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Securing the Cloud-Based Future of Work
By Dmitry Dontov, CEO and Chief Architect of Spin Technology 

COVID-19 has forced organizations to shift to a remote workforce and transition communication, access to applications, and workflows to enable employees to work together effectively, despite being distributed across many various locations. It has emphasized the ultra-importance of being digitally ready to carry out business-essential operations regardless of employees' physical location.

Those without much or any existing remote technology infrastructure have had the most challenging time over the past year. That said, COVID-19 has helped businesses understand how they can and must use technology to become more efficient and effective in the face of this new normal. Overall, this will help most companies establish resiliency to combat future disruptions. The primary enabler for this transformation has been cloud technologies.

The cloud removes physical location and even the devices used to access business-critical data as obstacles. Employees can be productive, effective, and efficient, regardless of location. Businesses can now effectively conduct critical operations in a virtual workplace using powerful cloud applications and platforms. This involves using cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments (such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365), cloud data storage, file sharing, cloud mobility and access solutions, and embedded video collaboration.

Many organizations have transitioned swiftly from traditional on-premises infrastructure management to cloud SaaS and other cloud tools throughout the pandemic. Just look at Microsoft Teams alone. According to subscription statistics, that service grew to over 75 million subscribers in April 2020, up from 20 million subscribers in November 2019.

But the cloud-based remote work revolution hasn't arrived without its share of security challenges. As organizations start shifting quickly to using cloud platforms to carry out business-critical processes, it can become challenging to manage and prioritize security. Let's explore several key cloud security considerations and how they affect the future of work.

  • The cloud provides tremendous mobility and ease of access to data and services. However, this can be a "dual-edged sword." With the ability to access data from anywhere and on any device, it can be difficult to secure business-critical data and know who is accessing it. Where does the access originate? Which IP addresses are accessing resources? Is access originating from suspicious or abnormal geolocations? Which applications are accessing the environment? Are those applications sanctioned? When it comes to cloud data, blind spots in any of these areas can increase the likelihood of a security incident.
  • Along with effective employee auditing, ensuring secure file sharing and data access is crucial. Sharing data from cloud environments like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 is made easy. Data sharing outside the organization can happen inadvertently or intentionally. This can lead to exposing sensitive information or an all-out data breach accidentally or on purpose. In thinking about the future of work and leveraging cloud solutions, you must control and secure how users access files and share data outside the organization. It's also necessary to have visibility into who is accessing your data, from where, and from what applications.
  • Ransomware is one of the most dangerous risks to your business-critical data. Attackers are using ransomware effectively to lock up business data. Merely moving to the cloud does not effectively protect your data from ransomware. Cybersecurity experts have reported 4,000 attacks a day since the COVID-19 pandemic began, accounting for a 400% increase. Ransomware can infect cloud SaaS services such as cloud file storage as well as even cloud email environments.

As your business looks towards the future of work, properly securing business-critical data means protecting your organization against ransomware. It requires the right incident response tools and disaster recovery solutions to automate ransomware monitoring, detection and prevention, and launch a granular recovery of the damaged data to reduce downtime.

  • Cloud SaaS environments like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer a healthy ecosystem of third-party app integrations with their respective cloud SaaS platforms. These offer the ability to extend the capabilities provided natively. It's essential to control third-party applications and browser extensions that access business-critical data and fully understand their scope of permissions. This can help to ensure data security and confidentiality.

Malicious apps or browser extensions may request end-users to grant permissions to cloud data only to inject ransomware or steal sensitive information. Third-party applications will undoubtedly be a part of future work solutions that can extend capabilities in the cloud. The malicious extensions are the latest attempt by cybercriminals to hide code in add-ons for popular browsers. In February, independent researcher Jamila Kaya and Duo Security announced they had discovered more than 500 Chrome extensions that infected millions of users' browsers to steal data.

The cloud offers new ways of doing business and allows organizations to continue operating effectively despite current and future disruptions. But you can't underestimate the importance of a cloud security solution when pursuing those productivity gains and business advantages. The best options leverage technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to effectively protect cloud SaaS environments. This means giving IT the ability to implement cloud security policies, allow or deny cloud application usage, identify connected devices, determine who or what has access to cloud data, understand where data is shared, provide ransomware protection, establish cloud-to-cloud backups and more.

The right cloud security protections can allow you to shift more confidently toward a digitally ready work environment using cloud SaaS solutions. The future of work is in a state of flux, but one thing is certain: cloud services will play a central role. Just remember that security plays a critical role in that future.

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Dmitry Dontov

Published Friday, February 26, 2021 10:12 AM by David Marshall
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