Industry Trends

Strategies for Protecting and Enabling the Remote Workforce

By Fortinet | July 22, 2020

This is a summary of an article written for CNBC by Phil Quade, CISO at Fortinet. The entire article can be accessed here

The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with a unique, double-pronged view of change. It is both reshaping and redefining how business gets done, enabled by the trajectory of digital transformation that began long before COVID-19 forced organizations to rethink their strategies for the purpose of business continuity. This has been most notably demonstrated by the sudden and rapid shift to telecommuting, a concept that has become quintessential to 2020.  

Although it may not be perceived as the “electronic Pearl Harbor” (a 90s-era term signifying a high-impact cybersecurity event) that helps marshal businesses to revolutionize how we architect the security of networks, the expansion of the remote workforce could be the catalyst for change that leads us to a more advanced position. In these difficult times, our intensified focus on cybersecurity stands out as an upside to the pandemic. 

Elevating Cybersecurity Agility and Resiliency Amid Difficult Times

Before the pandemic, some organizations had already begun to adjust their security strategies to enable a shift to remote work. While they may have not foreseen this current crisis, their understanding of the need for an effective business continuity plan, and the inevitable changes being brought about by digital innovation led them to rethink what networks and a digital workforce look like in the 21st century.

This included bolstering the network edge, something which has faced increased risk ever since the prioritization of mobility, IoT, and 5G. For these prescient organizations, the foundation was already in place to meet the challenges of the distributed workforce being faced today. But for those that did not, it took a large-scale event to realize that the nature of work has already been fundamentally redefined, and that the great shift is happening now, not later. 

While this transition certainly presents some new risks, they should not serve as a roadblock. Instead, they should also inspire a new vision for cybersecurity that accelerates the pivot to this new paradigm. This shift is essential. By failing to seize the moment now, organizations could negatively affect their future cybersecurity posture, along with their ability to compete in the digital marketplace, without even realizing it. 

Below are a few of the measures that companies should take to help them adapt and grow amid this shift. 

Ensure Alignment of Business Processes: To enable a secure remote workforce, organizations must align business processes such as finance and HR with best practices around communication privacy and authentication. These processes should also align with cultural processes that promote effective communication in an agile, trust-based environment.

Fund Necessary Cybersecurity Costs by Leveraging Savings: Permanently shifting a portion of the workforce from centralized offices to home offices will help reduce capital costs like climate control, office infrastructure, and rent or building loans. These cost savings can then be used to fund the necessary technology and cybersecurity costs associated with the “new normal” of managing an expansive remote workforce. 

Ensure Your Cybersecurity Architecture Can Support this New Business Architecture: When building or updating network architectures, things like data privacy, integrity, and confidentiality need to be kept top of mind. And these values need to be applied across the network, not just for remote workers. That’s because business applications and workflows need to span from the endpoint to the core network to the company’s “distributed edge” in the cloud. And securing this distributed environment requires cybersecurity solutions that are both integrated and automated

Enjoy the Benefits of Telecommuting: There are countless benefits to enabling a remote workforce and adopting a secure network strategy to support it. The carbon footprint of organizations will be reduced when fewer workers are commuting, and the talent pool will only grow when the search is widened to include those who might not live near the physical headquarters. Finally, by supporting secure flexible work options, organizations can strengthen employee loyalty through the alignment of business goals and user experience with personal quality-of-life goals. 

The Future of Remote Workforce is Now

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for organizations, but amidst the disruption many have found new ways to conduct business while protecting their remote workforce. The best practices listed above encompass this shift, prioritizing an investment in employees, business processes, and the architectures that will be relied upon for sustained growth and success. But as your company works to adjust to this new normal, keep in mind the chief message of these events: the future is now, not tomorrow.  

Discover how Fortinet Teleworker Solutions enable secure remote access at scale to support employees with a wide array of access requirements.