Remote work environments have become the norm in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing organizations to quickly establish new internal controls and vulnerability management practices to ward off cybersecurity threats. Prior to the outbreak, around 7% of the U.S. workforce (roughly 9.8 million employees) had access to “flexible workplace” benefits, including work from home and telecommuting options, according to the latest National Compensation Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines have accelerated the transition from in-office to virtual workspaces.
How widespread is this operational transformation? According to a March 2020 survey from Gartner, around 88% of organizations have either encouraged or required employees to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Even after the eventual return to normalcy, many companies plan to make remote work a permanent fixture of their workforce management policies. In fact, researchers from the University of Chicago estimated that roughly one-third of U.S. jobs can be performed by remote workers. However, adapting to this framework will require companies to develop new cybersecurity practices and guidelines to keep their IT systems secure from malicious actors.
Cybercrime on the rise during COVID-19
In early April, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a joint IT security alert concerning the increase in malicious activity related to COVID-19. More specifically, cybersecurity researchers have seen a sharp rise in the following types of cyberattacks:
- Phishing scams
- Malware distribution
- Targeted attacks against remote access infrastructure
- Vulnerability exploits aimed at telecommunication systems
While social engineering tactics can be mitigated through internal IT controls and employee training, preventing software exploits requires real-time visibility into both on-premises and cloud-based applications. This is particularly important for organizations that are deploying new telecommunication software, as malicious actors can take advantage of publicly available vulnerabilities. From VPNs to remote working tools, there’s no shortage of attack vectors hackers can leverage, which is why IT admins should prioritize vulnerability detection, patch management and endpoint protection until the global health crisis has passed.
Faronics’ Deploy: Securing IT with remote patching
Many remote workers are using their personal devices to access web-based applications and internal data stores for the first time. Generally speaking, average users tend to pay less attention to cybersecurity best practices than trained technology professionals, which is why remote monitoring and patching is essential to any organization’s IT posture. For example, research from Reposify found that attacks against exposed remote desktop protocols have increased 127% since companies began transitioning their employees to a work-from-home basis. To protect remote access channels and cloud-based applications from exploitation, IT administrators need to be able to quickly push critical patches and updates to all workstations. That’s where Faronics’ Deploy functionality can help.
Faronics’ cloud-based IT deployment application, known as Deploy, empowers organizations to manage remote devices in real-time, send automated updates for Windows and/or Mac machines and collect detailed information on computer and application usage. With a large portion of employees serving in remote capacities (at least temporarily), the ability to manage specific applications is paramount. Without a remote patching solution, IT administrators may struggle to safeguard company-owned assets and employees’ personal devices from cyberattacks. Faronics’ Deploy supports remote work environments in three key areas:
- Application management: Deploy offers organizations the ability to control updates at the application level, eliminating the need for end-user intervention. Patches can be automated or pushed manually to all devices connected to the Deploy Server, while failed updates are detected instantly and displayed in the management console. What’s more, this remote patching solution allows IT administrators to set unique behaviors for every application, making it easy to disable self-updates and schedule batch jobs for MS Office, Adobe Suite and more.
- Windows updates: Using an agent-based setup, Deploy can help manage Windows updates through a flexible test-and-approve process. Following an initial Patch Scan, administers can check for pending updates across a range of different patch categories. This functionality can be applied to any number of computers independently, and can be integrated with existing WSUS infrastructure. This level of patch management customization can help ensure that important updates are sent as soon as they’re made available, reducing the risk of zero-day exploits.
- OS deployment: Faronics’ Deploy can also help optimize OS patching by providing system administrators with a range of customization features, all of which are compatible with your current WDS setup. Using an imaging server, administrators can create synced repositories that allow imaging tasks to be pushed to computers through a centralized management console. Additionally, Deploy’s driver layers can be maintained as groups that can be quickly deployed on various workstations, making driver updates a drag-and-drop process.
Whether remote work becomes a permanent trend, organizations can enhance their cybersecurity readiness and vulnerability management capabilities through Deploy integration. When new OS versions or application patches are released, workstations can be updated with a single click, reducing the burden placed on in-house IT staff.