that means legacy security solutions like static firewalls and basic VPNs (virtual private networks) are no longer fit for purpose.

Organizations are now “hyper distributed”, with applications everywhere and networks branching off in all directions. Some may have embraced SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking) as a means of efficiently routing traffic and increasing the QoE (quality of experience) for users, but even SD-WAN on its own has security limitations that need to be separately addressed. 

Given the sheer pace of change, it is understandable that businesses would prioritize productivity over network security in the short term, but that short-term fix is now blending into a long-term solution, and businesses need to re-evaluate their security as a result. 

Traditionally, a patchwork approach to security has led to a disparate array of siloed solutions, from email and browser security, right through to WAAP (web app and API protection), firewall-as-a-service, remote-access VPNs, and more. The challenge now is to consolidate these multiple product points in a unified and cohesive security package, and that’s where SASE comes in. 

The continued rise of SASE network security

Secure Access Service Edge (or SASE) has been quietly reframing how large organizations handle their security for years, but it is only since the mass shift to hybrid working that it has become relevant for nearly all businesses. What SASE does is converge security and network technologies into a single, cloud-delivered platform that is easy to scale and that facilitates rapid cloud transformation. 

Geographical borders and physical spaces are becoming less relevant to today’s businesses, so it makes no sense for network security to be centralized in the traditional sense.

With SASE, security is moved closer to the edge where applications, users and end-points are located, resulting in an agile, unified, low-latency solution that puts user experience, network performance and network security on an equal footing. The next step is for businesses to connect the security solutions that exist across users and devices in order to eliminate any potential security gaps. 

Combining SASE with advanced threat prevention

Even when rolling out a SASE solution, businesses need to be mindful of their overall security posture. The more distributed its users, and the more devices that connect remotely, the greater the potential attack surface area for threat actors.

Keeping this attack surface limited and protected is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. Check Point’s 2022 Workforce Security Report refers to this as the “remote-access security gap”, in which 70 per cent of organisations allow access to corporate applications from personal devices.

According to the report, only 5 per cent of businesses use all of the recommended remote access security settings when preparing to facilitate hybrid working. 

What’s more, these challenges are emerging at one of the worst possible times for businesses, with cyberattacks against corporate networks increasing dramatically.

As well as thinking about centralised networks, businesses now have to consider things like endpoint resilience, their vulnerability to mobile-related attacks, remote working security policies, and even how well applications such as Office 365 or G-Suite are protected in real-time.  

In order to fully address the security gaps associated with hybrid working, businesses need to combine SASE network security with advanced threat detection and prevention to secure various endpoints and channels.

Unified solutions such as Check Point Harmony, provides organisations with consolidated network security, endpoint security, email security, internet browsing, mobile security and remote VPN access, under a single, unified umbrella.

As a result, sensitive data and users are protected in every environment whether at home, in the office or on the move, regardless of how they log on or what device they use.

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Ashwin Ram

Ashwin Ram

As a Cyber Security Expert with the office of the CTO at Check Point Software Technologies, Ashwin Ram has been helping business leaders make smarter, more insightful cyber-security decisions for over 10 years. He does this by ensuring cyber-security strategies are designed to achieve cyber-resilience and are in line with your business strategies. He focuses on both, pre and post-infection security controls across corporate networks, cloud, endpoints, mobile and IoT to ensure your cyber-strategy delivers a competitive advantage to your organisation. Ashwin has delivered technical training, cyber-security boot camps, assisted with designing and remediating cyber-security solutions across many organisations within APAC. He is passionate about cyber-security and regularly shares his knowledge on the current threat landscape at various cyber-security conferences across the globe.

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