In a recent conversation, the CIO of a major law firm said something that really resonated with me: “A breach will happen. It’s a matter of when not if. What matters is how your business reacts.” We’ve all seen examples of high profile breaches. The ripple effect that came in the aftermath of those breaches can be devastating and long lasting. For law firms, where customer relationships are built on credibility and trust as much as they are on services and talent, ensuring that the correct infrastructure is in place to mitigate potential financial and reputational damage is essential.
Technology can be a great aid when it comes to embracing change. We have all witnessed that for ourselves over the last 18 months or so as the pandemic drove organisations in every sector and of every shape and size to chase their own digital transformations. So, what does this mean for your firm? Where can technology help?
“A breach will happen. It’s a matter of when not if. What matters is how your business reacts.”CIO, Major Law Firm
Where are your people?
One of the most enduring legacies of COVID will undoubtedly be the impact it has had on the way most people go about their business. No matter your firm’s stance on whether employees should be working from home or from the office (or a combination thereof), it is clear that some level of adaptation is required to accommodate these new working practices. Perhaps your firm has already taken steps towards embracing a more distributed workforce. If that is the case, it is prudent to point out some of the security challenges that are associated with a more ‘remote’ workforce.
Distributed employees place a very different burden on corporate IT resources than workers at the office. Many organisations today are seeing that their traditional network perimeter has crumbled out of necessity as demand to access resources from outside have soared.
This is completely altering the IT landscape. What we are now witnessing is a world that wants to run outside of the historically centralised network. It requires making every employee an office all to themselves, with people accessing the firm’s network using laptops from their homes or on public Wi-Fi networks, or even using smart devices such as a work-issued or personal phone. All of these changes have created a massive security headache for IT teams. Cybercriminals are having a field day because they can now enjoy a much larger attack surface and they now have many more possible entry points into corporate systems. And people being people – they will occasionally do unwise things on smart devices and click on links in text messages or visit shady websites that they probably wouldn’t do using a work computer. It has been shown that it’s easier to dupe someone into clicking on phishing links like these via an email opened on a smart device, and criminals have taken full advantage of this fact, causing phishing attacks to skyrocket.
Is the answer to lock everything down so tightly with additional layers of security, tokens or two-step verification requirements? If you want happy employees, the answer is an emphatic no. So how do you manage an increasingly remote workforce ensuring that employees can enjoy secure (but efficient) access to all the information they need to keep the firm operating smoothly?
Goodbye to centralised data centres, hello SASE
Let’s start by introducing the concept of Secure Access service Edge (SASE). It was Gartner who came up with the term and you must see it as a framework rather than being a single product that can be categorised. Essentially, think of SASE as a collection or package of technologies, that are delivered as a service, and which allow any firm to offer secure access to the ever-changing needs of their dynamic workforce.
I mentioned ‘traditional’ network perimeters earlier. If current trends are to be believed, employees will increasingly need to access resources from outside that traditional perimeter, and when they do, they’ll be using more SaaS apps than ever before, on more devices, over a variety of public and private networks and traffic types. In a SASE world, every networking and security solution that was traditionally found in a box in the data centre, is now delivered as a service to the distributed workforce (at the edge). What this boils down to for the firm is improved network security, based on identity, that allows your people to work dynamically and remotely, all while being given access only to the resources they need, safely and efficiently. And an important element of SASE is the concept of Zero Trust.
There are several flavours of zero trust, but one that is gaining ground is zero trust network access (ZTNA). This is a product category that sits within the SASE methodology, and at its core it basically says ‘trust nobody and deny by default.’ Rather than being ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ the assumption is that everyone is a bad guy until they prove that they are not. A robust ZTNA will look at every single request by a remote worker (including the device that they use) to authorise the appropriate level of access to the firm’s resources. Under these conditions, any unwanted or risky connections are blocked, keeping people safe from engaging with online threats and risky content. ZTNA should also keep users away from any of the firm’s resources that they are not cleared to access.
Your firm handles a significant amount of sensitive information. Everything from corporate intellectual property through to personal client information and all kinds of financial data. Cybercriminals can’t wait to get their hands on that treasure trove of information – don’t let them. Investing in the correct technology to address the dynamic working conditions of today gives your firm the best possible defence against that breach that is begging to happen.