Over the last two decades remote workforces have been starting to enter the mainstream however, COVID-19 has forced companies to shift their entire workforce to 100% work-from-home practically overnight — whether they were ready for that transition or not. This sudden change has brought on a new set of security challenges that need to be addressed. Not only do more endpoints need to be secured remotely, but adversaries are exploiting vulnerabilities created by this change faster than ever. And yesterday’s VPNs were never designed to support the new needs of an entirely remote workforce.
Thing is, this new normal could exist beyond the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Gartner, Inc. nearly three in four CFOs plan to shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19. Beyond the obvious goals of keeping employees healthy, there are other, undeniable benefits that suggest working from home could take hold as a permanent strategy.
Challenges in securing the remote workforce
The remote workforce can pose a significant problem for many organizations – it introduces unique challenges for IT security. According to a 2018 OpenVPN survey, 90 percent of IT professionals that responded reported that they believe their remote workforce poses a security risk. And, 36 percent reported that a remote employee was the cause of a security incident. Apricorn reports similar results in a survey of IT decision-makers in the United Kingdom. Like any other disruptive transformation, the speed to adopt a flex-work model has often outpaced the ability to effectively manage new risks.
Organizations have to ask themselves how they are managing their remote endpoints. Specifically, do they have continuous visibility into something that isn’t in their corporate network. If the answer is that they don’t have continuous visibility — and most likely, they don’t — that’s a serious issue.
For traditional security and IT tools that were architected to be on premise, when an endpoint leaves the corporate network it basically disappears or goes “offline.” The prolonged absence from regular cyber maintenance intervals results in a significant number of missing patches and configuration drift as those traveling endpoints fall further and further out of compliance. Without continuous ongoing cyber hygiene, the exploitable attack surface on these endpoint fleets may expand to the point that they are easily compromised. This is an unacceptable price to pay, just because endpoints aren’t connected to the corporate network. In order to get around this, some organizations require their endpoints to connect back into the corporate environment via a virtual private network (VPN) for certain tasks, such as patch management. But for the end user, that can be an awful experience.
Imagine this scenario: you’ve been working from various coffee shops and other locations because you're traveling to various meetings throughout the week. But when you get back to your home office and have to connect back to the VPN to access the corporate network to do something, instead of getting access to the internet and all of the information, services and tools you need to get your job done, you get inundated with a myriad of patch management tasks because you haven't shown up on the corporate network in a while. These tasks are all queued up, and you have to reboot five times before you can even begin working again. This scenario just further enforces behavior of remote employees never connecting to the corporate VPN if they aren’t required to do so.
Consequently, many organizations are dealing with the fact that they have to either accept degraded protection and compliance levels as a result of lacking visibility or the reality that they’ll be frustrating their end users by jamming patches and policy updates down their throats every time they connect to the corporate VPN. Organizations can reverse publish on-premise services in the DMZ as a work-around for these legacy technology implementations, but this approach doesn’t scale to the reality of the on-the-move remote workforce.
If remote endpoints are the new norm and trying to shoehorn them back into a corporate network to manage and secure them isn’t working - then what’s the answer? It’s simple – a globally available cloud-native cyber hygiene service. Like any other critical software-as-a-service (SaaS) function, the ongoing maintenance and security for remote work fleets is best serviced through highly scalable and always connected cloud services. Afterall, remote workers are always connected to the internet - just not necessarily to the corporate network. By making a secure, globally scaled SaaS service always available to your distributed teams, organizations can maintain continuous visibility and control.
A Modern Approach to Remote Usecases
The Automox platform is designed to treat remote endpoints as equals, providing organizations equal visibility control whether dealing with remote endpoints or on-premise machines. Automox is a cloud-native solution, which means that any endpoint connected to the internet is essentially in contact with us. There’s no routing through a corporate network or VPN, linking back so that a command or control server can see that remote endpoint and manage it. As long as you’ve got an Automox agent or sensor installed on an endpoint, the Automox platform can manage corporate-owned devices, BYO devices, devices that are part of a domain or devices that aren’t — it doesn’t matter.
Not only does this cloud-native approach work to solve the remote workforce issue, it’s doing so in a way that allows organizations to avoid incurring any physical or on-premise infrastructure costs. With Automox, you don’t have to install and set up a management server or install distribution points in your corporate environment, you’re not forced to maintain costly VPN clients on remote endpoints, set up regional patch repositories or even externally publish your patching service in the DMZ or perimeter network. With Automox’s cloud-native solution, organizations have continuous global visibility of their remote endpoints and can effectively automate patch management and other cyber hygiene actions on a consistent cadence that impacts employees far less.
Alongside digital transformation comes pressure on IT teams to keep pace with the rapid speed of business, but legacy patch management tools are particularly prone to shortcomings when it comes to the remote workforce, whether it’s a poor experience for end users or something even worse: the acceptance of having a vulnerable attack surface. Fortunately, cloud-native solutions like Automox solve the problem of continuous connectivity and visibility into these remote systems because there’s no reliance on internal or on-premise infrastructure, and no matter where an endpoint is, the Automox platform is always in communication.
About Automox Automated Patch Management
Facing growing threats and a rapidly expanding attack surface, understaffed and alert-fatigued organizations need more efficient ways to eliminate their exposure to vulnerabilities. Automox is a modern cyber hygiene platform that closes the aperture of attack by more than 80% with just half the effort of traditional solutions.
Cloud-native and globally available, Automox enforces OS & third-party patch management, security configurations, and custom scripting across Windows, macOS, and Linux from a single intuitive console. IT and SecOps can quickly gain control and share visibility of on-prem, remote and virtual endpoints without the need to deploy costly infrastructure.
Experience modern, cloud-native patch management today with a 15-day free trial of Automox and start recapturing more than half the time you're currently spending on managing your attack surface. Automox dramatically reduces corporate risk while raising operational efficiency to deliver best-in-class security outcomes, faster and with fewer resources.