How Zero Trust Can Help SMEs: The Downside of Remote Work

How Zero Trust Can Help SMEs The Downside of Remote Work (1)

The transition to flexible work has brought many benefits. These range from more time for family and self-care to more flexible options for where and how we work. But there’s a downside to the good: remote and hybrid work has increased threats from cyberattacks.

According to research by HP and KuppingerCole, the number of online attacks more than doubled during the pandemic. That’s because employees were using more work devices at home and even using personal devices for work. One in four companies (26 percent) estimates the damage caused by cyberattacks to be “existentially threatening” or “very severe.” At peak times, the damage amounts to as much as 52.5 billion euros.

IT security: large versus small companies

It’s no wonder, then, that IT security has become a top priority for both large and small companies. And while small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face the same threats from cyber and supply chain attacks, they often lack the skills and resources to implement all available security measures. In a recent survey by GoTo, 76 percent of respondents confirmed that flexible work models had increased the workload of IT staff – 43 percent even felt that their jobs have become more difficult.

Large companies are typically in a comfortable position to staff their IT departments with security experts. Not so with smaller companies. A company with fewer than a hundred employees often has only a small IT team – perhaps one or two people. They have to take care of many different things, not just purely IT security. It takes more than an eight-hour workday to also keep up with the ever-evolving IT landscape.

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But SMB leaders are often looking in the wrong places for solutions, not even aware that powerful security options already exist specifically for small businesses and IT teams. With modern tools and a zero-trust architecture, they can achieve the same level of security with little effort that a chief information security officer in a large enterprise would demand.

SMBs should embrace zero-trust security

How Zero Trust Can Help SMEs The Downside of Remote Work

Traditional cybersecurity practices focus on a “castle and ditch” model. Here, security protocols focus on keeping threats out of a centralized environment. Most importantly, this approach assumes that every user with the right credentials has legitimate access to the network. IT trusts the known user profile and allows them free access. The growing trend toward cloud solutions is making this concept of security perimeter obsolete.

Zero Trust, on the other hand, makes a different assumption: Hackers either actively attack networks or have already breached the protective mechanisms. This concept sees networks as “cities” in which there is constant communication with external applications and networks. In addition, users must be able to move freely at all times. Nevertheless, Zero Trust does not blindly trust the users created.

They must first prove that they really have the permissions. However, it is important to compromise both usability and security as little as possible and find a good compromise. Many tools already have zero-trust features built in and take care of all the complexity of the security structures behind the scenes – invisible to the user, in other words. This means IT managers don’t have to build a zero-trust architecture, set up virtual private networks or take other time-consuming steps – all of this is already built into the tools.

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How zero-trust security works

This modern approach to a security architecture can be thought of as a kind of internal law enforcement agency. It includes many different validation points, barriers for sensitive content, and strict controls even for verified users. In the process, the system must validate additional requests at user login before granting access to information. Meanwhile, the powerful concept has gained acceptance throughout the IT world.

An example from everyday corporate use: If a server sends a software update to the laptop of the CEO of an insurance company, the update may be legitimate. Yet the laptop won’t run the update until the company’s IT administrator digitally releases it. That means the administrator must enter a password or otherwise identify himself. This ensures that the updates are authorized by a human and not just the computer.

In this way, every important action of the computer is subject to human control. This approach increases security because such seemingly administrative updates may occur only once a month and are accepted by the user without hesitation.

Zero Trust for SMBs

Security and reliability should be an important decision factor when evaluating software tools – if not the most important. This is essential for small and medium-sized businesses that operate with limited IT resources. Especially when it comes to remote work and remote tools, Zero Trust is a significant security improvement. Without Zero Trust, malicious actors could use such tools remotely to inject malware into customer devices.

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All while the system assumes the user is trustworthy. These cases are not possible with support software based on Zero Trust. That’s why Zero Trust is a key component of current remote support tools. They make it easier for small business owners and their IT staff to stay secure and do their real jobs: Customer and employee support. In the future, a flawless, intuitive user experience (consumer level) combined with security and scalability (enterprise level) will be essential for B2B applications.