Leveraging Microsoft 365 to Create a Secure Hybrid Work Experience

In March 2021, Microsoft published an article affirming that flexible work is here to stay. Their study showed that “Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams.

To enable employees with a flexible and safe work environment, organizations need to apply some avant-garde thinking and transform their workplace infrastructure. In the last few years, the cybersecurity landscape has witnessed a huge change. In fact, a Microsoft study found that hackers are launching an average of 50 million password attacks every day — 579 per second. Phishing and firmware attacks have also increased. As evidenced in the recent Nobelium and Hafnium cyberattacks, hackers are devising new and complex strategies to penetrate company networks. Consequently, traditional cybersecurity strategies won’t work for the sophisticated modern-day attacks.

While working in a hybrid mode, employees are switching between corporate and home networks. They are moving seamlessly between business and personal activities online. The network switching between corporate and home networks means that IT team can’t set firm borders. As a result, organizations need to implement new strategies to combat the new threats posed by the hybrid working culture. Below we have highlighted some of the most common security challenges organizations face while facilitating hybrid work and managing remote workers.

What Are the Security Challenges of Hybrid Work?

With a hybrid workforce in action, remote workers are responsible for securing the business operations as much as in-office employees. An organization’s IT security team alone cannot ensure the security of the organization’s data and resources as the employee identities and personal devices leveraged while working remotely can also be compromised. An organization’s lack of preparation can open doors for cybercriminals to attack networks or sniff organizational data. Some of the common security threats for organizations in the hybrid working world include:

1: Data Breach (Loss of sensitive information)

Data Breach is a scenario in which information is stolen or taken from a system without the authorization of the owner. It is vital for organizations to protect their critical and sensitive data related to the business, its employees, and valuable customers. According to Microsoft Digital Defense Report, phishing is responsible for almost 70% of data breaches. When working in a hybrid mode, employees get tricked easily by fraudulent messages sent by the attackers and unknowingly reveal sensitive information. Other scenarios that may lead to data breach are:

  • An employee forgets to switch to a secure network when in public or when working from home, opening a gate for others to access company resources.
  • An employee unconsciously leaves work-related devices unattended in public even for a moment.
  • An employee moving with a company laptop/smartphone ends up losing it.
2: Remote access for hybrid workforce

According to the predictions made by Workforce Institute Board, “Employees appetite for accessible, applicable workplace data is growing.” While working remotely, employees expect anytime, anywhere, and easy access to information from any device to complete their task at hand. However, when they try to access enterprise networks remotely from an unsecured network, they tend to put the company’s data security at risk.

To complete day-to-day operations, employees require access to data to share files, connect to on-site IoT devices, and sometimes access to another user device in case they need technical support. However, when the employee is working remotely, there is no idea of how the person operates. Manual tracking of their activities in real-time is time-consuming and might also give false results.

3: Device security risks

According to CIRA Cybersecurity Report 2020, two out of three employees use company-issued devices, but 50% of the hybrid workforce claim occasional usage of personal devices for work purposes — these statistics clearly indicate the scale of employees working on unsupervised devices and unmanaged access to a company network which puts their organization at risk.

Personal hardware devices, be it a mobile, laptop, or PC when connected to the company network puts an organization at great risk. Such devices might be exposed to malware and have less stringent security settings. Such practices make it easy for the attackers to break into employee’s device and access data.

4: Weak home security

When working in hybrid mode, employees are toggling between secure office spaces with firewalls, antivirus, user authentication, and tight security policies, to a potentially vulnerable home-based working environment using unsecured personal devices with weak passwords and a lack of antivirus software. Therefore, organizations need to ensure that employees are meeting the security standards while working from home.

To create a secure hybrid work experience, organizations need to think beyond the traditional IT infrastructure and provide the right collaborative tools for both remote and on-site workers. If you want to achieve success in a hybrid work environment, Microsoft 365 has a lot to offer.

How to Create a Secure Hybrid Work Experience with Microsoft 365?

“Having a strong cloud posture also provides a level of security that most companies just couldn’t achieve on their own.”

– Microsoft

Microsoft 365 delivers a powerful suite of cloud solutions and enables organizations to have secure access to enterprise applications and systems. Its strict security approaches help organizations mitigate various hybrid working security risks and design a seamless working environment for both the employees and the employers. Organizations can leverage Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Power Platform, SharePoint, and Office 365 to provide the required flexibility at work while ensuring security and increased productivity. Some of the featured security approaches provided by Microsoft 365 are:

1: Zero Trust Security Framework

To address the modern security challenges brought about by remote working, hybrid cloud environments, and increased ransomware threats, Microsoft came up with a modern approach to security called “Zero Trust”. This security approach is based on the principle: never trust, always verify. This approach requires all the users, inside or outside the organization’s network, to be authenticated, authorized, and validated for security configuration continuously to ensure complete security of data. This security model is based on three principles:

  • Verify explicitly: Authenticate and authorize the access based on the available data in real-time. Check for user identity, location, device health, service or workload, data classification, and anomalies.
  • Use least privileged access: Limit user access with just-in-time and just-enough-access (JIT/JEA), risk-based adaptive policies, and data protection to secure data and productivity.
  • Assume breach: Verify end-to-end encryption and data analysis to get maximum visibility, drive threat detection, and improve defenses.

Microsoft’s Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) app delivers an additional layer of security for the collaboration tools. It is a two-step verification process that is widely used to stay protected against cyber-attacks that are especially targeted towards accounts with weak or stolen passwords.

2: Protect your business from ransomware with SIEM and XDR products

Security incidents and event management (SIEM) and extended detection and response (XDR) products empower the IT security department of an organization to monitor every ongoing activity that might cause security threats. These tools together increase the efficiency of employees while ensuring complete security of the IT infrastructure against ransomware. This suite of solutions includes:

  • Microsoft Sentinel: This cloud-native SIEM tool enables the aggregation of security data from multiple sources. It applies AI to detect actual ransomware events among other false positives, correlate alerts, and speed up response to potential threats with built-in orchestration and automation.
  • Microsoft 365 Defender: In-built with XDR capabilities, this product prevents ransomware attacks from happening with early detection. This checks employees’ identities, endpoints, apps, email, data, and cloud applications.
  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud: With built-in XDR capabilities, this tool enables security teams to protect multi-cloud and hybrid cloud workloads from ransomware. It provides 360-degree security to servers, databases, storage, containers, and IoT devices.
3: Use Microsoft Teams for secure hybrid communication

Microsoft Teams acts as a central hub for workplace conversations, collaborative teamwork, video chats, and document sharing, all designed to aid productivity even while working from remote locations. This unified communication platform integrates easily with other Microsoft 365 tools such as Outlook and SharePoint, making it easy to keep the data in one place and collaborate seamlessly.

Teams not only facilitate communication between employees within the organization but also with external partners. Microsoft Teams delivers seamless and intuitive experiences to strengthen external collaboration. Leveraging Microsoft Teams’ guest access experience, employees within an organization can effortlessly interact and engage with partners, vendors, customers, and others who don’t have an account in the organization’s directory. Read our blog “Best Practices for Microsoft Teams Guest Access” to manage external access securely and experience the next-level collaboration.

Reimagine Security of Hybrid Work Environment with AgreeYa Solutions

As a Microsoft Gold Partner and Cloud Solutions Provider, AgreeYa has been helping organizations mitigate the challenges brought about by Hybrid working by leveraging Microsoft security solutions. We implement industry best practices and new-age solutions to secure the transition to hybrid work culture while you focus on growing and strengthening your business.

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