Risk management: Securing the new hybrid work model

Five ways to tackle the dynamic threat landscape in a hybrid work culture

Vishal Salvi Portrait
Vishal Salvi Portrait

By Vishal Salvi

To protect against cyberattacks, companies must continuously monitor threats, vulnerabilities, incidents, and risks looking for patterns to ensure maximum visibility and reduce false positives. In the last year, the cyber landscape has presented new opportunities to threat actors. Malware campaigns employing Covid-19 related routes or phishing emails targeting information-hungry citizens became prevalent. According to government estimates, there was a 300% spike in cyber-attacks in 2020. Another report placed India just behind the US in ransomware attacks as many organisations could not restructure their security systems in time to adapt to work-from-home. To manage the new environment, IT teams had to revamp their operating protocol but it led to challenges such as employees resisting the adoption of tools like virtual private networks and new security protocols. Since a hybrid work model is a reality we will be living with for a long time, here are five ways CISOs can ensure that everyone in the organisation is on the same page when it comes to best security practices.

Strengthen risk and robust risk management process: Cyber-attacks disrupt businesses. Every minute lost resolving a cyber security issue results in a financial or reputational loss. CISOs need to interact with the enterprise risk management team or ensure that risk detection, assessment, and remediation of risks related to cyberattacks are part of the security agenda.

Borderless security architecture is a must: In a remote working situation, employees can use multiple devices. A distributed workforce is also heavily reliant on cloud platforms and collaborative tools outside the secure intranet ecosystem. The CISO needs to ensure a borderless security architecture where the security protocols are scalable irrespective of the device and network.

Communication is crucial: Every remote employee needs to take ownership of the security practices and understand how to identify attack vectors. CISOs must think of innovative ways to communicate and pique the interest of the employee to be security-aware. In addition to spending money on penetration testing, organisations must also invest in self-diagnostic tools to test human activities. Employees must know they cannot claim ignorance when it comes to security matters.

Deploying innovative techniques such as AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems can be trained to detect malware and other threats with the help of datasets which include algorithms and code. Trained AI can perform much better pattern recognition to help identify malicious behaviour and activity. It can preemptively isolate malicious activity from gaining a stronger foothold and prevent ransomware from encrypting a system. Cybersecurity is all about correlation and predictive analytics where AI and machine learning can be applied.

Security of IoT devices: For enterprises that rely on Internet of Things devices for many of their processes, CISOs need to identify which IoT devices pose a risk to various enterprise platforms, networks, and cloud integrations. These need to be secured and be subjected to ‘fire drill’ exercises simulating branches to test organisational response plans. Every IoT device should have the latest patches and must be configured for enhancing security against known threats.

One lesson that 2020 taught us is that you need to be able to adapt to changing situations promptly. There is a need to constantly invest in people, processes, and technologies. Strive towards security excellence by assuming that one is constantly under attack. The CISOs who can navigate the dynamic threat landscape in these uncertain times will ensure the best cyber resilience for their organisation’s future.

The writer is CISO & head of Cyber Security Practice – Infosys

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