The pandemic has driven an increase in the number of employees working remotely as these arrangements are viewed as convenient for both the organizations and their employees. But managing a remote workforce comes with its own set of security challenges, including an all-time increase in the number of cybersecurity attacks ranging from phishing to ransomware attacks. These challenges reinforce the need for proper remote workforce enablement and security to ensure organizations maintain business continuity and productivity.

Challenges with managing a remote workforce

Since employees are no longer confined to the organization's network, traditional perimeter-based security hardening techniques are not valid for the remote workforce. Some of common security risks and challenges that come with transitioning to a remote workforce include:

  • Unsecured Wi-Fi connections: A common vulnerability that comes with enabling employees to work from anywhere is the risk of connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi connections. Since employees are no longer confined to the boundaries of their organization's network, they might connect to open and unsecured Wi-Fi connections, which often have many security gaps that bad actors can exploit to launch attacks and lead to data breaches.
  • Unmonitored endpoints: With the shift to remote work, it is normal to see employees using their personal devices for logging into work. This acts as a blind spot for the IT security team since they cannot monitor personal devices and deploy device control measures, such as deactivating USB ports. This vulnerability, combined with poor cyber-hygiene practices, can be exploited by attackers to hack their way into the organization's network and get hold of sensitive business information.
  • Inadequate cloud security: While moving to the cloud enabled organizations to ensure business continuity, it also posed major security vulnerabilities due to the lack of proper cloud security tools and strategies. Some of the major shortcomings of cloud adoption include limited visibility over resources, and issues with data privacy and security. Without stringent cloud security policies and processes, organizations are vulnerable to cloud-based attacks.
  • Increased exposure to attacks: Working from anywhere without stringent security policies allows employees to resort to poor cyber-hygiene practices, paving the way for a wide range of threats and attacks. Threat actors exploit the vulnerabilities in the poorly secured network to launch a wide range of attacks such as phishing, ransomware, malware, and others. This can be attributed to poor cyber hygiene practiced by the employees, and the lack of visibility and control over endpoints.

Requirements for remote workforce enablement

The transition to remote work not only raises security issues, but also brings up challenges in ensuring business continuity and maintaining productivity by streamlining access to critical resources. Besides providing access, it is crucial to ensure that the access requests are legitimate, since employees are no longer confined to the boundaries of the organizational network. This is why an identity and access management (IAM) solution is pivotal to remote workforce enablement, since it helps streamline processes, tighten security, and ensure compliance.

In order to facilitate remote workforce enablement, organizations require these fundamental tools and processes:

  • 1.Multi-factor authentication (MFA): One of the most effective and basic methods to prevent unauthorized access to resources, MFA provides an additional layer of security, by requiring users to provide multiple authentication factors to validate their identities. Some of the commonly used MFA methods include something the user knows (such as a password), something the user has (such as a security token or one-time codes), and something the user "is" (such as a fingerprint and other biometrics). Enforcing MFA methods can also help organizations prevent data breaches due to phishing and other credential-based attacks.
  • 2.Single sign-on (SSO): This enables users to access several applications using the same set of credentials, and provides a seamless experience that helps improve productivity and reduce password fatigue. SSO is also a great first step towards implementing passwordless authentication, as the number of passwords for each user is considerably reduced. SSO, when integrated with MFA can make the user experience less tedious by allowing users to login just once with MFA. This also lends an additional layer of security by verifying that the user is who they say they are.
  • 3.Password management solution: Password attacks, like phishing, are becoming more recurrent as bad actors exploit the vulnerabilities of a remote workforce to launch attacks. To avoid compromised passwords, it's crucial to deploy a competent password management solution. Under normal circumstances where employees are working out of the office, any password reset or account lockout issue would be handled by the sysadmin. However, in a remote working model, employees encounter a new range of issues and it becomes too cumbersome for the sysadmin to handle each request. This also hinders employee productivity as they wait for their issue to be resolved. By deploying a password management solution, organizations can empower employees to change their own passwords and unlock their accounts. This also enforces strong password policies to prevent password compromise and secure the remote workforce.
  • 4.Privileged access management (PAM): An important strategy to facilitate secure remote working, by deploying PAM, only the required level of access is provided to each employee on a need-to-know basis. As perimeter-based security becomes obsolete in a remote working scenario, attackers are exploiting this vulnerability to target trusted employees, contractors, and other users to carry out insider attacks. The targets of these attacks are often privileged accounts, since they hold the key to the organization's sensitive and critical data. This becomes a major concern for organizations, when all employees are granted access to all resources within the network. PAM also forms a core principle of the Zero Trust model, making it indispensable for securing and managing a remote workforce.
  • 5.Zero Trust: The transition to a remote workforce emphasizes the need for organizations to adopt the strategy of Zero Trust. This has become all the more important since Zero Trust has now become a fundamental security requirement for most organizations. The basic premise of Zero Trust is never trust and always verify, which means users and other entities are no longer trusted solely based on their presence within the network. Access is provided upon verification using strict authentication and conditional access policies. This is all the more relevant for a remote workforce, considering users, devices, and other entities are constantly on the move and no longer bound to the organization's network.
  • 6.Cloud security solutions: Organizations inevitably had to move to the cloud to facilitate remote working for their employees at different locations across the globe. However, cloud adoption also poses security threats and vulnerabilities due to limited visibility over resources, lack of auditing, and the need for stringent authentication. Dedicated policies that are created to manage cloud identities and resources are also vital. Similarly, organizations should opt for cloud security solutions that help manage and secure cloud-native applications and resources. This also enables organizations to reap the full benefits of cloud adoption such as flexibility, scalability, and efficiency, without worrying about the vulnerabilities.

Besides deploying these tools and strategies, it is also important to train employees on proper cyber-hygiene practices, which can help prevent security incidents. The human element tends to be one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to setting up a cybersecurity strategy, yet it remains to be one of the primary causes of insider attacks and other security threats. Organizations should focus on equipping their employees with the basic security practices to follow while working from anywhere.

ManageEngine AD360 for remote workforce enablement

  • Enforce MFA and adaptive authentication: AD360 provides contextual MFA methods to provide an additional layer of authentication and prevent identity-related attacks. It supports a wide range of authentication methods, which include SMS verification, biometric verification, push notification, Google Authenticator, and RADIUS. AD360 also performs risk-based adaptive authentication using several factors, such as user location, IP address, and time of previous login. This can help detect and remove excessive user privileges, monitor privileged accounts, and detect separation of duty violations.
  • Facilitate SSO for a seamless user experience: AD360 facilitates SSO for users, enabling them to access multiple applications using a single set of credentials. This saves the hassle of remembering multiple passwords, and having to login separately to different applications. AD360 allows users to access a wide range of applications such as Office 365, G Suite, Salesforce, and any other custom SAML-based application using a single set of credentials. Besides providing a seamless experience for users, SSO also minimizes the attack surface and helps prevent password-based attacks.
  • Enable self-service password management: AD360 provides self-service password management capabilities, which enables users to reset their passwords and unlock their accounts by themselves. This reduces the burden on IT admins, and saves some much-needed time, especially for the remote workforce. It also boosts productivity, since employees do not have to wait for help desk assistance. In addition, admins can also enforce strong password policy settings to prevent brute-force attacks and other threats occurring due to compromised passwords.
  • Detect threats and receive threat alerts with UBA: AD360 aids in detecting insider threats with the help of UBA, which leverages ML and data analytics to detect anomalous behavior. The UBA capability allows organizations to detect rogue users and compromised accounts, detect privilege abuse, spot insider threats, and perform risk assessment. This helps eliminate false positives and provides advanced security insights with precision. AD360 also allows IT admins to configure alert profiles to send customized messages for specific actions.

How AD360 takes care of your IAM needs

  • Identity protection with UBA

    Detect, investigate, and mitigate threats such as malicious logins, lateral movement, malware attack, and privilege abuse with machine learning-based UBA; automate your threat response.

    Learn More →
  • Identity automation

    Eliminate redundancy and human errors, and improve business processes by automating user provisioning, stale account cleanup, and other identity-related tasks. 

    Learn More →
  • Identity lifecycle management

    Streamline identity management throughout the entire lifecycle of users—right from provisioning, to role changes and deprovisioning.

    Learn More →
  • Multi-factor authentication

    Elevate trust in identities and mitigate impersonation attacks using biometric, authenticator apps, and other advanced authentication methods. 

    Learn More →
  • Identity analytics

    Use over 1000 preconfigured reports to monitor access to crucial data and satisfy compliance mandates.

    Learn More →
  • Zero Trust

    Continuously monitor user activity and enforce stringent access control across your network.

    Learn More →

Rethink your IAM with AD360

AD360 helps you simplify IAM in your IT environment by giving users quick access to the resources they need while establishing tight access controls to ensure security across on-premises Active Directory, Exchange Servers, and cloud applications from a centralized console.

Demo request received

Thank You for the interest in ManageEngine AD360. We have received your personalized demo request and will contact you shortly.

Get a one-on-one product walk-through

Please enter business email address
  • By clicking 'Schedule 1:1 Personalized Demo', you agree to processing of personal data according to the Privacy Policy.

2020 Zoho Corporation Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved.