The work location of information workers has been increasingly moving outside the physical perimeter of businesses since the beginning of the Internet.   Historically, organizations implemented Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections for remote workers using company supplied and controlled laptops to support remote offsite work.   Over the past 20 years, workers increasingly started using personal smartphones and personal laptops/computers for business purposes.   At the same time, the location of the business applications, compute power and storage has shifted to the cloud.   The movement of workers outside the business network and the cloud migration of the digital functions of the business has created an increase in security vulnerabilities.   And as they say in the information security world, the attack surface for businesses has expanded.

Today, there is a lot of discussion and some fear about the likelihood that businesses will require workers to work from home or employees decide to self-isolate themselves because of the COVID-19 pandemic.   A sudden dramatic increase in attack surface creates a great opportunity for entrepreneurial cyber-criminals and enemy states.   There is some good news.   Over the past 5 years, a number of security solutions have come to the market to balance the playing field.   The solutions all have new-age thinking about how to protect businesses when employees are remote, possibly using their own mobile devices and business applications are split between those hosted by businesses and those that are in the cloud.  

A Virtual Perimeter

We no longer live in a world where the primary defense was the walls of a castle.   To address this, some companies like Zscaler, Cisco, Symantec, McAfee and iBoss started have developed a new virtual firewall for the business.   They move the perimeter of the company network to the cloud and control what information traffic moves from workstations and mobile devices to their information applications.   They can allow businesses to filter the sites that these devices can reach and some can examine the data looking for malware and intercept it before it reaches any business device or application.   They create a virtual perimeter.   These virtual firewalls can be augmented with integrated user authentication to ensure that only those with the appropriate rights can get close to the business systems or files.   Some solutions like Netskope, Cloudflare, and Cato Networks extend security functions to prevent sensitive data and classified data loss.  

Your business should be re=thinking how to protect information assets and workers wherever they are in good times and during pandemics.   It is time to rethink where the perimeter is and what needs to be protected.   In some cases, it may be possible to begin thinking of the office as just another remote work locations and shift security investment to protect the center of work – the worker.  

Write me if you’d like to discuss this new thinking about security architecture.

Barry Weber – [email protected]

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