Many organisations have been considering a network transformation initiative to support the adoption of SaaS, cloud-based applications, and an increasingly remote workforce. Given the connectivity needs of a remote workforce – and knowing a hybrid workforce is here to stay – many IT teams have had to make sudden changes in the way workers connect to corporate systems that could introduce new cyber risks and vulnerabilities.  

When developing a security strategy for supporting a hybrid workforce, it is essential to identify risks, as well as any potential blind spots. As CISOs embark on their transformational journeys, identifying these areas of weakness should be the top priority.  Keeping business data safe everywhere is crucial to enabling employees to work anywhere. However, enforcing the same policies consistently from the endpoint, network, web, and cloud requires a new approach.  

Cloud dominance 

For instance, cloud vulnerabilities and misconfigurations continue to be a concern, particularly as the demand for more cloud integration has increased. This has led to CISOs shifting how they approach protecting the corporate perimeter with additional controls and monitoring tools being used to scan any access to the network. Security leaders are beginning to understand that legacy detection tools that would have traditionally been used for data centres, do not extend to the cloud which is why a shift in strategy is required. As a result, identifying and remediating cloud system vulnerabilities and misconfiguration errors is a top priority for the modern CISO when protecting the remote workforce. 

Security landscape requires adaptation 

Keeping up with security threat landscape is another area in which CISOs have had to adapt. Hackers have evolved in their tactics to evade detection while using techniques that require less effort and reap a higher reward. Their end result is to obtain money or steal sensitive data which normally involves ransomware schemes, state-sponsored methods or just nefarious individuals looking to make a name for themselves in the online underworld. Either way, they are more devious and better equipped than 12 months ago. Cybercrime has become commercialised, with many cybercriminals selling their tools, stolen details and ransomware kits across the dark web which is giving easy access for others to replicate and cause more disruption.  

With the ability to launch cyberattacks more quickly with little effort, we are witnessing CISOs and security teams adopting a proactive mindset to cybersecurity. This approach helps to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of threats, especially those targeting workers who are outside the traditional perimeter and are accessing corporate files remotely. 

Those that are not taking a proactive stance are at risk as even the most sophisticated defence strategies will become ineffective if they’re not regularly tested and kept current. While being able to mimic human behaviour with artificial intelligence, hackers are outpacing many organisations when it comes to the technology and hacking techniques used to attack them. 

Other security initiatives to leverage 

The job is never finished when it comes to the cybersecurity of an organisation. This means staying one step ahead of the next potential threat. Looking ahead now means better preparation for the future. Mitigating third-party risk, embedding security into the development process, and defending against ransomware attacks are just a few things that CISOs should be incorporating as part of the future-proofing cybersecurity strategy for a hybrid workforce.  

Key initiatives should include adopting multi-factor authentication, achieving greater response time through automation, and extending Zero Trust to applications.  The rapid adoption of cloud services, IoT, application containers, and other technologies is helping drive organisations forward. However, it also means that security teams must work harder to maintain visibility. To do so, they need to continuously see and catalogue every asset in their environments and accurately determine the security status of their devices. 

In addition to the initiatives mentioned, secure access service edge (SASE) is a framework that CISOs are beginning to embrace as it is a convergence of key security capabilities including software-defined area networking (SD-WAN), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), Secure Web Gateway (SWG), Cloud-Access Security Brokers (CASB) and Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA). It supports the organisation’s cloud-based computing environments while providing security professionals the necessary information to secure the digital transformation journey as well as its remote workforce. 

Organisations are feeling a shift in networking and security with the realities of mobile working, particularly as they rapidly adopt and embrace the cloud. With this, CISOs are seeking further efficiency, visibility, and stronger security for their enterprises. SASE and Zero trust implementations can provide more comprehensive security capabilities to support digital transformations. 

Bindu Sundaresan, director at AT&T Cybersecurity 

The Evolving Role of the CISO | Threatpost

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