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Deploying NSPM to Implement a Gartner Analyst’s Work from Home Network Security Advice

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Recommendations from Rajpreet Kaur, Senior Principal Analyst at Gartner, in her recent blog on remote working, and a perspective on how Network Security Policy Management systems can help enterprises act upon this guidance

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyst for a global migration to remote home working. Managing and mitigating the network security risks this presents, on such an unprecedented scale and for a long period of time, poses a significant challenge even for companies that had remote access working plans in place before the pandemic.

Not only are cybercriminals taking advantage of network insecurities to leverage attacks, they are also exploiting human anxiety around the crisis to break through security barriers. In fact, a recent survey found that 40 percent of companies reported seeing increased cyberattacks as they enable remote working.

So how should organizations manage their security during these massive changes in network usage?  In a recent blog, Rajpreet Kaur, Gartner Senior Principal Analyst, and a specialized expert on both hybrid environment network security and NSPM tools, offered recommendations to organizations on how to handle remote infrastructure security challenges, many of which closely align with a focus on network policy automation and application security.  Here’s how network security policy management systems can support and enable Rajpreet Kaur’s key recommendations.

1. Don’t panic and start moving things to the cloud without a proper architectural design in place.

Panicking and starting a large-scale move to the cloud without a proper plan in place can lead to poor security controls and ill-prepared migration. Before moving to the cloud, organizations must consider their network’s architectural design, which should always start with analysis.

The analytical and discovery capabilities of NSPM systems automate this process by discovering and mapping network connectivity and providing a network map, which helps you to understand your network components, making migrations easier, faster and glitch-free.

2. Design a proper network security architecture and plan considering limited disruption and supporting work from home.

Implementing these immediate and urgent network changes can only be done effectively and securely with robust change management processes.

As with network analysis, NSPM automation capabilities are also vital in rapid change management. Security automation dramatically accelerates change processes, with request generation to implementation time drastically shortened and enables better enforcement and auditing for regulatory compliance. It also helps organizations overcome skill gaps and staffing limitations, which may have already been impacted by the current crisis.

NSPM solutions enable full end-to-end change analysis and automation, including what if security checks, automation design, push of changes, and full documentation and audit trail. This ensures that changes can be implemented rapidly, and applied consistently and efficiently, with a full audit trail of every change.

3. Plan for what you need now, don’t try to implement a long-term strategic solution to fix your immediate needs.

The current widespread move to home working is adding an extra layer of complexity to remote network security, since organizations are finding themselves having to implement new security policies and roll out adoption in a very short timeframe.

Considering this, it’s important for organizations to focus on short-term needs, rather than attempting to develop a long-term strategic solution. Trying to develop a long-term solution in such a short window can be overwhelming and increase the risk of opening security vulnerabilities.

Using NSPM speeds up the configuration and implementation process, allowing you to get your remote network security firewall policies up and running as soon as possible, with minimum disruption to your remote workforce. Once you have dealt with the critical immediate needs, you can then focus on developing a more long-term strategy.

4. Try to support your existing work from home employees by doing minimal changes to the existing architecture, like meeting throughput requirements and upgrading the equipment or restricting the access to a group of employees at times.

Managing application connectivity and accessibility is key to ensuring minimal work disruption as employees move to remote working.

An effective NSPM solution allows you to discover, identify and map business applications to ensure that they are safe and have the necessary connectivity flows. Having such a view of all the applications that are accessing the network allows security teams to map the workflow and provides visibility of the application’s required connectivity in order to minimise outages.

5. For any new network changes and upgrades, or new deployments, consider developing a work from home first strategy.

Developing a work from home (WFH) strategy has never been more essential. The challenge is that WFH is a more vulnerable environment; employees are accessing sensitive data from a range of home devices, via outside networks, that may not have the same security controls.  On top of this, cyber threats have already seen a sharp increase as cybercriminals exploit the widespread anxiety and vulnerabilities caused by the global crisis. IT security and networking staff are therefore having to do more, with the same staffing levels, whilst also navigating the challenges of doing this remotely from home.

NSPM capabilities can help in overcoming these WFH issues. Security teams may, for example, need to change many Firewall rules to allow secure access to sensitive data. An effective NSPM solution can facilitate this and enable fast deployment by providing the ability to make changes to applications’ firewall openings from a single management interface.

6. Enhance security around public facing applications to protect against COVID-19 related cyber-attacks.

With the move to remote working, organizations are increasingly relying on applications to carry out their work from home. Ensuring that business-critical applications stay available and secure while shifting to remote work is key to avoiding workflow disruption.

It’s essential to take an application centric approach to application security, and an effective NSPM solution can help you to better manage and secure your business-critical applications. As discussed above, application visibility is key here.

NSPM systems provides comprehensive application visibility, security operation teams can monitor critical applications for risks and vulnerabilities to ensure that they are safe.

Gartner’s Rajpreet Kaur has delivered a good combination of practical and timely guidance along with the logical insights underlying the useful recommendations. These tips bring helpful guidance on the Work from Home security challenge that stands out for its clear relevance when there is now so much other noise out there. A robust NSPM can help you rapidly implement these invaluable recommendations.

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