• March 31, 2021
  • Catagory Security

SaaS security is essential, remote work or not

By : Justin Folkerts

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are especially appealing when you’ve got more of you’re your employees working from home, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing SaaS security is less vulnerable than the rest of your network security.

Although some SaaS security is baked into the applications by the software provider, the 50 per cent increase in cloud usage for enterprises across all industries in 2020 means the number of threats have increased exponentially, according to IBM Security’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report. It found attacks directed at cloud services, particularly collaboration tools such as Office 365, have increased 630 per cent. Remote work due to the pandemic has been a big contributor to SaaS security incidents, as three quarters of survey respondents reported that discovery and recovery time from data breaches has significantly increased.

It’s not surprising that SaaS security is an increasing concern as threat actors will always go after applications, systems and tools that are popular with businesses and users—it increases the likelihood of success because for them, it’s a numbers game. The increase in attacks is a reminder that regardless of the cloud platform you choose, your provider does bring a lot to the table in terms of SaaS security. However, when you have more than one provider and multiple SaaS applications deployed, you must remember that SaaS security is a shared responsibility.

The increase in cloud and SaaS applications deployments coupled with a dramatic increase in remote workers means organizations need a framework to guide their SaaS security.

Complexity threatens SaaS security

When you have so many applications and systems in place, adequate SaaS security can be a challenge, even when cloud providers include their own security controls. Even without the uptick in remote work, endpoints have continued to grow as workers access data and applications from multiple devices from wherever is convenient for them.

With each and every worker, endpoint, and application added to the enterprise network, SaaS security becomes more susceptible to threats because the overall attack surface is larger. Because data is spread across many different applications and environments, the complexity and sprawl raises the risk of compliance and data breaches. Even before the pandemic hit, there was a growing need to bolster SaaS security as lines of business are increasingly spooling up applications as needed, independent of IT supervision—departments such as marketing, human resources, and finance all have their own SaaS applications accessing and managing critical business data and intellectual property.

Organizations may be inclined to add more and more security tools, but the more solutions you have in place, the more work there is to configure, maintain and update them. More people are needed to understand the interfaces and nuances of each and every security tool.

Without some sort of playbook or strategy, SaaS security can quickly become unmanageable.

SaaS security requires a framework and tools

It’s not realistic to have a single security solution to protect all data and applications, but your SaaS security strategy needs to be proactive, not reactive, and ensures your IT team isn’t overwhelmed by alerts from multiple dashboards.

One approach to keep your SaaS security posture robust is what research firm Gartner defines as SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM), which is part of its SaaS Security Framework. SSPM tools allow for enhanced controls to better secure SaaS applications and data through monitoring native SaaS security configurations, automation of remediation, and reporting non-compliance. The key to any good SSPM solution is the capability to assess your SaaS security posture in a manner that’s automated and customized, according to Gartner. Much like compliance, SaaS security is a continuum that requires constant monitoring and adjustment.

Although SSPM solutions add to the arsenal available for IT teams to establish strong SaaS security, adopting them and moving to a framework that allows these SSPMs to streamline processes, automate workloads and reduce demands on the IT staff do require some upfront work. While cloud providers who are delivering SaaS applications can play a role in helping to configure these solutions to secure their applications, you should consider partnering with a Managed Security Services Partner (MSSP) who can advise on your overall SaaS security, as well as implement and even manage it on an ongoing basis.

  • March 16, 2021
  • Catagory endpoints

What to look to for in an endpoint protection platform

By : Sanjeev Spolia

In the era of remote work, having a robust endpoint protection platform (EPP) in place is even more critical for maintaining network security. If you’re struggling to scale up to effectively secure each and every endpoint, you need to consider a cloud-based solution.

Even after many employees return to the office post-pandemic, a cloud-based EPP will continue to be essential for safeguarding organizations that have a great deal of remote workers because it makes it easier and more cost-effective to protect any workstation regardless of location, whether it’s desktop or laptop computer, or a smartphone or a tablet.

Prevention is just the beginning

An EPP is more than just anti-virus—it combines next-generation antivirus with more advanced security tools that leverage detection technologies such as signature matching, behavioral analytics, anomaly detection, and machine learning.

While different EPP offerings vary in features and functionality, there are a few things that should be included in any solution you may be considering. For starters, it should be able to prevent bad things from affecting your systems, such as malware and ransomware attacks, by applying behavioral analysis and machine learning to ward against file-based and fileless malware. It should also provide a great deal of endpoint control, including the ability to configure firewalls, ports, and devices.

But while prevention is table stakes in an EPP, you should be looking for more proactive capabilities if you’re to keep pace with the threats to your cybersecurity

Be more responsive

You shouldn’t just settle for comprehensive detection capabilities in an EPP. Because there are so many threat vectors to manage, you want to be able to respond automatically and effectively whenever possible.

To this end, EPP solutions are adding detection and response (EDR) capabilities so that you can detect, investigate, and remediate through automation capabilities, while also having the ability to customize the platform for your environment. Today’s EPP and EDR platforms recognize that the sheer volume of security alerts are far more than cybersecurity analysts can address without being able to automate some tasks.

Ideally, you want to streamline the number of tools implemented by your cybersecurity team—one per category is enough, although it’s fine if you want to take a best-of-breed approach rather than a single solution. However, having multiple firewall products to manage creates more problems than it solves. Open source solutions may also make sense because you can leverage the community support optimize them for more effective security. You should also keep the door open for integration with third-party solutions that add specific capabilities you need to secure your environment.

Ideally, an EPP implementation should not only improve security but also productivity of your IT staff, which is why it’s important to avoid complexity.

Simplify security with a partner

An EPP doesn’t have to be yet another costly cybersecurity implementation that must be maintained and managed. Cloud-based solutions facilitated by a managed service provider along with their team can help with detection and incident response, and even proactive activities such as hunting and penetration testing.

For smaller organizations, tapping into the expertise of a managed security services and availing itself the capabilities of a modern, cloud-based EPP can go a long way to keeping up with endpoint security requirements and mitigating the threats that come with a remote workforce.

  • February 25, 2021
  • Catagory Security

Remote work will continue to drive cloud security trends

By : Justin Folkerts

The ability to work anywhere was already driving cloud security trends before the pandemic hit, but remote work played a heightened role in 2020 and will continue to do so as employers maintain a hybrid approach to staffing—many will continue to work from home even once others return to the office.

That means many of the cloud security trends we’ve seen over the last year will continue for the foreseeable future, and the cloud will be part of the solution in securing proliferating endpoints.

More attacks

Remote work has led to more attacks and shoring up of cloud security as endpoints proliferate. Mix in adoption of 5G networks and SD WAN, and you’ve got a recipe for even more attack surfaces that look tempting to hackers. Cybersecurity teams need see every endpoint connected to the network and how they impact cloud security as users connect to public services as well as those still run on-premises and some delivered by managed service providers.

Cloud security misconfigurations

As remote work remains a reality for many employees, it unfortunately means misconfigurations of cloud security will continue to pose a risk to the organization. Easily providing access to applications and data to many users and endpoints requires a robust security strategy that enables IT teams to see all the data traffic traversing its corporate network and across various cloud services. It’s critical that they understand who is responsible for securing what, as it can differ depending on the cloud service provider while improving identity and access management adding better cloud security controls. This should include the use of multifactor authentication to protect user credentials and help to avoid common threats such as phishing attacks.

Continued reliance on VPNs

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have always been an essential tool for enabling remote work, and they will continue to be necessary to enable employees to access the corporate network securely. Provisioning, maintaining, and securing them through robust encryption will continue to be a high priority task for cybersecurity teams as relying on consumer grade VPNs downloaded by home users for personal devices present too much risk to the organization.

Security awareness training

End user behaviour has always had an impact on cloud security, but as remote work continues, organizations must make sure they put time and resources into cybersecurity awareness training from the C-level on down. Every employee, including remote workers, must understand how data breaches and other security incidents, whether caused by threat actors or honest mistakes, can disrupt business operations and the resulting consequences.

The answer is in the cloud

As much as remote work poses a threat to cloud security, the cloud is likely to provide the solution. The traditional network perimeter has arguably been long gone for years with the rise of the cloud, distributed and global workforces, and the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend that is now par for the course.

Just as many applications and data now reside in the cloud, organizations need to transition to more security being delivered via the cloud, and that includes the securing of endpoints. Cloud-delivered endpoint protection platform (EPP) will become essential for safeguarding organizations that have a great deal of remote workers, even after many employees return to the office.

EPP will make it easier for you to protect any workstation regardless of location, whether it’s desktop or laptop computer, or a smartphone or a tablet. And while this may look like yet another time-consuming and costly cybersecurity implementation that must be undertaken, it’s something an experienced managed service provider can help you to cost-effectively deploy and manage to maintain both security and availability of applications and data as remote work continues.

  • January 28, 2021
  • Catagory remote work

6 Cloud Computing Trends That Will Affect Every Business

By : Sanjeev Spolia

The move to remote work nearly a year ago accelerated cloud computing trends that were already in play. With no quick return to offices expected in 2021, businesses of all sizes should plan to prioritize further cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) investments to support distributed workforces, while being mindful six key trends.

Cloud is enabling new ways of doing business

Moving to cloud computing or SaaS offerings isn’t just about getting on the latest technology bandwagon or saving money on capital or operational expenses. The cloud enables organizations of all sizes to do business better to make employees more productive across many departments, including finance, human resources and marketing, no matter where they are located. Cloud computing and SaaS also level the playing field to allow smaller business to compete with large competitors.

Security is a critical differentiator

Even with all these productivity gains from cloud computing and SaaS, the move to remote work as heighted the need for robust security, so organizations need to set aside time, resources and attention on their security strategy as to prevent breaches and disruptions that might impede any newfound productivity or cost them revenue through lost customers who lose trust.

Not everything will be in the cloud

Even as cloud computing and SaaS continue to take off to support distributed remote workforces, hybrid environments that mix on-site computing, storage, and services with public cloud offerings from vendors such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure will become the norm, and everything will need to work together in concert, securely. Different providers will need to work together to as they each get spooled up to meet the specific requirements of different lines of business within an organization.

A spring cleaning of all compute resources
Organizations will begin to realize not everything that got migrated to the cloud needed to be moved, so even as cloud computing adoption will continue to accelerate, it’s become clearer which workloads need to be in the cloud, and which ones should be winding down, including any outdated data that goes with them, to be even more efficient and get the best bang for the buck from their cloud spend.

Training across the board: Getting the most from cloud computing while keeping it secure will mean investments in training for IT staff as well as raising the cybersecurity awareness of workers across the board as to adequately safeguard organizations as the era of remote work continues. Both cloud providers and their customers will want to make sure they’re providing both entry level knowledge of the cloud as well as creating advanced experts as a means to enable the business.

Consolidation of cloud providers
While it’s unlikely that an organization will want to put all their eggs in one basket—not all service providers are great at everything—they will want to keep the number of cloud computing environments and SaaS applications manageable. While larger enterprises will likely give most of the budget to the big players, smaller ones will likely want work with a local managed services provider that will prioritize their business and help the navigate all the emerging cloud computing deployment options and guide them on the necessary governance and security.

If 2020 was all about a mad scramble to support a remote workforce and iron out the kinks, then 2021 will be about looking to the future with new investment in cloud computing and SaaS offerings while building on the foundation that was put in place.

  • January 14, 2021
  • Catagory Security

IT teams must balance remote work productivity and security

By : Sanjeev Spolia

It’s still open for debate as to whether remote work is here to stay for everyone, or if a year from now everyone will back in the office. Reality is probably somewhere in between, which means IT teams must find a balance between security and keeping employees productive.

In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated trends already in play as better connectivity and cloud computing have made it easier for workforces to be more geographically distributed. Instead of corporate satellite offices with small teams, however, we have home-based offices of one.

IT teams need to assume that there will be at least a hybrid workforce for the foreseeable future and that security for remote work will continue to be a high priority. The trick is to keep the organization secure without impeding productivity.

Hybrid workforces work odd hours

The age of remote work is more than just applying security to more endpoints accessing the corporate network. IT teams need more management tools to support remote workers while extending support hours as employees embrace less traditional schedules to accommodate their home life. Digital workers are expected to embrace “time blocking” and “time slicing” to juggle all their commitments.

IT teams will need to bolster their own remote collaboration capabilities so members can work more efficiently with each other, but also with other departments, such as human resources to onboard new staff remotely. This includes provisioning new remote workers with corporate-issued equipment or configure their personal devices.

In addition to supporting remote work, we are likely to see a move toward “hoteling,” which is when employees book an on-site work site for a few hours or a day. These facilities must also be equipped and provisioned with connectivity and hardware, as well as maintained for cleanliness.

This hybrid workforce means IT teams must rethink how they deliver service to employees and view their relationship as partnership that supports productivity for everyone—this includes delivering a high-quality user experience that helps employees work better without compromising security.

Productivity should not compromise security

The trend toward more remote was always going to have security implications.

In the early days of the pandemic, the focus was getting employees productive at home. However, the price tag appears to have been a spike in malware incidents and other poor security behaviors. According to Wandera’s Cloud Security Report 2021, 52 per cent of organizations dealt with a malware incident in 2020 compared to 37 per cent in 2019.

The rise in incidents can be attributed to a more relaxed work environment for employees, who are likely using a single device for most of their online activities—personal and professional. Employees feel free to install whatever applications they want, whether it’s their device or one issued by the company. Adopting cloud-based and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications also impact security as lines of business spin up apps for their own uses without oversight by the IT department.

Keep security simple to enable employees

As much as remote work has created new threats for security, the solutions for IT teams aren’t all that different.

Regardless of they work, security awareness training for employees continues to be a key tool for defending against threat actors. IT teams must engage regularly with users to remind them of how they should log into applications, which applications are approved by the organization, and how they should report an incident if it occurs. Employees should understand they play a role in protecting the organization and its mission-critical business information.

If IT teams are work in partnership with users to balance remote work productivity and security, simpler is better so that any solutions implemented enable a pleasant user experience. This encourages users to follow protocols rather than bypass them because they’re seen as a barrier to getting their work done.

Sanjeev Spolia is CEO of Supra ITS

  • November 16, 2020
  • Catagory remote work

7 Ways to Make Remote Collaboration Easier For Your Teams

By : Sanjeev Spolia

If you’re still struggling to optimize remote collaboration across your now virtual organization, you’re not alone. However, it does look like it’s the new normal for the foreseeable future, so you should prioritize finding ways to improve how your team works together remotely.

There are several ways you can improve remote collaboration. Some of them involve leverage technology, but many of them also involve managing people and understanding what they need to be successful to work from home.

  1. Focus on results, not hours on a timecard: If you’re used to measuring how productive people are by seeing bums in chairs, moving to remote collaboration has probably been difficult for you. Rather than measure productivity by how many hours employees are clocking, start measuring performance based on output. If the work is getting done, you’re already closer to optimizing remote collaboration.
  2. Create a buddy system: Some employees adapt to remote work better than others, and struggle because no longer have their peers to support them in the office. Consider pairing people up with someone else in a different department with relatively the same seniority so they have someone else as a sounding board to bounce ideas, concerns and frustrations off of, and ultimately find solutions via the pairing.
  3. Be mindful of meetings: Most meetings could have been an email, and remote work doesn’t change that. Having virtual ones might look like a way to replicate the camaraderie of the office, but meetings should still be focused and organized with a clear agenda and purpose. If there’s multiple people involved, have a facilitator to keep things on track and be sure everyone comes away clear on the next steps.
  4. Check in daily: While full-blown meetings should be few and far between, take advantage of remote collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack to let everyone know what you working on that day and your pressing priorities. This enables everyone to better understand everyone else’s pressures and even step up to help if they can. It’s also a good way to structure your day so you get what you need to get done without getting sidetracked, and it’s output focused.  
  5. Streamline communications channels: More isn’t better, and like an overflowing email inbox, having too many alerts and notifications in a remote collaboration tool is counter productive. Let employees set boundaries around how connected they want to be while they work so the can be productive, but also set up a single channel everyone must subscribe to so they get the company-wide information they need on a daily basis.
  6. Get things done and be accountable: Whether it’s a next step agreed upon in a meeting or regulator best practices, it’s important to follow through on things. Keep track of commitments in a transparent way so everyone can take responsibility for what they agree to do.
  7. When in doubt, over-communicate: As much as we don’t want employees to be overwhelmed notifications, alerts and messages in remote collaboration tools, don’t assume your colleagues know what they need to now. Use your daily check in and the channels at your disposal to communicate everything you think might be valuable, as things can fall through the cracks when you don’t have daily, in-person interactions.

Full-time remote collaboration is new for most people, so at the end of the day you need to have empathy and remember that their home office environment may be different than yours. While it’s important to focus on getting things done and accountability, it’s also helpful to cut everyone a little slack during these stressful times.

  • October 29, 2020
  • Catagory remote work

Improving security for remote workers should be a priority for IT teams

By : Sanjeev Spolia

Improving security for remote workers will hopefully be an inevitable consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and despite the inherent challenges, it should be a priority for IT teams.

Recent reports by Cisco looking at the future of secure remote work and consumer privacy found that IT buyers had been caught off-guard by the sudden shift of employees working from home, but are now speeding up adoption of technologies to support remote work. A majority of the 3,000 IT decision makers surveyed by Cisco rate cybersecurity as extremely or more important than it had been before the beginning of pandemic.

Guaranteeing access, securely

The biggest challenge for all IT teams regardless of an organization’s size has been improving security for remote workers, although providing the necessary access to the applications and data they needed came first. It comes at a time when the average consumer also values security and privacy as a social and economic issue, according to Cisco.

However, the company’s own research found there was a lot of work to be done toward improving security for remote workers by IT teams as just over half were somewhat prepared for the accelerated transition earlier this year. Endpoints, including those owned by organization, were cited as being the most difficult to protect, according to the Cisco survey, followed by customer information and cloud systems  with the ability to securely control access to the enterprise network being the biggest challenge.

Improving security for remote workers will no doubt continue to be an priority for IT teams, even post-pandemic, as some employees will continue to want the flexibility of working from home and organizations see continued benefits, including cost savings on office space, by not having everyone in a traditional office environment.

Digital transformation can lead to a more secure cloud infrastructure

While IT teams are likely to see some budget increases that will specifically support improving security for remote workers, there are many initiatives that can help improve overall cybersecurity posture for organizations that are already common steps in a digital transformation journey.

If you haven’t already, you should establish a cloud security strategy that’s part of a broader transition cloud infrastructure transition. This will indirectly go toward enhancing security for remote workers while allowing IT teams to have to worry less about on-premises systems that were unprepared for the sudden shift to remote work. While putting more applications and data the cloud come with their own cybersecurity challenges, they can scale better than on-premises solutions and provide the necessary flexibility for supporting a remote workforce.

The transition to the cloud should also include embracing new tools to stay secure, recognizing that IT teams still have some responsibility for securing cloud applications and data, even as the service provider has a role in securing systems, too. IT teams need visibility into cloud infrastructure as well as their on-premises deployments in a single interface.

At the same time, IT teams should consider what experts are calling “zero-trust security strategies.” A zero-trust approach assumes all users and endpoints could present a threat to the organization, so they must be able to prove they are trusted if they are to gain access to the enterprise network, applications and data.

You can be small and secure

For smaller organizations, improving security for remote workers is just as essential but can be challenge for their IT teams. A managed services provider with experience helping small and medium-sized business with their technology infrastructure can play a key role in accelerating their adoption of solutions that can support remote workers with robust security.

Sanjeev Spolia is CEO of Supra ITS

  • October 15, 2020
  • Catagory cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Awareness is Everyone’s Responsibility, Especially in the Remote Work Era

By : Sanjeev Spolia

The shift to remote work means cybersecurity awareness across your organization is more important than ever for maintaining ongoing business operations and regulatory compliance.

Even before the pandemic, most organizations had become rather porous in nature from a network security perspective thanks to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, adoption of cloud computing, distributed locations, and an already increasingly mobile workforce. But while security technology has emerged to keep up with these trends, it’s not a silver bullet. Every employee needs a heighten level of cybersecurity awareness.

Remote work means that how an employee manages their device at their home office can have an impact on the organization’s entire network. Their cybersecurity awareness means understanding their workstation is an endpoint that must be configured properly as to contribute to the overall security posture of the organization.

Training is critical to maximize cybersecurity awareness amongst your employees, especially remote workers. But it’s easy to lose their attention if training isn’t clear and engaging. If you’re doing regular phishing tests for your employees, try to have a sense of humour with the email content you’re creating as part of the test, for example, but also make sure employees understand the lesson without being made to feel stupid.  

Cybersecurity awareness training should be done regularly as part of regular operations, and at least quarterly, rather than being big annual event, because threats to the organization are ongoing as hackers automate their processes to optimize their chance of success. You should also involve the executive team in your training, so everyone understands that cybersecurity awareness is critical to the success of the business. You might have the CEO do a short video, which is easy to share with remote workers.

The training shouldn’t be solely the responsibility of the security team, either. Lines of business leaders should help to spearhead cybersecurity awareness, and it should be a part of your remote work strategy.

It’s important to remember that cybersecurity awareness isn’t only about protecting against threat actors, malware and ransomware, and malicious data theft. Employees need to understand that good security also helps the organization stay compliant with government privacy legislation and meet regulatory obligations that apply to their industry. Data breaches not only have the potential to cripple business operations and negatively affect customers, but also lead to financial and legal penalties that can profoundly affect the long-term health of the organization.

Most people have adapted to remote work for the past seven months, but because organizations are more distributed than ever, there’s a potential for cybersecurity awareness efforts to lapse, even as be bad people around the world continue to take advantage of the new work-from-home reality. Those doing remote work as part of a connected organization must continue to be vigilant about security as part of their daily work habits.

Sanjeev Spolia is CEO of Supra ITS.

  • March 12, 2020
  • Catagory remote working

How employees can adapt to remote working

By : Sanjeev Spolia

One prescription for reducing the spread of the Coronavirus is to encourage remote working. But although working from home is par for the course for some people, many businesses and employees are used to filling chairs at the office.

Being productive at home and having the right tools to support remote workers can be a learning curve for everyone. The good news is that because many organizations already operate this anyway, there’s plenty of tools and best practices that can be adopted.

For employees, remote working not only requires the right tools, but also a change in mindset from what they’re used to. Working from home productively requires a routine, and not one size fits all. While there are many perks to working remotely, such as no longer having to spend time commuting on congested streets or on public transit, you need to continue to have work-like structure and schedule at home.

  • Have a routine: Many prefer being in an office because of the inherent structure which can be hard to maintain if you’re new to remote working. But having a schedule when you’re working from home is essential. You should start your workday at the same time you would if you were going into the office. Be sure to finish work around the same time everyday and leave it until the next day.
  • Dress appropriately: You wouldn’t wear your pajamas to the office, so it’s good practice to change into clothes while remote working to get you in the right frame of mind. You can still be comfortable, however, so jeans and a comfortable shirt is enough, much like casual Fridays at the office. The goal is to make sure you’re in work mode, not relaxation mode.
  • Set aside office space: Most freelancers and seasoned remote workers set aside a dedicated work area. It doesn’t have to be a separate space with a door that closes, just a small set up in the corner of a room or even just a laptop at the end of a kitchen or dining table. While it may be tempting to work on the couch or even in your bed, it’s harder to get into work mode if you’re too comfortable. Ultimately, figure out what works best for you.
  • Take breaks: Just as you’d want to get away from your desk at the office throughout the day, it’s important to have a change of scenery when remote working. Try not to eat in work area if possible and make a point of getting out of the house, even just to do an errand your neighborhood if you can. One of the perks of working from home is getting a few chores done during the day that normally you’d have to do in evening hours.
  • Stay in touch: If you’re used to bantering with co-workers, remote working will be a bit of a shock if you’re suddenly doing it everyday after years of going into work. If possible, use communication tools to reach out to colleagues, even if to say good morning at the beginning of the day, and have meetings using video apps if possible.

Remote working can be very productive, but it requires the right mindset, especially if you’re not used to it. Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, telecommuting was on the rise, which means employees need to adapt and organizations must have the tools in place to support them—we’ll talk about those next time.