Cybersecurity is a constantly shifting field, but some changes and trends are more dramatic than others. The past year has been a particularly noteworthy transitional period, with threats rising and workflows adapting at an unprecedented pace. Perhaps the most significant of these changes is the work-from-home (WFH) revolution.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses shifted toward a remote work model to minimize transmission risks. At the peak of the outbreak, 51% of American workers reported working from home every day, and another 18% did so sometimes. Many employers will continue to enable remote workers, so businesses need to reconsider their cybersecurity strategy.
WFH users face some unique security concerns that traditional defenses may be inadequate to address. As this trend continues, businesses need to pay closer attention to edge security in particular.
Edge computing processes information across a distributed network of small data centers and devices. It’s similar to cloud computing but moves closer to end-user devices. The shift toward the edge started before the pandemic, but the WFH movement accelerated it.
A home-based workforce requires a distributed network. Traditional cloud computing can’t meet the latency demands of remote critical applications, as it takes time to send information to and from far-away data centers. Since edge computing processes it closer to the endpoints that need it, there is lower latency and higher bandwidth.
As the WFH movement grows, edge computing becomes increasingly crucial for mission-critical operations. This shift also comes with new security needs, though.
In a traditional work environment, employees use approved devices on a singular, dedicated network. IT professionals control all endpoints in the system, minimizing threats at the edge. WFH models don’t have that luxury, with workers using their personal devices on their own networks.
The average American has more than 10 connected devices in their household. Most of these are smartphones and IoT gadgets, which typically feature little to no built-in security. Users also don’t likely consider these endpoints when thinking about network security, overlooking the vulnerabilities they create.
WHF users’ work computers may be secure, but these other devices on the same network likely aren’t. Hackers can infiltrate the network through unsecured connections, effectively rendering other devices’ security void. If WFH workers aren’t securing the edge, they’re vulnerable.
The human factor is a leading cybersecurity concern in any workflow, but especially in WFH models. Employees working in their homes on their own devices feel more comfortable and relaxed, encouraging unsafe behaviors. WFH professionals may not be as vigilant as those in the office, creating more vulnerability at the endpoint level.
A recent study found that malware-associated traffic rose 377% between March and April of 2020. As more companies shifted to remote work, employees visited riskier sites more frequently. This trend could have resulted from the lack of website filters or lowered vigilance, and either way, it’s a threat.
Since the WFH workflows rely on distributed networks of various endpoints, unsafe behavior on one device could threaten another. Poor security practices with a phone or smart TV could jeopardize a work computer. In light of this threat, securing all devices on the edge is a necessity.
Edge computing can facilitate faster, more flexible remote work, but it requires a new security approach. Even if WFH professionals aren’t using edge computing, these workflows still come with increased risks at the edge. Businesses with remote workers should reassess their cybersecurity protocols to ensure greater edge security.
In the mass migration to WFH, many IT teams turned to VPNs or SD-WANs as a quick security fix. While these provide some benefits, they don’t address the security of home networks themselves, especially at the edge. Newer solutions targeted specifically at WFH users let companies secure and monitor actual home networks, not just virtual ones.
Some solutions can secure the edge by restricting and monitoring network activity. They can log all data packets on a Wi-Fi connection, blocking threats that could come from the edge. Around-the-clock professional monitoring helps ensure vulnerabilities from one device don’t affect the whole network.
Adopting a zero-trust approach can further stop less secure endpoints from jeopardizing the entire system. Having a business continuity plan in place in the event of a breach ensures any vulnerabilities don’t become catastrophic. Edge security may seem intimidating at first, but with proper precautions, it can be as safe as any other system.
As more companies realize the benefits of edge computing, these concerns will grow more pressing. The WFH revolution all but necessitates edge computing, which requires more security. With workflows and networks changing, businesses need to adapt their cybersecurity approaches.
The business world is in the middle of a substantial shift in nearly every aspect of everyday operations. Amid these changes, companies shouldn’t neglect the need to revisit their cybersecurity tools and techniques. The next generation of networks requires robust security, and it’s vital to adapt to these changes. An enterprise’s future could very much depend on them.
Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com. She covers topics related to cybersecurity, smart tech and big data.