What a hybrid workforce in 2021 means for your security and data strategy

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Many workplaces spent 2020 suddenly working from the home. With this large shift to a remote workplace, many organisations were able to witness first-hand the ability to maintain productivity even when geographically dispersed.

Where previously there had been a fear that separating the workforce would create a variety of insurmountable problems, 2020 showed us that the people are sufficiently adaptable and motivated to keep working even through tough times.

This year, many organisations have started to bring staff back to the office, at least part-time. But with people accustomed to a new kind of work-life routine, these new habits and behaviours have given rise to the so-called “hybrid workforce”. This is where staff work regularly split their time between home and office and have the agility to decide not only where, but when they work. This gives staff the flexibility to fit work around the rest of their lives, rather than fitting their lives around work.

And it appears the hybrid workforce is here to stay. Research from Radware shows that 83 per cent of C-level executives expect the changes they made in the areas of people, processes, and applications as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to become permanent. Meanwhile, a global study conducted by Lenovo showed 52 per cent of workers want to continue to work from home more than they did pre-COVID-19, even after social distancing is eased.

Data Security

Despite the apparent success of this kind of hybrid workforce, there remain challenges that need to be overcome before it completely enables secure and effective collaboration for employees.

Key among these is the aspect of data security. Covid-19 triggered an avalanche of cloud migrations as business pushed apps and infrastructure to the cloud to quickly shift operations out of office. 76 per cent of companies adopted cloud services faster than they had planned.

At the same time, a McAfee Labs COVID-19 threat report found that threats against cloud services increased by 630 per cent over the course of the pandemic thus far. Attackers are now using credentials uncovered via phishing campaigns to exploit the anonymous, decentralised nature of cloud applications. The focus has shifted from IT infrastructure and hackers are exploiting employees.

To secure data and devices, businesses need to maintain a 360-degree view of devices, to keep them protected from all threats. Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all app, system or service that will fully protect your devices, you need make sure that there is interoperability and integration between your security solutions.

While this might feel like an added layer of complexity, the overlapping areas of protection provided by multiple solutions will keep your employees data and devices better protected.

Data Diffusion

With traditional approaches to cyber-security not applicable in a hybrid workforce, organisations need to protect remote and mobile users consuming cloud apps outside the protection of your business network.

As data is shared across encrypted internal, external, and third-party accounts, it’s easy for businesses to lose sight of what is being sent and where it’s going. Threats from the cloud are multiple and add another potential angle for bad actors to conduct phishing and ransomware attacks on unsuspecting businesses.

That threat is forcing organisations to look at holistic security solutions that protect across SaaS, IaaS, and the web.

Cloud-Native Security

Migration to a cloud-native security solution can deliver a significant risk reduction and an improvement to user experience, with relatively low effort.

Adopting cloud-native next-generation gateways grant businesses the ability to control web access, provide data and threat protection, and decode thousands of cloud services and apps to provide extensive policy control.

Data-centric cloud security protects you across managed and unmanaged cloud services, apps, and web traffic. All while it continuously assesses public cloud instances for possible data exposure.

Protection Anywhere, Everywhere

Many companies reacted quickly and provisioned staff with the technology they needed while maintaining support for customers. But being reactive only works in the short term. Businesses need to work on a long-term plan that provides security to employees and protects data and devices in a new and vulnerable location.

The time has come for a more strategic approach to security as companies settle into new hybrid workforces that support remote work.

Get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you to govern, secure and protect your mobile workforce.