COVID-19 pandemic causes massive shift in work styles
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As the shelter-in-place orders spread across the country and around the world, it has placed a huge burden on businesses of all sizes and the service providers that serve them and millions of their customers around the globe. While a massive shift to working from home is an obvious consequence of these orders, it has likely taken most by surprise as bandwidth requirements skyrocketed within a few short weeks. At the very same time, we are grappling with the reality of schools being closed, in-person events being cancelled and social distancing becoming the new black.
It has been a shock to say the least.
How do businesses cope?
The global crisis is affecting organisations in many different ways. We’re not dealing with the more anticipated worldwide spikes in internet use caused by the World Cup or the Olympics for which service providers can plan. In fact, streaming services are being asked to throttle their services back so the internet doesn’t “break” now that consumers are not only home working but home gaming and watching programs. And business services like video conferencing and SaaS applications are experiencing unprecedented use for work, school work and connecting with others.
For businesses facing these issues, it’s critical that your application services can meet the new levels of demand. Can you handle peak loads or does infrastructure need to be upgraded? Can cloud-bursting help alleviate the challenges caused by dramatic spikes in use? Can traffic or web workloads be split to quickly deploy new virtual application delivery instances for failover and continuity?
What about staffing shortages when employees must shelter-in-place or worse, fall ill? In these types of scenarios, it’s critical that your infrastructures employ automation and cross-infrastructure visibility via a Polynimbus secure application services strategy.
We have already seen customers in the financial services, education and technology sectors having to pivot rapidly to fortify their infrastructures as millions of workers go home.
Protecting the network from attacks
If early reports are any indication, cyber attackers are finding renewed motivation and new targets to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. These days, attackers may find themselves with extra time on their hands.
Business resources are more essential than ever to help keep us connected. All sectors: technology (including all of those apps providing delivery services), education and especially those critical sectors like government, financial services and healthcare must be protected to ensure this conduit is uninterrupted when everything else is.
Embracing artificial intelligence/machine learning and automation can help find known and unknown attacks in real-time. Combining these capabilities with actionable threat intelligence is especially important with the ongoing shortage in security expertise. This may become compounded by the disruption to personnel for COVID-19 preparedness.
Will the pandemic speed the adoption of 5G?
There are mixed indicators as to whether the pandemic will speed the adoption or slow it down due to the global economic fall-out. However, one thing is for certain, shelter-in-place orders are having a dramatic impact on how people are connecting with each other. What were once in-person exercise classes, religious services and cocktail hours are moving to virtual. As Terry Young explains in her blog post about the adoption of 5G in the time of a pandemic, service providers are, to no surprise, experiencing a surge in network traffic. 5G has the potential to make these virtual connections better with its promised ultra-reliable low-latency capability.
What must service providers consider during these times? Do you have sufficient IP addresses in your IPv4 or IPv6 pools and sufficient capacity to handle the increased demand in traffic and subscribers? Is your network protected against DDoS attacks? Can you effectively steer more critical services or temporarily give them higher priority?
Many service providers, such as Vodafone, are augmenting capacity to meet the higher peak traffic demand.
Preventing cyber foul play
Not surprisingly, cyber criminals are using the global crisis to launch new attacks at new targets. Since the start of the pandemic in late 2019, we have seen different attacks, ranging from attackers targeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) to steal information to mass phishing email and spam campaigns targeting remote workers. We have even seen cases where cybercriminals are launching websites with domain names related to Coronavirus and COVID-19, exploiting people’s curiosity or worry to eventually launch ransomware attacks.
Now, more than ever, organisations must take a “trust nobody” approach to security. As Babur Khan explains in his blog post about preventing cyber attacks, organisations of all kinds must take a Zero Trust approach. Make sure that no user has access to data that they don’t depend on for their day-to-day functions. Restrict access as much as possible. Ensure that you have visibility into all your users, traffic, data and workloads and that you have uniform security policies applied across all locations to make sure no security loopholes exist
We are in the midst of a global event such as we have not seen in recent memory. It is requiring all of us to retool, revamp and readjust again and again. It is a time to re-evaluate your critical infrastructure and security practices to ensure they are fortified to the level required for the network traffic and cyber attacks we are experiencing and will continue to experience in the months ahead.
By Gunter Reiss, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at A10 Networks