Back in March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was still in its early stages and most people expected to return to work within a few weeks, corporate IT security teams were overwhelmed by the rapidly shifting priorities and challenges that a suddenly remote workforce presented. In fact, by some accounts, the best description for those early weeks was “survival mode,” simply trying to get everyone up-to-speed and ensure they had access to the tools and information they needed to be productive from home.
Now, more than six months into the pandemic, many security teams have gotten their feet back under them — and many companies have already announced that they plan to continue remote work well into the middle of 2021. Despite the initial frenzy dying down, though, there are still security issues to be concerned about. One of those concerns? Endpoint Security.
The Challenges of Endpoint Security During COVID-19
In April 2020, just over a month after lockdowns began when most people were already working from home, Gartner Research released a report detailing the seven areas that IT security needed to focus on to successfully navigate the pandemic. Among those priorities was endpoint security.
As the Gartner team pointed out, the rapid shift to remote work in many organizations meant that there wasn’t enough time in most cases for the security teams to implement their typical security protocols on devices that would be used at home. Further complicating matters was the fact that many companies relaxed their security policies to allow employees to use personal devices to access corporate networks and cloud platforms. The prevailing sentiment across organizations was to get everyone up and working and then worry about the details.
The problem, of course, is every endpoint is a potential access point for malicious actors. With so many potentially unprotected endpoints, it’s more challenging than ever to manage zero-day attacks, fileless attacks, and malware. With that in mind, IT security needs to change its approach to thinking about and implementing endpoint security.
Endpoint Security in the “New Normal”
Prior to the pandemic, endpoint security was easier for security to manage. Deploying security tools onsite is easier than doing so remotely. It was easier to restrict access to the network when there was more control over who was working where.
With people working from home, though, and in some cases using personal devices, that control had to be relinquished to an extent. And if a threat did somehow make it through, it was easier for teams to work in real-time to extinguish it by reimaging compromised machines. Remote working — especially given that most security teams are also working from home — has reduced or even eliminated some of the most effective means of dealing with imminent threats.
Variations in employee connections also hinder remote security operations. In the office, everyone shares the same connection, and fixes can be deployed quickly. Working from home means everyone is working at different speeds. This can lead to annoying lags in video conferencing at best but thwart security remediation efforts at worst.
Therefore, uncovering new approaches to endpoint security is a must as part of the new normal. Implementing advanced protection solutions that are capable of responding to ever-evolving threats is the first part of that plan. It’s also important that data endpoint tools remain active even when the computers are offline. This requires using a solution that’s applied directly to the endpoint and doesn’t rely on a continuous internet connection to remain active.
Controlling which devices can access the network is another important part of endpoint security. Applying device controls to machines can limit or block peripheral devices that haven’t been approved by IT. USB drives, for instance, are a common source of malware and access point for attacks, so insisting that only protected devices be used will help protect your network.
How Employees Can Help With Endpoint Security
Individuals are also a key part of any endpoint security solution. Training and education regarding cybersecurity don’t stop simply because employees are working from home. If anything, the need for diligence has only increased.
On the individual level, protecting endpoints can include a number of strategies, including :
- Requiring token-based two-factor authentication for access to the cloud
- Implementing device-level encryption solutions, including encryption software
- Updating employees on the signs of phishing and other cyberattacks
- Requiring the use of VPNs
- Updating password requirements
There’s no doubt that the security landscape will continue to evolve as we move into 2021 and the next phases of pandemic response. However, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and IT security needs to evolve as well to stay ahead of the new and increasing threats.
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