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Why You Should Implement Zero Trust for Work From Home Users

If you were the ruler of a medieval kingdom, would you rather send your army out to battle with armor made from flimsy cloth, or iron-clad steel? Unless you’re a crazy person or have a gross misunderstanding of protective equipment, odds are you’d choose the latter.

The same is true for any responsible corporation or business while implementing a Work From Home (WFH) policy: if you’re not ensuring that your WFH employees are equipped with the right tools to keep both themselves and your corporate network safe, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt.

So, what do these tools look like, exactly?

One increasingly popular solution for the demands of today’s IT landscape is a user-centric secure access model based on zero trust principles.

Here’s why: legacy network security was never designed to cope with the dynamic perimeter of the cloud era. It’s vulnerable to sophisticated cyber-attacks and is unable to rapidly scale.

If you’re still stuck in the ‘castle and moat’ mindset, now is the time for a shift. A reputable 3rd party IT resource like Shamrock Consulting Group can help you speed up your adoption of zero trust security tech by bringing the industry’s top vendors to the table – and guaranteeing that you get the best price from any of them.

Why Zero Trust? Why Now?

Zero trust is a paradigm that has been with us for a decade, yet many businesses still see adoption as a multi-phase, multi-year project. This is no longer true.

Due to the immense pressure now facing IT staffs as the coronavirus pandemic continues, a “slow and steady” approach has become a very detrimental and costly strategy. With cyberattacks already costing the average business $13 million per year (an increase of $1.4 million from last year), increasing your attack surface by opening up your network access to dozens of unsecured devices is one of the worst things you could do.

Zero trust applications not only secure the entirety of your remote workforce, but it also better protects what’s inside your castle walls. A centralized legacy security system, on the other hand, only requires a hacker to crack your outer defenses. Once inside, they can easily move laterally through your network to access mission-critical systems and/or sensitive data. Additionally, centralized security systems are also vulnerable to insider attacks from your own users who have overprivileged access.

The essence of zero trust is, ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ Nowhere is seen as a safe haven. Threats are seen as potentially coming from anywhere, either within or outside of the perimeter. Rather than using static access control to access networks, authentication is based on user attributes and roles.

Automation technology can then apply policies to decide which users, devices and apps can access which segment of the network at any given time. Through micro-segmentation, granular ‘segment of one’ access control becomes a reality.

Zero Trust = Less IT Headaches

Once a zero trust architecture is implemented, it immediately moves network access from IP to ID-based authentication. Security is linked to the network user rather than being centralized in a data center somewhere. Users, which can be people, devices or apps, are given a unique multi-dimensional profile. As the context changes (e.g. the employee moves from a desk to the field/their home), this profile and its entitlements update dynamically.

Important Note: User-defined security is only as strong as the policies that underlie it. The most defensive posture an IT staff can take is to follow the principle of least privilege. POLP restricts user access to only the specific systems and file permissions they need in order to perform their roles and responsibilities.

For the user, this all happens under the hood. What they get is a consistent user experience no matter where they are, or what device they are using. If this sounds like a much easier process than requiring users to login to multiple different systems each time, it is!

Maximize Stability, Boost Productivity

Zero trust networks, of course, extend beyond security. They are also inherently agile, a vital benefit for an increasingly remote workforce.

As massive remote workforces put unprecedented strain on cloud resources, the more stability and resilience you can build into your architecture, the better.

Rather than backhauling remote data to a static data center, zero trust applications connect directly into your network from outside the perimeter, which helps free up bandwidth for DevOps and for accessing business-critical cloud services.

Which Zero Trust App is the Best?

While there are several solid solutions currently on the market, we recommend AppGate SDP for the majority of businesses transitioning to a WFH policy in response to COVID-19.

AppGate uses real-time policy understanding to authenticate and authorize endpoints trying to access your network before they’re granted access. AppGate SDP can even extend to the Internet of Things with the IoT Connector.

Simply put, AppGate is the most effective Software-Defined Perimeter solution on the market today.

Most companies typically provide VPN access to their remote users, but there is a huge problem with this: a VPN is essentially a hole in your firewall which has been proven time and again to be vulnerable to hackers, and hackers absolutely love hacking VPNs.

Think of it like this: If VPNs were TikTok videos, then millennials would be the hackers because they just can’t get enough of them.

If your VPN were to get hacked and even a single workstation were to be compromised, the hacker would suddenly have access to everything behind your perimeter (i.e. your entire network.

AppGate is zero-trust app of choice for several reasons – the most important of which are the following:

AppGate removes traffic off your firewall and creates individualized perimeters for every user
Cost-effective and can be installed remotely in just a couple hours
Seamlessly protects thousands of users (typically a complex task) and simplifies policy management for network admins
Integrates with existing network components, reduces the volume of access rules, and automates and unifies secure access to your network

Best of all: AppGate is offering a free 90-day pilot for enterprises affected by COVID-19.

Beyond implementation – adopting zero trust as a mindset

By now it’s probably pretty clear how we feel about zero trust architecture. Maybe it’s because zero trust embraces a wide range of technologies like multi-factor authentication (MFA), Identity and Access Management (IAM), software-defined networking (SDN), orchestration, encryption, file permissions, scoring, next-gen firewalls, analytics, etc. – or maybe because it just works.

But as much as we revere zero trust, it must be said that it’s not simply something you implement on a whim. No, zero trust is first and foremost a mindset. It requires profound commitment to culture changes. Employees need to become less trusting of their IT environment and understand that threats can emerge from anywhere, no matter where they are or what devices they use.

And while user-based security tech can be leveraged iteratively, the best results will come only when zero it’s embedded into your business strategy with both the support and ongoing oversight from your C-suite.

Why Shamrock Consulting Group are backing AppGate SDP for the remote workforce

We understand why business owners around the world are now urgently assessing their own BYOD policies and existing security measures. Urgency drives action, and now everyone is faced with coming to terms with a rapidly changing way of working.

As such, having an external, vendor-neutral consulting partner is more important than ever to help you avoid making costly mistakes under pressure.

At Shamrock, we pride ourselves on giving clients unbiased advice and support as you navigate these unprecedented waters and (hopefully) implement zero trust into your network.

While we recommend AppGate SDP as the perfect solution for businesses who need to get zero trust up and running quickly, it still might not be the best fit for you. That’s okay – we partner with many other vendors who can help.

But at the very least, IT stakeholders need to take a long, hard look at zero trust in order to provide their WFH employees with secure, automated, multi-tunnel access to cloud resources. As a result, leadership will benefit from tighter security postures and far greater peace of mind.

The best place to start is with a security audit, which Shamrock offers free of charge. Our cyberwarriors are battle-tested and ready to fit your business with the most iron-clad protection you’ve ever seen. Because no battle should be fought in a cloth sheet!

Shamrock Consulting Group can unlock the best deals for your company, saving you money at every turn. For help with empowering your WFH teams with the tools and processes they need, speak to a Shamrock consultant today.

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Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson is the Vice President and Senior Network Architect for Shamrock Consulting Group, an industry leader in digital transformation solutions. Since his departure from Biochemical research in 2004, Ben has built core competencies around cloud direct connects and cloud cost reduction, enterprise wide area network architecture, high density data center deployments, cybersecurity and Voice over IP telephony. Ben has designed hundreds of complex networks for some of the largest companies in the world and he’s helped Shamrock become a top partner of the 3 largest public cloud platforms for AWS, Azure and GCP consulting. When he takes the occasional break from designing networks, he enjoys surfing, golf, working out, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife, Linsey, his son, Weston and his dog, Hamilton.

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