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Securing the remote workforce

Westcon-Comstor press office

Few companies could have anticipated the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on operations. With many countries in Africa and around the world locking down all non-essential businesses and services, decision-makers have been placed in the unenviable position to ensure employees can continue working as securely and effective as possible from home.

Not all industries have this luxury, making the pressure even more significant to create an enabling environment for those information workers able to do so. Even though the virtual workplace is not a new concept, the scale at which it is happening is unprecedented. The focus now has shifted to the efficacy of digital transformation projects and how companies can ensure their employees stay safe and remain connected to the business.

New demands

“This surge in remote workers has resulted in new demands placed on the systems and processes that drive data accessibility. It is now up to IT security teams to ensure those employees are protected irrespective of the device they use. This is critical if the integrity of the data environment is to be maintained. It also means that this [secure] access must extend beyond the devices and include the applications and other critical resources, whether in the cloud or in an on-premise environment.

An organisation must therefore be able to verify the identity of users, establish device trust, and provide access to important resources from remote locations. Additionally, the protection of these employees and devices must extend to whether they are on or off the corporate network,” says Kennedy Kariuki, Product Manager at Comstor Africa.

Consider a traditional approach to security. This starts by enabling employees to securely connect to the company with a virtual private network (VPN). Multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of protection. Unfortunately, most corporate users bypass the VPN when working remotely, thereby negating any potential security benefits.

To address this, Cisco has seen companies requesting DNS-layer security as the means to safeguard users more effectively. So much so, that demand for licences of the Cisco Umbrella cloud-native platform has increased by 100%.

Cisco Umbrella protects users from malicious internet destinations, whether they are on or off the network. Because it is delivered from the cloud, Umbrella makes it easy to protect users everywhere in minutes. From its side, Cisco has created a free 60-day trial available for this solution to help deliver a more secure environment for companies across the continent.

Clearly, the new working reality requires a more straightforward and easier way to deliver remote security that matches the speed and scale of the business. Now it is about unifying user and device protection at scale using solutions capable of integrating into a more secure whole.

Reimagining security

Such an approach flies in the ways of complex solutions and procedures that do not account for the usability aspect of security. After all, what good is it for employees to remotely access data but the restrictions put in place make this all but unusable? The same can be said for videoconferencing solutions.

Even though there are several freely available tools available, the recent exposure of significant security holes in one such offering means companies must consider going with a more tried and test partner in this regard. For example, the Cisco Webex platform protects user information without compromising on the features required to host video calls and still collaborate on documents.

So, even though nobody can say for sure what the future world of work will look like following the COVID-19 pandemic, security will remain of paramount importance to ensure data and employees wherever they access the corporate network from being protected.

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