Many organizations and employees are returning to the office after nearly 18 months of working remotely. Restructuring daily routines and getting together with co-workers are exciting parts of the return-to-work era. However, there are more safety protocols to consider than just hand sanitizer and masks. When employees return to the office, devices reconnect to networks or log on for the first time, presenting a myriad of security challenges for organizations and their IT teams.
Like other elements of remote working, the lines were blurry when it came to security priorities. When employees were in the office, they often took network security for granted. After switching to working from home, many employees were unaware that their home networks were not the equivalent of their office network. The responsibilities of IT and security teams increased as user education became necessary. Cybersecurity teams have been forced to dig into networks for threats and issues, as opposed to their traditional role of monitoring logs. Skills, such as writing filters to find these anomalies, are sought after as employees reconnect mobile devices, USB drives, and devices. printers.
MFA will be the new TSA
As security teams add another set of skills to their wishlists, attackers listen and build their own wishlists: which devices to target when reconnected to networks. As a result of this change, identity and verification are probably high on the priority list for security teams. Before, security teams could track the computer. Now it will be more difficult to validate every device without access to the logs on the public network. In major cases, such as SolarWinds, threats have been detected due to multi-factor authentication (MFA) on compromised credentials. Therefore, the MFA will be important for tracking borderless or zero trust networks to ensure that devices returning to the workplace do not take risky luggage with them.
Another key consideration when returning to the office is the allocation of resources and staff. Senior security personnel will be under heavy demand, creating ripple effects within the team that could overwhelm junior employees and potentially create technical debt. It will be important for these understaffed security teams to focus on changing the context and shifting tasks to more experienced employees. Training junior staff, while implementing new products and evaluating policies, will create major resource constraints – a concept all too familiar to those in the security community.
There are financial implications of overburdening senior staff and taking more time to train new or junior staff: overwork, reduced productivity, burnout and the need for more time off. Additionally, if attacks are publicly disclosed, questions about the effectiveness of security strategies – and wages — to augment. It creates a Catch-22 where successful attacks generate questions about the need for more tools, while simultaneously creating the need for more resources to implement, maintain and monitor networks.
Zero trust: prepare for takeoff
While there have been challenges, the shift to remote working has proven that organizations can embrace change faster. Organizations are now more aware of which security initiatives they should prioritize. With remote workers at the mercy of their home networks, organizations have seen the benefits of cloud services or even a contextual access policy. As a result, teams were forced to validate and secure devices and networks. If the distributed workforce was the fuel for cloud adoption, hybrid and return employees are the boarding passes for organizations adopting a zero trust model.
What’s new on the security horizon
As much as employees are eager to rekindle personal connections in the office, so too are security teams looking for the latest and most effective ways to protect network reconnections. The pandemic has fostered innovation. Now it is up to the industry to act. As companies craft their plans to reopen, executives will need to consider device and network security more than ever. With ransomware attacks on the rise and threat actors emerging, companies that have survived the pandemic will need to ensure they can now survive the risks associated with returning to the office. The world has faced some of the toughest challenges in modern history, and that same resilience will help teams overcome security challenges of digital transformation.
About the Author
Jonathan Meyers is IT Manager and Senior Infrastructure Engineer at Cybraire. It designs, maintains and secures the entire enterprise infrastructure, including a security activation platform supporting more than 200 companies and 2.5 million users worldwide. Previously, he worked as Senior DevOps and Senior Operations Engineer at Forcepoint (formerly RedOwl Analytics), where he oversaw the operations and deployment of its hosted user and entity behavior analysis electronic monitoring product. and on site. Meyers holds an Information Technology degree from the US Military Academy at West Point.