For technology leaders around the world, one of the silver linings of the pandemic was that it acted as an accelerant for digital transformation. While the disruption was mercifully temporary, some of the coping mechanisms deployed by businesses to get through it are likely to persist as we emerge into a post-pandemic landscape. One of those mechanisms is hybrid working, which has now had the chance to prove its worth in the biggest remote working experiment in history.
According to the latest figures, more than two-thirds of business leaders are now planning to reconfigure their office space to accommodate hybrid working permanently and 73% of employees say they want flexible, remote work options to stay as a condition of their employment. The imperative is there and businesses are already making adjustments to their physical and digital infrastructure, but what about security?
Network security in the new normal
The shift to remote networking over the course of the past 24 months has been nothing short of profound. Nonetheless, the rapid move to remote-enabled working has been driven by necessity rather than natural innovation within the market and that means some businesses are not adequately prepared in terms of their security setup. Remote user access has become the new normal, offering greater agility and arguably better productivity, but that means legacy security solutions like static firewalls and basic VPNs (virtual private networks) are no longer fit for purpose.
Organisations are now “hyper distributed”, with applications everywhere and networks branching off in all directions. Some may have embraced SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking) as a means of efficiently routing traffic and increasing the QoE (quality of experience) for users, but even SD-WAN on its own has security limitations that need to be separately addressed.
Given the sheer pace of change, it is understandable that businesses would prioritise productivity over network security in the short term, but that short-term fix is now blending into a long-term solution and businesses need to re-evaluate their security as a result. Traditionally, a patchwork approach to security has led to a disparate array of siloed solutions, from email and browser security, right through to WAAP (web app and API protection), firewall-as-a-service, remote-access VPNs and more. The challenge now is to consolidate these multiple product points in a unified and cohesive security package and that’s where SASE comes in.
The continued rise of SASE network security
Secure Access Service Edge (or SASE) has been quietly reframing how large organisations handle their security for years, but it is only since the mass shift to hybrid working that it has become relevant for nearly all businesses. What SASE does is converge security and network technologies into a single, cloud-delivered platform that is easy to scale and that facilitates rapid cloud transformation.
Geographical borders and physical spaces are becoming less relevant to today’s businesses, so it makes no sense for network security to be centralised in the traditional sense. With SASE, security is moved closer to the edge where applications, users and end-points are located, resulting in an agile, unified, low-latency solution that puts user experience, network performance and network security on an equal footing. The next step is for businesses to connect the security solutions that exist across users and devices in order to eliminate any potential security gaps.
Combining SASE with advanced threat prevention
Even when rolling out a SASE solution, businesses need to be mindful of their overall security posture. The more distributed its users and the more devices that connect remotely, the greater the potential attack surface area for threat actors. Keeping this attack surface limited and protected is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. Check Point’s 2022 Workforce Security Report refers to this as the “remote-access security gap”, in which 70% of organisations allow access to corporate applications from personal devices. According to the report, only 5% of businesses use all of the recommended remote access security settings when preparing to facilitate hybrid working.
What’s more, these challenges are emerging at one of the worst possible times for businesses, with cyber-attacks against corporate networks increasing dramatically. As well as thinking about centralised networks, businesses now have to consider things like endpoint resilience, their vulnerability to mobile-related attacks, remote working security policies and even how well applications such as Office 365 or G-Suite are protected in real-time.
Check Point Harmony is the industry’s first truly unified SASE security solution with a core focus on threat detection and prevention. Not only does it ensure zero-trust access, it’s powered by an advanced real-time threat intelligence platform that can protect devices and internet connections from the most sophisticated cyber-attacks. Instead of stitching together security solutions to cover various endpoints and channels, Harmony unifies clientless connectivity, endpoint security, email security, internet browsing, mobile security and remote VPN access, under a single, unified umbrella. The result is that sensitive data and users are protected whether at home, in the office or on the move, regardless of how they log on or what device they use.
By Ram Narayanan, Country Manager, Check Point Software Technologies, Middle East