Despite the slow reopening of the U.S. economy, employers across the country remain cautious about allowing workers to return to the office. Remote work has become fundamental to the stability of nonessential businesses, at least temporarily. According to a May 2020 survey by Gallup, as many as 7 in 10 employees are still working remotely at least part of the time, a trend that will likely continue through January 2021. During this period of uncertainty, businesses have had to invest in new cloud-based technologies, telework systems and security tools to support remote workers and ward off cybercrime. In some cases, these IT deployments were rushed through the planning phase out of pure necessity, leading to cybersecurity gaps and technical oversights that put critical systems at risk.
Back in March, the National Institute of Standards and Technology released an IT bulletin warning employers that remote access methods, telecommunication systems and employees’ personal devices pose a rising threat to enterprise security. “Telework and remote access technologies often need additional protection because their nature generally places them at higher exposure to external threats compared to technologies that are only accessed from inside the organization,” the NIST explained. To offset this exposure, IT administrators must integrate adaptable security solutions that can identify and mitigate a wide range of cyberattacks, from malware and ransomware to phishing scams and data breaches. But with so many options in the market, how can employers select the right security tools for their shifting needs?
3 essential security tools for managing a remote workforce
Transitioning to work-from-home environments has been a real challenge for IT administrators and end users alike. For one, many employees have been forced to use their personal devices to complete their work, raising questions about end-user security and the impact of bring-your-own-device culture. Another key issue involves OS and software patching – if employees don’t stay on top of critical updates, hackers can gain access to their devices through zero-day exploits and other publicly available vulnerabilities. When a remote employee encounters these (and other) security problems, employers must provide the direct and timely support needed to safeguard their networks against cybercrime.
Whether dealing with low-priority tech issues or major security breaches, IT administrators need adaptable management features that can help protect and empower remote workforces. Here are three essential security tools every business should consider:
- Virtual private networks Setting up a virtual private network (VPN) offers employers a way to increase the security and privacy of enterprise networks and data. With more employees connecting to private servers from personal devices, companies must create a buffer between users’ home networking environments and the organization’s core systems and data stores. Using a secure VPN, IT administrators can ensure all data flowing between users’ devices and their private network is encrypted. That said, cybercriminals have been increasingly targeting VPN gateways as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, according to a security alert released by the National Security Agency. The NSA points out that VPNs are prone to network scanning, brute-force attacks and zero-day vulnerabilities, which is why employers must implement traffic filtering and intrusion prevention systems alongside their virtual networks.
- Remote patch management Technology companies and software developers are constantly releasing new security and performance patches to keep their applications secure. Typically, IT administrators were in charge of ensuring these critical updates were applied to all company-owned devices. However, the rapid transition to remote work and BYOD practices has placed this responsibility in the hands of end users. Even before the pandemic, it took organizations an average of 67 days to resolve a discovered vulnerability caused by unpatched software and business applications, according to research from Edgescan. With thousands of employees using their home computers, it’s even more challenging (and in some cases impossible) to ensure patches are being proactively installed. Using remote patching tools, IT administrators can send batch updates to every device in a network, including personal devices. This can not only remove the need for end-user intervention, it can also provide additional oversight of vulnerable endpoints on enterprise networks.
- Reboot-to-restore technology Although VPNs and remote patching tools can help employers eliminate a wide range of cyberthreats, malware continues to be a top concern. If an employee’s computer were to be infected, hackers could use that device as a staging ground to launch network-wide attacks, distribute ransomware and steal sensitive information. Reboot-to-restore technology freezes computers in a desired state, preventing malicious code or programs from being installed in the first place. Even if hackers find a way around these restrictions, end users are able to eliminate malware with a simple restart of the affected device. This functionality can also empower employees to solve their own IT issues and reduce the impact of configuration drift.
Protecting remote workforces with Faronics’ Deep Freeze
Faronics’ Deep Freeze application is an industry-leading reboot-to-restore platform that boasts a variety of advanced management capabilities. Using Deep Freeze, IT administrators can remotely manage OS and software patches, reverse malicious changes to computers, eliminate zero-day threats and more. By ensuring 100% workstation recovery with every restart, this application can help reduce the volume of IT tickets and minimize employees’ reliance on in-house tech support.