Keeping your organization secure requires a strategic approach to mitigate potential risks. All data that a company produces or stores is important, but clearly some assets are more sensitive or valuable than other. Similarly, all users who access corporate systems pose a certain level of risk, but only some users have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to the business.
When it comes to deploying secure, zero-trust access across an enterprise, Cyolo recommends a phased rollout that prioritizes “high risk” access scenarios. This will vary from organization to organization, but the three groups to be examined here often present the greatest risk. Securing these groups, in order of risk level, is the first step in the journey toward universal zero-trust access and a significantly improved security posture.
Businesses today frequently rely on support from third-party partners, vendors, contractors, or other service providers. In order to perform the jobs they were hired for, these users must be connected to internal environments and applications – even though doing so is risky for the organization.
Third-party users are not direct employees who work on managed, corporate-owned devices, and they are likely unfamiliar with the company’s security policies or best practices. They are also difficult to monitor and control with most secure access tools. Even when they have nothing but good intentions, third parties—and especially those who are granted wide access privileges—are more likely to put sensitive data at risk. According to a 2021 Ponemon report, “59% of organizations suffered a breach caused by a third party.”
Organizations should prioritize securing third-party access for several compelling reasons:
Data Protection: Third party vendors often have access to sensitive company data, intellectual property, customer information and other critical assets. Failing to secure their access can lead to data breaches, which can result in significant financial losses, legal consequences, and damage to the organization’s reputation.
Compliance Requirements: Many industries are subject to strict regulatory requirements regarding data protection and privacy. Organizations must ensure that their third-party vendors adhere to these regulations to avoid non-compliance penalties and legal complications.
Supply Chain Risks: Organizations rely on third-party vendors for various products and services, leaving their supply chain vulnerable. A security breach in a vendor’s system can disrupt operations, lead to product delays, and impact the organization’s bottom line.
Cybersecurity Threats: Cybersecurity threats, such as malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks, are evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Third-party vendors with weak security practices can serve as entry points for attackers seeking to compromise the organization’s network.
Business Continuity: Disruptions caused by security incidents involving third-party vendors can lead to downtime and disruption of operations. Prioritizing vendor security helps maintain business continuity, whereas not doing so presents potential safety risks and financial losses.
OT environments, ranging from manufacturing plants to oil refineries to underground mines, support machinery, critical infrastructure, and real physical processes. The innate sensitivity of OT systems, coupled with the potentially disastrous consequences of a cyberattack against such a system, means that workers (internal or external) who access OT environments should be considered high-risk and ensuring their secure access should be prioritized.
Key reasons to include OT systems and operators in the early stages your secure access deployment project include:
Avoiding Operational Disruptions: As already mentioned, OT systems control and manage critical industrial processes, machinery, and infrastructure. Security breaches or disruptions to these systems can lead to downtime, production delays, and equipment damage. Prioritizing OT security helps prevent operational disruptions that can result in significant financial losses and even physical damage.
Safety Concerns: In many industries, OT systems directly impact safety, not only for workers but also for surrounding communities and the wider environment. Compromised OT systems can lead to accidents, environmental disasters, and safety violations. Ensuring the security of OT environments helps protect lives and the environment.
Protecting Intellectual Property: OT systems often contain proprietary technology, manufacturing processes, and intellectual property vital to an organization’s competitive advantage. Securing access to OT environments helps prevent unauthorized access and industrial espionage, safeguarding valuable trade secrets and protecting the business.
Preventing Financial Losses: Security incidents involving OT systems can result in substantial financial losses, including the cost of recovering from the breach, repairing or replacing damaged equipment, and potential legal liabilities. Prioritizing OT security is a cost-effective measure to mitigate these risks.
Mitigating Cybersecurity Threats: OT systems are being increasingly targeted by sophisticated cybercriminals and nation-state actors. Breaches can lead to data theft, industrial sabotage, or crippling ransomware attacks. By implementing robust security protocols, organizations can defend themselves against these threats and reduce vulnerabilities.
Remote work is the new normal for many organizations. Today, employees simply expect to conveniently access work resources from wherever they happen to be. The problem is that the most commonly used tool for enabling remote access, the virtual private networks (VPNs), was never intended to support such widespread use. The flaws of the VPN, in terms of both security and efficiency, have been plainly demonstrated over the past few years. Remote workers who continue to connect via VPNs or other insecure access solutions pose a substantial risk to their organizations.
Reasons to prioritize implementing secure access for remote employees include:
Data Protection: Remote workers often access and handle sensitive company data, customer information, and proprietary resources from outside the corporate network. Ensuring their security helps prevent data breaches and unauthorized access to critical information.
Cybersecurity Threats: Remote employees are frequently targeted by phishing, ransomware, and other cyberattacks. By prioritizing the security of their remote workforce, organizations can reduce the risk of malware or bad actors infiltrating their network through compromised endpoints.
Compliance Requirements: Many industries have regulatory requirements that demand the protection of sensitive data, regardless of where it is accessed or stored. Enforcing secure access for remote workers helps organizations meet compliance and avoid potential legal consequences and fines.
Business Continuity: Remote work has become integral to business continuity plans. Ensuring the security of remote employees’ devices and connections helps maintain operations during crises, such as natural disasters or pandemics, when employees may be forced to work remotely.
Reputation and Trust: A security incident involving remote employees can damage an organization’s reputation and erode trust among partners and customers. Demonstrating a commitment to remote employee security helps uphold trust and credibility in the eyes of important stakeholders.
Safeguarding your organizational assets is an ongoing endeavor best achieved in partnership with a vendor that can help identify the high-risk users who will give you the biggest ROI from your secure access implementation project. The Cyolo zero-trust access solution is purpose-built to enable third-party users, OT operators, and remote employees securely and seamlessly access all work resources. Together, we can build the right strategy to strengthen your organizations’ security posture and protect its most valuable assets.
To learn more about industry trends and the current ZTNA landscape, download the complete 2023 Garter Market Guide for Zero Trust Network Access, in which Cyolo is listed as a Representative Vendor.