COVID-19’s Remote Workforce: Protect Your Rapidly Growing Attack Surface

April 17, 2020
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3 min read

As organizations adapt and respond to the impact of COVID-19, significant new challenges are on the rise as a majority of the workforce has shifted to remote work arrangements. Employee-owned devices and home networks that were not formerly protected by enterprise security controls have rapidly expanded many organizations’ attack surfaces. At the same time, adversaries are taking advantage of the public health crisis by creating new phishing campaigns to deliver damaging ransomware, malware or extortion schemes.

Organizations must increase their vigilance in monitoring and responding to these new remote workforce challenges with the deployment of critical security tooling to support these changing business priorities, with a goal of increasing visibility and protection levels for the rapid increase in new enterprise-connected devices.

Remote Work Can Increase the Cybersecurity Attack Surface

With government and employer recommendations to work from home, many organizations are experiencing a sharp increase in atypical devices, such as employee-owned laptops, tablets or phones, connected via personal Wi-Fi, and atypical tools, such as chat or videoconferencing applications. The shift to remote work caught many security leaders off guard, and their security teams may not have been prepared for a swift adoption of remote work arrangements. Where company laptops are not available, some employees may use home computers, which exponentially increases potential infection vectors.

With remote work, employees are typically not behind on-premise protections such as web gateways, intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and firewalls. Without typical security tooling in place to protect corporate networks, companies lose much-needed visibility and protection levels. Exacerbating these challenges, employees who do not traditionally work from home may be extra vulnerable because of an unfamiliar work environment and heightened fear surrounding the global pandemic. Thus, they may be more susceptible to COVID-19-related phishing attacks and scams targeting the remote workforce and intended to disrupt, spread misinformation and capitalize on this crisis. For example, new phishing exploits include emails with attachments promising more information on the Coronavirus such as virus heat maps laced with malware.

Organizations can keep themselves updated on the latest threat actor information by visiting IBM X-Force’s COVID-19 collection or the X-Force IRIS COVID-19 Threat Intelligence Enclave brought to you by TruSTAR for cyber activity surrounding the COVID-19 theme. Additionally, organizations will need their front-line security teams to be fully operational with proactive detection, response and remediation plans in place to navigate changes to the environment in order to limit the impact of a security incident. To pivot quickly and effectively, remote expertise can be leveraged to optimize security controls, review policies and deploy more capacity to support an increased remote workforce.

Protect Disparate Endpoints With Response Solutions

Increased remote work results in disparate endpoint security. No matter your choice of security vendor, there is a need to better secure and protect endpoints interacting with your organization’s data, applications and infrastructure. With this elevated endpoint risk and the need to respond rapidly to cybersecurity incidents, a managed detection and response (MDR) team can deploy quickly to virtually supplement and support security operations center (SOC) staff in preparation for the possibility of finding your organization short-handed. MDR services can protect, detect and respond to incidents regardless of where the employee or the endpoint is located. The unique position of MDR using endpoint detection and response (EDR) technology gives deep visibility into the capabilities that are typically performed by on-site personnel in non-EDR-enabled organizations. IBM Security can deliver 24/7 threat monitoring and response to help protect your organization.

Join our webinar on April 22 to learn how your organization can build a more unified approach across your systems and multiple endpoints to combat the growing attack surface during the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, if you have cybersecurity concerns or are experiencing an incident, IBM X-Force IRIS is here to help. Contact us at: U.S. hotline: 1-888-241-9812 — Global hotline: (+001) 312-212-8034

Kimberly Fidler
Global Offering Manager, X-Force IRIS

With 20 years experience in IT, the last 10 years in IBM Security Services, Kimberly is responsible for all aspects of the global portfolio for X-Force IRIS ...
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