Cybersecurity & Remote Workers: How to Protect Your Data & OT Infrastructure

By Bill Moore, Founder and CEO of XONA

Even before the Coronavirus pandemic created an environment ripe for bad actors to exploit, cybersecurity was a top priority at many companies. Most industries identified cybersecurity as a serious threat to their business continuity and longevity. Since the onset of COVID-19, 75% of business leaders view cybersecurity as a top priority to while navigating the new normal.

It’s easy to see why. According to IBM’s annual Cost of a Data Breach Study, the average data breach will cost companies nearly $4 million, a significant sum at a time when most organizations are already facing serious business disruptions.

Unfortunately, these risks are amplified in a remote work environment as unsecured connections, careless employees, and unsophisticated data privacy standards put company data at risk.

These risks are amplified in Operational Technology (OT), as compromised data and systems can lead to catastrophic incidents and put lives at risk. Therefore, as companies increasingly embrace a hybrid workforce and the remote operations capacity that comes with it, it’s vitally important to ensure that access to your organization’s OT systems are cyber-secure.

Here are three steps that every organization can take today to begin this process.

#1 Ensure that remote workers operate in a safe OT environment.

From fraud attempts to compromised connections, remote workers face a deluge of cybersecurity threats that put companies at risk. In this environment, employees need a comprehensive, secure remote operations platform that provides:

  • Protocol isolation
  • VDI access – no data-in-transit
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Application and system segmentation
  • Time-based access control
  • Session logging
  • Screen recording

These zero-trust features provide a level of accountability for employees while also ensuring safe access to critical infrastructure.

#2 Implement zero-trust technology.

In the past several years, companies have spent extravagant sums to fortify their on-site defensive posture. Unfortunately, those efforts are useless when it comes to keeping a hybrid workforce cyber-secure.

While VPN services and other security-focused technologies offer a basic level of network access protection, remote operations require more granular authorization and monitoring controls for access to critical systems. A zero-trust architecture is needed, as it combines strong multi-factor authentication, segmented system authorization, and full user access monitoring and recording.

#3 Require moderated directional secure file transfer capability to move files into an OT environment.

The past several years have seen an unprecedented number of data breaches, and billions of digital records have been compromised in the process. The consequences can be much more devastating to public safety in OT.

However, simple strategies, like moderated unidirectional secure file transfer, can provide better safeguards to ensure files moved into the OT environment are audited and validated.

For example, enabling a technician to update the software on a critical system should require that only unidirectional access is allowed from the remote technician, and a supervisor must also approve the file to be moved. In addition, the integrity of the file should be validated and also checked for malware. These features are often optional, but companies should make them standard when public safety is at stake. The extra step can help prevent a consequential data or network breach leading to a disastrous outcome.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity is a bottom-line issue for every organization. The economic implications of COVID-19 are forcing many companies to make difficult concessions, which increases the importance of addressing cyber threats with an integrated zero-trust user access and remote operations platform.

Simply put, getting the most proverbial bang for your buck means turning to solutions that include cybersecurity as a built-in, baseline part of their product.