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The Future of Work Has Changed, and Your Security Mindset Needs to Follow

VPNs have become a vulnerability that puts organizations at risk of cyberattacks.

When businesses first sent employees to work from home in March 2020 — thinking it'd only be for two weeks — they turned to quick fixes that would enable remote work for large numbers of people as quickly as possible. While these solutions solved the short-term challenge of allowing distributed workforces to connect to a company's network from anywhere, they're now becoming a security vulnerability that is putting organizations at risk of growing cyberattacks.

Now that almost two years have passed and work has fundamentally shifted, with fully or hybrid remote environments here to stay, business and security leaders need solutions that better fit their unique and increasingly complex needs. In fact, a new survey from Menlo Security has found that 75% of organizations are reevaluating their security strategies for remote employees, exemplifying that accommodating remote work is a top priority for the majority of business leaders.

To successfully manage the risks that distributed workforces entail, leaders must shift their mindset away from the hub-and-spoke approach of providing connectivity to the entire network, instead segmenting access by each individual private application, wherever it is deployed, as threats of cyberattacks loom across all industries. As organizations grapple with the added security challenges that remote and hybrid work environments bring, adopting a zero-trust approach will be critical for end-to-end network and endpoint protection.

Move Away From VPNs
Many businesses claim they are confident in their remote access security, yet the survey mentioned above also found that 75% of these organizations are still relying on virtual private networks (VPNs) for controlling remote access to applications. This is a problem. VPNs are an inherently insecure way of doing things, as they open access to everything on a network — meaning that as little as one person falling for a phishing scam could potentially put an entire network at risk of a cyber or ransomware attack. And with employees working from anywhere and everywhere for the foreseeable future, this is a risk that organizations can no longer be willing to take.

On top of the innate risks that VPNs hold, they are also difficult to manage at scale. Instead, business leaders should consider adopting a global cloud security platform that removes the burden of hardware management and offers elastic scalability for remote network access. Solutions that not only provide connectivity to applications but can secure the communication between the end user and the private application will remove potential security blind spots and enable an organization to protect the application and data from misuse.

Adopt a Zero-Trust Approach
While the zero-trust framework is not new, it is gaining steam across the public and private sectors, with the Biden administration encouraging all security leaders to adopt zero-trust-first strategies. According to the survey, more than a third of organizations are already pursuing some form of a zero-trust approach to providing remote access. This growing trend signals that the security industry is beginning to understand that it must move toward solutions that leave nothing to chance by preventing and isolating threats, rather than reacting to them after they strike and potentially cause irreversible damage.

Zero-trust network access provides users with access only to applications and resources that are needed to do their job. Adopting this approach across an entire organization can change your whole security mindset and better protect your organization from attackers by ensuring full confidence in the entire network, from top to bottom — allowing your business to get ahead of modern threats by eliminating them. And while no single solution can provide all components needed for a fully baked zero-trust approach, you can prioritize which elements your organization needs most and build your customized security strategy from there.

As we prepare for the new future of work, one thing is certain: Fully embracing remote work means securing it. The Internet has become the new corporate network, and regulating employee access to private applications is more important now than ever. To best protect organizations moving forward, business leaders need to evolve their thinking from providing connectivity to the entire network to segmenting access by each individual application. They need to invest in solutions that will scale with their business and ensure protection 24/7. By adopting a zero-trust approach appropriate for your business, you will enable seamless, secure access between end users and the applications they are authorized to use, while all other applications are essentially invisible — preventing lateral discovery and closing a backdoor across the network.