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Remote Workforce
Security: How to
Secure Remote
Employees

Author: Paul Gillin

An abrupt and widespread shift to work-from-home arrangements in response to the pandemic highlighted the difficulties of securing remote workforce employees and assets on the private networks that enterprises have long used for applications and data.

Remote access servers, application proxies and virtual private networks have been a staple of corporate networks since the 1990s. Back then, these technologies secured remote workforces by ensuring that remote workers accessed internal networks securely and manageably.

But with home workers needing cloud services for teleconferencing, collaboration, document sharing, storage and more during the pandemic, the weaknesses of remote workforce cyber security using on-premises solutions became readily apparent.

Remote Workforce Security Challenge

The shift to remote work introduced several security challenges for some organizations.

  • Cloud security. Employees needed access to cloud services for critical functions, such as customer relationship management, collaboration and file storage. Connecting to those services from behind a corporate firewall had provided reasonable protection, but those safeguards weren't available for employees connecting directly over the internet.
  • Unvetted applications. IT organizations could limit employee access to cloud services on their private networks. But they had no control over the services people used from home and no visibility on the protections those services provided.
  • Compromised surveillance. IT organizations had reduced visibility into remote employees' endpoint devices and less flexibility to spot abnormalities and deliver security patches. Requiring employees to connect to a VPN to ensure remote workforce cyber security added to an already crushing workload and complicated the process of securing remote workforce employees and assets.
  • Hardware scalability and supply chains. Hardware-based technologies were overwhelmed by the sudden need to support thousands of remote workers trying to get access to corporate applications in the cloud and data centers. As the capacity of existing VPN appliances maxed out, IT organizations rushed to order more hardware from their suppliers—only to be told they would have to wait months.
  • Overloaded servers. Servers slowed to a crawl, sometimes spurring users to abandon their VPNs altogether and connect directly to cloud services.
  • VPN vulnerabilities. Employees who used their computers for business and personal use were at a greater risk of becoming infected with malware when they were not connected to their company's VPN. And once they logged back in, they could inadvertently spread malware to the corporate network.

Remote workforce cyber security solutions

Addressing these issues and securing remote workforce employees and assets has prompted many IT organizations to accelerate their shift to software-defined wide-area networking. Prescient & Strategic Intelligence expects the global SD-WAN market to surge to $43 billion by 2030, a compound annual growth rate of more than 38%.

Software-defined networks move configuration and control from devices to software. Tasks such as provisioning extra capacity, adding new users, onboarding new connections and segmenting networks to secure the remote workforce can be done in minutes without the need to touch a device.

Managed SD-WAN services provide encryption, high availability, a bevy of security options and agile, scalable bandwidth to meet demand. User connections are always secure, and IT departments can monitor and manage network endpoints as easily and completely as though they were on-premises. Capacity is never a problem because the service provider has more available than any customer would need.

Remote work is likely here to stay. To avoid the nightmare scenarios of the early days of the pandemic, organizations should take a hard look at software-defined secure networking solutions that keep their business networks available, flexible and responsive.

Learn how Verizon's managed network services can support remote workforce cyber security.