August 11, 2021

Powering Remote Workforce Productivity Through Data-First Security

Jim Fulton

When the world came to a standstill in 2020, cloud transformation efforts got dramatically accelerated at many businesses. The pandemic turbocharged the shift to a remote workforce – and fundamentally changed how employees interact with data.

Securing Remote and Hybrid Workforces

But this caused ripples (or tidal waves) throughout organizations’ IT systems. Sensitive data is now flowing out of data centers and into the homes of employees and other remote locations at a greater volume than ever before. While this created a more agile and productive workforce, it also increased the risks that organizations face. 

Balancing data protection and the enablement of remote working is like walking a tightrope, and organizations are incorporating new security models and solutions to meet this demand.

Identifying Data Security Risks Within the Remote Workforce

Collaboration looks different these days. Teamwork has moved from the office to the web, and the business tools facilitating this adjustment are changing how data moves throughout the organization.

Digital whiteboards have taken place of physical ones, and printers are in the living room instead of next to a secure shredder. The resulting lack of control over where sensitive information ends up has organizations rethinking their security policies to avoid a potential leak or breach. Some have even gone as far as disabling at-home printing or removing access to certain applications.

It doesn’t take a security expert to understand that locking data away to avoid any mistakes is counterintuitive. Productivity is why people work remotely in the first place, but traditional security measures can be at odds with the agility that cloud-first operations offer. Fortunately, new approaches are enabling security to deliver on why it exists in the first place: to let people safely get—and use—the data they need.

The most effective way to do this is to step back and evaluate the ways your workforce interacts with data, including:

  1. Understand your data: Whether it’s private data (medical, financial, etc.) or intellectual property, locate that information and map where it goes and where it is used. Identify high-risk users at the outset and determine safe ways to access applications, like Zero Trust Network Access.
  2. Consider layers of control: Evaluate groups of trusted users and their relationships with data they work with. Zero Trust is all about letting people access only those resources they explicitly need to get their job done; it’s more than a best practice, it’s common sense.
  3. Make people aware of data: Educate users about the risks posed to the organization with certain types of data. They may not realize the tool they’re using – like a digital whiteboard or portal – is high risk.

Gartner found 75 percent of midsize enterprises plan to use a hybrid workforce model, so users will continue to interact with data outside of traditional IT defenses. Gaining a strong grasp of what the new risks to data security are and where they sit will help businesses put in place the right security controls for the new ways their network and applications are being sued.

Watch the Webinar for Remote Working Security Best Practices

Protecting the workforce without hindering functionality is an area every business can improve in. With the right strategy, security teams can power the productivity of remote employees. I recently discussed this topic in a lively webinar with Paul Haywood, Group CISO at BUPA. We were joined by moderator Alex Hilton, CEO of Cloud Industry Forum.

Watch the on-demand version to dive more into the changes companies have seen protecting remote employees, best practices in how organizations can adjust their security strategies to meet emerging threats head on and more.

Jim Fulton

Jim Fulton serves as VP Product Marketing & Analyst Relations, focused on SASE, SSE and Zero Trust data security. He has been delivering enterprise access and security products for more than 20 years and holds a degree in Computer Science from MIT.

Read more articles by Jim Fulton

About Forcepoint

Forcepoint is the leading user and data protection cybersecurity company, entrusted to safeguard organizations while driving digital transformation and growth. Our solutions adapt in real-time to how people interact with data, providing secure access while enabling employees to create value.