Solving the Network Security Issues Associated with Remote Working

Klaus Gheri, vice president and general manager of network security at Barracuda Networks, examines the rise of new attack vectors and cybersecurity challenges.

The security landscape afflicting businesses across the UK has never looked so different. Digital transformation initiatives, public cloud adoption and remote working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have given rise to new attack vectors and cybersecurity challenges.

Our recent report, titled “The State of Network Security in 2021”, observed the current challenges relating to the pandemic and digital transformation, identified the new risks businesses are facing, and identified the solutions that are most effective in defeating attacks, protecting networks, and supporting a hybrid work model.

The Challenge

A study, which looked into 100 UK IT decision makers about their organisation’s networking, public cloud, and security unveiled some revealing facts about the current threatscape facing their network security. For example, more than two-thirds (70%) of UK businesses have been the victim of a successful network security attack in the last year, and 65% have been the victim of at least one ransomware attack in the last month.

Ransomware, incidentally, has emerged as one of the most problematic and damaging attack vectors affecting businesses across a range of sectors, and the attack form is disproportionately targeting industries which are typically perceived to contain the most valuable data on its company servers. This includes organisations in education, public sector and finance, for example.

In fact, 84% of IT decision makers globally are concerned about ransomware gaining access to unmanaged devices. Similarly 75% are concerned about the security risks associated with the use of certain SaaS applications, and 83% are concerned about data leakage caused by the use of SaaS applications.

It is worrying then, that one third (34%) of UK companies do not issue company devices, and instead operate a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, and an additional 43% of companies do issue company devices, but still allow BYOD for some use cases such as email. What’s more, remote working is set to continue, with over nine in ten (94%) IT decision makers revealing that the majority of their workforce are likely to continue remote working for at least one or two days a week. 34% will even remain working from a remote environment on a full time basis.

Not only can remote working reduce IT decisions makers’ visibility on endpoints associated with an organisation’s network, it is also causing IT pains that interfere with productivity.

Almost three quarters of users (70%) said that they experience slow running of applications, dropped calls (65%), poor voice quality (64%), and poor video quality (65%), and only 30% said they never experience any of those problems when working from home.

The Solution

To help overcome work-from-home challenges, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) technologies are being prioritised to prevent security breaches and overcome work from home challenges. In fact, 97% of UK IT decision makers have already deployed or plan to deploy SASE technology such as Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

An SD-WAN is a cost-effective alternative to dedicated network connections and MPLS infrastructures, and is currently the most popular SASE solution of choice, with 49% of organisations worldwide having already deployed it to secure networks whilst bolstering connectivity. What’s more, 47% have plans to deploy this solution in the future.

For comparison, 43% have deployed ZTNA technology to provide secure remote access to applications, data and services based on clearly defined access control policies, and a significant 53% plan to do so in the future.

Both ZTNA and SD-WAN technologies are designed to support cloud environments, which explains the high uptake, and interestingly, a majority of companies with all apps in the public cloud have already deployed SD-WAN (73%) and ZTNA (68%). This is twice as many as companies with only a few apps in the public cloud (37% for SD-WAN, and 36% for ZTNA), marking them as the clear solutions of choice for organisations looking to bolster their public cloud network security whilst optimising network connectivity.

There is no doubt that work-from-home is here to stay, and IT departments will need to support a hybrid environment that enables employees to work from home and from the office.

Even though company devices are often issued, and broadband connection has improved, remote workers have undoubtedly had to experience IT pains, such as slow applications, or poor video qualities.

Organisations are starting to realise that moving SaaS applications to the public cloud improves the user experience, and new technologies are available to support cloud presence and improve security.

These days, organisations are choosing cloud-native SASE solutions to help them take full advantage of SASE deployments. With a bit of luck these investments are going to help organisations better adapt to the new work environment and thrive going forward.

By Klaus Gheri, vice president and general manager of network security, Barracuda Networks.

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