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Securing SOHOs, Remote Workers and Your Private Data Network

Mobile and small office/home office (SOHO) workers require connectivity to the same resources your campus-based, firewall-protected employees regularly access from the data center, private network, and now increasingly from the cloud. This poses problem and risk: Network IT departments have low visibility into the configurations, security defenses, and points of access for these employees and devices accessing data remotely.

SOHOs and mobile employee workstations consist of affordable, consumer-oriented network equipment (often BYOD) and security software, all of which is not as sophisticated, protectable and secure as the computing tools in corporate offices. Many IT departments, smaller offices, and remote workers are dependent on public Wi-Fi, inexpensive home-based routers, iffy VPN use, and basic-AV-protected computers to protect their confidential internal and customer data at the edge.

The equipment used in the outlying areas of your network represent the weak link for hackers, the low-hanging fruit, increasing the overall security risk for the organization and its B2B/B2C partners. Common risks include spying, infection of connected devices, and the ransoming of the wider network ecosystem. Compromised endpoint network equipment such as computers and routers can set the stage for sophisticated botnet attacks and the spread to other systems, networks and servers, including those of partners.

Are you going to regularly mobilize truckloads out to every possible remote router site to try to secure these new connections? More sophisticated security equipment requires technical expertise, something most home office workers and many branch offices lack. Constant truck-hauls to every distributed site add up from an overall cost standpoint. Bolting on security through software patches can be a struggle, especially when managing updates and renewals across several security vendors and your busy workforce.

In response to these security and cost challenges, best practices for protecting remote equipment endpoints include:

  • Frequent, automatic software updates that don’t harass business-focused, non-technical home officer workers. Leverage security-as-a-service (SECaaS) to rapidly orchestrate and automate advanced security and smart cyber risk management.
  • Virtual firewall as a service (FWaaS) that blocks unwanted traffic from your defined and controllable network endpoints, including wandering user devices.
  • A VPN, or similar secure tunnel, that segments ISP traffic from private network traffic. This VPN capability should be “always on,” noninvasively coating the attack surface and protecting company used-devices from breach and deeper infection.
  • Multifactor authentication (MFA), which helps to ensure the person or system trying to access a device, network or system is the same person or device authorized for access. MFA includes passwords, security tokens, and, in some cases, biometric identification.
  • Cloaking of a device’s and network’s unique identifiers or presence, making it difficult for other people and devices in range to detect.
  • Encryption and private circuit use to mitigate outsiders from viewing, stealing or ransoming sensitive data.
  • Device hardening, so the endpoint can block legacy or unnecessary ports and services that act as doors for easy infiltration.
  • DNS filtering. These are the oft-color-coded listings and commands, which involve preconfiguring devices with software agents to prevent infection from dangerous sites and other network entities.
  • Avoidance of direct peer-to-peer computing or peer-to-private-server communication approaches. Remote Desktop Protocol and similar P2P network services are an easy gameboard for hackers. RDP sessions store credentials which can be stolen and wielded in “pass the hash” attacks. If you use P2P apps, it’s critical to orchestrate advanced, layered security mechanisms, including identity access control, encryption, and zero trust architecture.
  • Seamless support of the latest Wi-Fi authentication and encryption standards, which can help to protect on-device data and access points.

Securing Your Mobile, Remote Workforce

Every digitally transforming organization has its traveling users, the consummate contributors; the mobile warriors. They are a worrisome potential target for close-encounter cyber-takeovers.

Wandering human endpoints access different networks. They use whatever means available to keep their device batteries charged and to stay connected. Sometimes these individuals work in crowded, cramped seating areas where strangers are in physical proximity or router range.

Common behaviors that put remote worker security at risk include:

  • Connecting via unsecure, unencrypted Wi-Fi, or failing to authenticate through the corporate VPN while working from home, in a hotel, or coffee shop. Without the filtering and blocking of a leading firewall or VPN service, the employee can mistakenly land on a phony site or host (e.g., a man-in-the-middle attack), or click on a link from which malware can be delivered, infecting the device and from there seeking to spread.
  • Directly accessing SaaS applications in the cloud beyond the visibility and control of corporate IT security. Employees are at risk of man-in-the-middle attacks in this scenario, and hackers can steal credentials from the endpoint device and use that private data to gain unauthorized entry to cloud servers or back into the enterprise network.
  • Physically plugging into public charging stations, or attaching untrusted devices including other computers, flash drives and USB ports. Conversely, someone else might gain physical access to the network endpoint device and plug in a flash drive or perform some other type of direct tampering.
  • Falling for phishing attacks. Social engineering schemes are getting more effective at fooling curious, emotional human beings into clicking on links that appear to be legitimate but aren’t. These IP spoofing, phishing, and websites appear authentic but have surreptitiously rerouted the user to an ersatz click-on/sign-in with credentials page…

Your mobile warriors need help identifying and avoiding these deceptive man-and woman-in-the-middle attacks.

OPAQ Provides a Secure Access Service Edge Through Security-as-a-Service

Your network’s edge needs easier IT security reinforcement; a cost-effective, circulating burst of easily distributed security-as-a-service software from the cloud.

OPAQ provides strong endpoint protection as a service to ensure secure access at the network edge, empowering what Gartner calls the secure access service edge (SASE). Harness your expanding workforce. To support your remote employees and protect your network and business ecosystem, reinforce protection at the network endpoint and workstation level with help from the cloud.

 

Learn more.

8 Achievable Steps to Remote Security.

Visit our secure access service edge (SASE) page.

 

A Zero Trust Secure Access Service Edge for a Distributed Data World

You might call it ‘living on the edge.’ A growing number of organizations are moving computing out of the data center, out to the edge of the network. The various reasons for this include increasing numbers of mobile devices and remote users requiring access, expanding digital opportunities, cloud adoption, reduction of network latency and backhaul costs, and more. Making this edge computing possible are technologies such as SDN, SD-WAN and cloud access service broker (CASB) capabilities, all of which provide points of presence (POPs) where distributed workforces need them.

Traditionally, however, easy provision of good security has NOT been one of the drivers for this pivot to the network edge. Hence, many companies that have transformed their network architectures haven’t yet modernized their security architectures. They continue to indirectly route traffic to security engines (tromboning, hairpinning, backhauling), defeating the whole latency advantage and racking up in-house equipment costs. Or worse, they’re not adequately inspecting the edge traffic and payload, leaving their users, network endpoints, cloud data and internal network data exposed to increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

That’s all changing with the convergence of computer networking and security at the edge, something IT analyst firm Gartner dubbed the secure access service edge (SASE), pronounced  “Sassy.”

The secure access service edge is an emerging solution category combining wide-area network (WAN) functions with security capabilities such as secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), and zero trust architecture (ZTA) to support a wide range of digital transformational requirements.

SASE merges edge computing’s distributed approach – bringing computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed – along with the advanced security near or at these points of access.

Cloud Security-as-a-Service for Your Edge Computing

However, SASE isn’t a security scenario that data center-based hardware appliances are going to feasibly address. When modernizing your network, your traditional security equipment can get bypassed in your traffic’s shift to a software-defined perimeter. Alternatively, equipment deployments and reconfigurations (in your data center and remote sites) may struggle to keep up with today’s pace of secure connectivity requirements.

Your distributed workforce is accessing cloud providers for things like SaaS applications, while your branch offices and mobile workers take advantage of direct Internet access. Meanwhile, the resultant data is no longer being centrally stored on, or accessed from, the premises. More users, devices, applications, services and data are located outside of an enterprise than inside, according to Gartner. With organizations still responsible for data privacy and security of individual employees and customers, that’s a lot of scattered data to protect.

The edge requires agile management, and this is where security software and software-defined perimeters step in.

From a cybersecurity perspective, protection can now come closer to where access is needed. A software-centric SASE approach can deliver zero trust security best practices over Web gateways, cloud access points, tunnels, and the devices themselves, while eliminating inefficient hairpinning of traffic inspection to your data center or nearest branch-office hardware.

The OPAQ SASE Cloud provides more ubiquitous and local points of presence, with the zero trust architecture capabilities you need to ensure secure access, control and segmentation.

The OPAQ Zero Trust Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)

Whether it’s a branch office, remote workstation, router, or VM, all of these endpoint identities need network access. Before they connect into your private network and data, they must be identified, authenticated, and properly segmented.

OPAQ delivers a Zero Trust Secure Access Service Edge that bases decisions on the identity of the entity at the source of the connection (user, device, branch office, edge computing location, time of day, risk assessment of the user device, and the sensitivity of the data or app being accessed).

Primary components of this Zero Trust SASE architecture include:

  • User Authentication: IP spoofing, phishing, social engineering, identify theft, and bot break-ins demand a zero trust view of access. Is the device, person, or service attempting to enter into the network authentic? If access is allowed, what might happen next from a security impact perspective? OPAQ checks for a number of factors including user credentials, MFA, access privileges, device certificates, and more.
  • Access Control: Access has moved out to the edge, largely outside of the reach of a perceived private enterprise network. The OPAQ Cloud keeps inspections away from your private data containers, and secures traffic and performance at the edge closer to where access and QoE is sought. Tunneling to the nearest POP, OPAQ SASE provides end-to-end encryption of each session, including over public Wi-Fi networks (cafes, airports, malls, etc.).
  • Segmentation: Ransomware and other malware seek to spread and capture data and control as they go about their damaging business. Endpoint connections are underdefended by basic on-device antivirus updates, opening the door for the latest sophisticated attacks. OPAQ continuously extends layered next-generation security across the dissolving network perimeter, reinforcing workstations, VMs and other endpoints, and then making sure that distributed endpoints don’t expose vulnerable in-roads into your core network and data.
  • Device State: What are your wandering workstations connecting to? Are these devices adequately protected with antivirus, anti-malware, intrusion detection, and more? How are the devices behaving, and are they putting your network and data at risk? OPAQ device state analysis and control secures multidirectional access for your wandering workforce and stationary endpoints and what they can safely connect to.

Transformational edge computing requires a rotating shield of SASE protection.

Learn more.

Zero Trust Resurges in Ethereal World of Borderless Networks and Other Haunts

In a revival that would satisfy both retro stylists and fictional FBI agent Fox Mulder, the approach to security known as Zero Trust is back and as strong as ever.

Why has Zero Trust – a model that ‘trusts no one’ and seeks to verify everything – returned to the forefront of security?

In a 2019 study, Gartner found that “More users, devices, applications, services and data are located outside of an enterprise than inside.” Doing business digitally is no longer solely about the trusted private network. It is about expanding the business horizons into unchartered network waters, into often shadowy connection points, where you might not know who or what is lurking on the other end and what he, she or it is carrying and trying to inject into your computer code and company network…

In a world of spamming, scamming, spoofing, phishing, catfishing, and ransomware, where individuals never can really be certain of the identity of the party on the other side of the connection, legitimate enterprises need all the help they can get when it comes to establishing trust and security.

The Zero Trust model is back.

Trust no one, Scully.

Zero Trust Networks and Architectures

Created in 2010 by then-Forrester analyst John Kindervag, Zero Trust was never wholly forgotten, but its forceful reemergence and renewed emphasis make sense in today’s interconnected reality where exposure to untrusted networks and apps and cybercriminals is unavoidable, and where ID spoofing, identity theft, and business-reputation damage are common occurrences. Attack methods have gotten more sophisticated… as has malware… and just one naïve or ill-advised click can infect a computer and surreptitiously attempt to spread. Detection can take months, allowing contagions to get rooted and then deliver a fatal blow to an organization, including through Zero Day exploits.

All access from within the network, from your cloud workload environments, and from remote users connected via VPN to your network, must be contained using a ‘least privilege approach.’ Access must be denied where not approved. Said another way, every user is verified, their devices validated, and their actions limited to just those that have been granted.

Ransomware still targets specific computers but has matured to now easily challenge network control. Ransomware operators such as SamSam are focused and lethal. They update their malware frequently in an effort to avoid antivirus and other endpoint defenses. In one tale of horror, the WannaCry ransomware attack was able to knock out 200,000 computers across 150 countries, including some hospitals, over the course of four days in 2017.

Once the malware gets a foothold it immediately attempts to spread laterally and infect multiple computers on a network. Some of the tools in use include Mimikatz and Bloodhound. Mimikatz is a tool for post-exploitation that dumps passwords from memory, PINs, and network authentication protocol lists. Bloodhound is a tool that can map out an entire domain and highlight where the next target might be. This makes lateral movement within a network easier for hackers and their malware.

Zero Trust powered by OPAQ allows organizations to quickly and easily set up a robust zero-trust architecture.

OPAQ Zero Trust Secure Access and Segmentation

Secure Internet Access

OPAQ Zero Trust cybersecurity protects your organization with multi-layered advanced security out to cloud and Internet access points while safely segmenting endpoint access and traffic patterns across lateral and core-data lines of movement. In addition to wrong clicks, identity spoofing, and distributed brute force attacks, devices can be lost or stolen and hackers can gain network access through computers left unattended. You want to make sure you stop the spread through layered security in the form of multi-factor authentication (MFA), access control and segmentation.

Using the OPAQ security-as-a-service, network security policy follows users wherever they go, protecting them as they perform their jobs, whether on the private network, or through a separate secure tunnel while using the public Internet or apps in the cloud. Zero Trust model rules can be based on any combination of host, host group, Active Directory user/group, port, protocol, service, range, and blacklist policy, while allowing for MFA when connecting to specific systems.

True Least Privilege Segmentation

Building effective network segments used to be hard work, and doing it with physical switches is expensive and time consuming. The consequence is that even relatively well segmented networks are not truly restricted to a least privilege level, i.e., strong access and control rules. OPAQ enables segments to be configured on the fly, and can provide network segments based on user groups rather than IP addresses or physical switch configuration. This capability affords granular, least privilege segments that enable employees to access the systems they need to do their jobs, and nothing more.

East-west traffic (lateral LAN traffic) is protected via security policies that provide software-defined network segmentation, while also providing hardware and software asset inventory, and instant quarantine capabilities. Users on the network can be granted or denied access to resources depending on their role, device state, and/or MFA.

Much of the work your organization is doing is no longer on the private network. Protect against infection, unauthorized access, and lateral spread by orchestrating security in a way in which trust is earned, not given, and by treating every connection with zero trust.

Learn more.

Zero Trust Architecture web page.