Securing Hybrid Working Environment

The remote working or hybrid working environment refers to a flexible work setup where employees have the option to work remotely, either from home or other locations, while also having the opportunity to work in a physical office when needed.

“This model enables employees to balance their professional and personal lives more effectively while still staying connected and productive through digital tools and technologies. It allows organizations to optimize resources, enhance employee satisfaction, and adapt to changing work dynamics, all while maintaining operational efficiency and collaboration,” says Ilyas Mohammed, COO of Amiviz, a B2B enterprise marketplace focussed on Cybersecurity business in the Middle East and Africa.

Since the onset of COVID-19, remote or hybrid work has become part of our new normal.  And the allure of remote and hybrid work is very much thriving. According to a report by VisaGuide.World, the UAE ranks first in the Middle East and fourth globally for remote work. According to the Poly Evolution of the Workplace Report (2021), working remotely is more productive for 67.6% of UAE employees:

Dave Barnett, Head of SASE and Email Security practice EMEA at Cloudflare

“Fully remote work or partially hybrid for those employees where it is practical has accelerated through Covid and we are now settling into it being a way of life,” says Dave Barnett, Head of SASE and Email Security practice EMEA at Cloudflare.

“After the pandemic, remote work has gradually been incorporated across the corporate world in MEA,” says Roland Daccache, Senior Manager, Sales Engineering at CrowdStrike MEA.

As employees look for greater flexibility, improved career opportunities and better work-life balance, the hybrid workstyle will continue to remain prominent.

“Work being what we do rather than where we are opens up a number of interesting possibilities such as a better work-life balance which attracts talent, the ability to engage with workforces outside of the UAE as if they were part of the team and finally to improve productivity by eliminating the commute,” says Dave Barnett of Cloudflare.

“In the MEA region, remote working has gained prominence due to factors like improved connectivity, the availability of digital tools and collaboration platforms, and the recognition of advantages associated with flexibility and work-life balance, says CrowdStrike’s Roland Daccache.

“Ever since the onset of the pandemic, organizations in the region have adopted a more flexible working environment. Post-pandemic, organizations have maintained a hybrid work culture to enable employees to balance their personal and professional lives effectively,” says Alain Penel, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey & CIS at Fortinet.

Is Hybrid Workplace Safe?
The rise in hybrid working has made businesses increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. In today’s remote and hybrid work environment, remote-access technologies are providing plenty of new opportunities for cyber villains to exploit unsecured technology systems. One of the many issues organizations have to address is IT security for remote workers.

Ram Narayanan, Country Manager at Check Point Software Technologies, Middle East

While offering flexibility and convenience, remote work also introduces new cybersecurity risks, such as unauthorized access, data breaches, and malware attacks. “Remote work offers numerous benefits but also introduces security risks due to the unique environment remote workers operate in,” says Ram Narayanan, Country Manager at Check Point Software Technologies, Middle East.

“It is essential to ensure that the networks supporting hybrid or remote work are highly secure as remote workers can be more susceptible to phishing and social engineering attacks,” says CrowdStrike’s Roland Daccache.

The security of remote or hybrid working networks varies depending on the security measures implemented by the company. It depends on various factors, including the cybersecurity measures already implemented and the awareness and practices of employees.

“The security of remote working or hybrid working networks depends on various factors. Organizations must stay informed about the latest security threats and best practices,” says Akshay Shirur, Product Manager, VAD Technologies. “Educating employees about cybersecurity best practices is very important. Regularly updating policies and technologies is key to maintaining a secure remote or hybrid working environment.”

Roland Daccache, Senior Manager, Sales Engineering at CrowdStrike MEA

Elevating Security With Robust Solutions
CrowdStrike has been a cloud-native organization since its inception, years before the pandemic. “This has allowed our customers to enjoy a seamless security experience from day one of remote work implementation,” says CrowdStrike’s Roland Daccache.

Check Point Software plays a pivotal role in securing networks by offering Check Point Harmony, a groundbreaking unified SASE security solution. “Harmony unifies various security aspects, including clientless connectivity, endpoint security, email security, internet browsing, mobile security and remote VPN access, providing comprehensive protection for data and users across all environments, whether at home, in the office, or on the move,” says Ram Narayanan of Check Point.

In a hybrid network, security needs to be everywhere and able to adapt as the network it is protecting continually expands and adjusts to shifting business requirements.

Fortinet’s FortiGate next-generation firewall (NGFW) enables organizations to secure any network edge at any location, providing more visibility and coordinated end-to-end security with AI/ML-powered FortiGuard services.

“With multiple form factors, the FortiGate NGFW can operate at any edge to integrate networking and provide consistent policy enforcement, easy-to-manage centralized policy orchestration, real-time intelligence sharing, and correlated threat response,” says Alain Penel, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey & CIS at Fortinet.

Cloudflare has embraced a zero-trust model for its employees since 2015. Today, the cybersecurity company is offering a complete suite of SASE solutions delivered locally from 17 cities within the Middle East.

“The benefits of our SASE approach are that remote employees, company devices and customer transactions are all secured by a single pane of glass, reducing complexity and enhancing the competitiveness of organizations throughout the Middle East and globally,” says Cloudflare’s Dave Barnett.

Ilyas Mohamed, COO at AmiViz

Amiviz plays a critical role in securing remote working or hybrid working networks by providing essential products, services, and expertise to organizations. “We act as intermediaries between cybersecurity vendors and end-users through our partners, offering a wide range of security solutions tailored to the specific needs and challenges of remote work environments,” says Amiviz’s Ilyas Mohammed.

“We understand the critical importance of ensuring a secure environment, and we have solutions that are designed to provide Enterprise-grade security. These offerings include cutting-edge features such as encryption, multi-factor authentication (MFA), secure data channels, and access controls,” says Akshay Shirur, product manager of VAD Technologies.

Security Best practices
A CIO/CISO can ensure seamless security of remote working or hybrid working environments through a comprehensive approach that combines technology, policies, and employee awareness. When assessing their cybersecurity posture and selecting the right security tools for the hybrid working era, CIOs and security leaders should consider security offerings which are extremely fast to deploy, provide unified visibility, and safely enable employees to perform their duties securely no matter where they are.

CIOs/CISOs must invest in robust infrastructure tailored to distributed operations to ensure seamless security in remote or hybrid working environments. The CISOs role should evolve to encompass infrastructure protection and the continuity of business operations amidst evolving cyber threats. “Implementing permanent security solutions, assessing supply chain security and adopting Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture is crucial. Engaging employees through cyber security awareness programs and leveraging expertise from trusted partners further fortifies defences, ensuring contextualized access without compromising data integrity,” says Check Point’s Ram Narayanan

Alain Penel, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey & CIS at Fortinet

Alain Penel, Vice President of Middle East, Turkey & CIS at Fortinet, says, “As we embrace a remote or hybrid working environment, CIOs and CISOs need to evaluate the technology adopted during the initial rush to remote work to ensure compliance and proper data security measures are in place.”

According to Cloudflare, Zero Trust Network Access fits the bill when it comes to the seamless security of remote working or hybrid working environments.  The company also recommends that organizations establish a guilt-free work culture that encourages employees to fearlessly report errors that could lead to an attack or breach.

CIOs and security leaders should implement robust security measures such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and endpoint security solutions to protect remote access and data.

Akshay Shirur, Product Manager, VAD Technologies

Establishing clear and updated security policies and procedures specific to remote work, continuous monitoring and auditing of remote access activities and network traffic enable early detection and response to security threats. Regular employee training on cybersecurity best practices and awareness campaigns raise awareness about potential risks and how to mitigate them effectively.

“By following important steps such as setting up a strong security policy and implementing MFA for all remote access. By conducting regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and address potential weaknesses in the remote working environment and regularly reviewing and updating policies to align with evolving compliance requirements,” says VAD Technologies’ Akshay Shirur.