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The hybrid work model calls for a rethink of businesses’ security strategy

Security is an even greater concern in the context of remote working, as the attack surface area for cybercrime has increased considerably while the rate of malware (phishing and ransomware etc.) attacks has increased dramatically both in scale and sophistication.
Security is an even greater concern in the context of remote working, as the attack surface area for cybercrime has increased considerably while the rate of malware (phishing and ransomware etc.) attacks has increased dramatically both in scale and sophistication. (Pixabay)

Remote working has dissolved the concept of a perimeter, as more users today are located outside the enterprise. Traditional security models based on defined data center perimeters may no longer meet the current needs of the workforce.

The past year has turned almost every business on its head, leading to a rise in remote working and wider digital transformation initiatives. IT teams have worked hard to ensure that the backend infrastructure is available and secure at all times. Today, even as the proliferation of vaccines grant us the hope of returning to normal, independent surveys have revealed that most people do not want to go back to physical offices. Working from home as an alternative working model is here to stay, so the Workplace Revolution is well and truly upon us.

In the future, a hybrid workforce may be the preferred model and will force organisations to completely reexamine not only the way they work, but also to ensure that they have the right support infrastructure to deliver IT services. In the early days of the pandemic, IT teams hurriedly scrambled together disparate point solutions to enable remote access for the hybrid workforce. Traditional legacy-based systems were never designed for rapid scalability, or for delivering an optimised customer experience. Enterprises also have to contend with the huge growth in multi-cloud environments, which means that the task of keeping data and users secure is now more complex than ever before.

The importance of SASE

Remote working has dissolved the concept of a perimeter, as more users today are located outside the enterprise. Traditional security models based on defined data center perimeters may no longer meet the current needs of the workforce. Security policies have to evolve and adapt with this new reality, and help enterprises apply consistent rules, irrespective of where users are located. This change in the workplace calls for a converged cloud-delivered secure access service that global technological research and advisory firm Gartner describes as SASE (Secure Access Service Edge).

SASE, according to Gartner, combines network security functions (e.g., Secure Web Gateway, Cloud Access Service Broker, Firewall as a Service, and Zero Trust Network Access), with WAN capabilities (i.e., SD-WAN) to support the dynamic secure access needs of organisations. These capabilities are delivered primarily as a service and are based on the identity of the entity, real-time context, and security or compliance policies. By 2024, Gartner expects at least 40% of enterprises will have explicit strategies to adopt SASE in response to the rise in remote working, up from less than 1% at year-end 2018.

In a scenario where workforces are distributed across various locations, a SASE architecture identifies users and devices, applies policy-based security, and delivers secure access to the appropriate application or data. This approach allows organisations to apply secure access no matter where their users, applications, or devices are located.

Some key benefits of a SASE model include:

Zero trust: A zero-trust approach removes trust assumptions when users, devices, and applications connect. A SASE solution will provide complete session protection whether a user is on or off the corporate network

Flexibility: With a cloud-based infrastructure, enterprises can implement and deliver security services such as threat prevention, web filtering, sandboxing, DNS security, credential theft prevention, data loss prevention, and next-generation firewall policies. Additionally, with a cloud infrastructure, enterprises can easily connect to wherever resources are located. For a distributed workforce, this is extremely important as access to apps and corporate data is available globally.

Reduced complexity: Enterprises can simplify their IT infrastructure by minimising the number of security products their IT team has to manage, update, and maintain by consolidating the security stack into a cloud-based network security service model.

Cost savings: Instead of buying and managing multiple point products, utilising a single platform, delivered as a Cloud Service, will dramatically reduce costs and the number of resources required to support the IT infrastructure

Complete protection: Implementing data protection policies within a SASE framework helps prevent unauthorised access and abuse of sensitive data. Additionally, with full content inspection integrated into a SASE solution, enterprises benefit from more security and visibility into their networks.

The hybrid workforce model is becoming the new reality, so organisations must carefully consider key technologies and approaches that will help secure their remote working strategies. With the ability to apply a consistent security policy across all locations and environments - physical, virtual, or cloud- and with lower operational and administrative overheads, SASE can be used to help enterprises deliver secure access as the world of work is forever reimagined.

This article has been written by Peter Molloy, Director, SASE Sales & Go-to-Market, Japan & Asia Pacific, Palo Alto Networks

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