By Kurt Glazemakers, SVP Engineering, AppGate
As the dust settles on the initial shift to working from home, it is clear that for employees and business the switch will be permanent for many. Already we have seen Google and Facebook announce that they won’t be expecting employees back in the office this year, while Twitter has gone further and stated that its employees can now work from home permanently.
Naturally, with such big changes in how organisations function, there are bound to be challenges and problems. One of the biggest was security. At the start of the lockdown phase many organisations rushed out and updated or added Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to their security set up in an effort to make sure the workforce remains productive, while also secure. However, with band widths being stretched to breaking points, some businesses are seriously feeling the pinch. While VPNs may have alleviated the immediate security concerns, their design now means that they are impacting productivity levels.
More VPNs, no less problems
It is not hard to see why VPNs have typically been the go-to tool by businesses for employees to connect to internal systems. For nearly thirty years they have been trusted for keeping networks and data safe. In recent weeks in particular, VPN usage has drastically increased as businesses adopted it as a known quantity. However, with today’s bandwidth-hungry applications and the high volume of traffic that is coming through as everyone tries to connect from home, VPNs simply are not coping.
One of the biggest challenges of VPN use lies in the fact that there is a single shared access point through which every user has to authenticate and connect to directly. Consequently, when there are a large number of users – as is currently the case – it is incredibly difficult for new connections to be made and employees end up having to wait to establish a connection. In addition, much like with a DDoS attack, if the VPN is overloaded with a high volume of users attempting to connect simultaneously, it can freeze and crash, leaving users having to wait even longer when trying to connect.
To complicate matters further, for a VPN to work efficiently, the connection must be stable. With employees relying on their home wifi which is often at a lower bandwidth than that in an office environment to begin with, the added strain of dealing with work and other family members usage is often just too much. As connections drop out, the link between the user and the VPN is severed, resulting in employees being left frustrated and unconnected to the tools and data they need.
Failing to find a fix
With VPNs struggling to keep up with the demand brought about by mass remote working, some businesses have tried to overcome these problems by having employees simply turn it off for certain tasks. For example, for application uses that require a huge amount of bandwidth such as video calls. This is not an ideal solution for any businesses, but it is especially impractical for financial or legal institutions where the documents and data they are handling are extremely confidential. While the disabling of the VPN may allow for productivity levels to remain high, employees are left open to security vulnerabilities and further risk from the ever-increasing malicious threats that have occurred throughout the pandemic.
In efforts to make sure employees are not left unprotected, should they need to disable their VPN, some companies have adopted interim solutions such as a TLS tool. However, the last thing that employees or businesses need during this time is to have to worry about what security tool they are using and having to regularly switch between them. The reality is, the current tools being used to keep employees safe are causing more complexities and risks than needs be. It’s time for a simpler solution.
Keeping it simple
For businesses to truly provide a comprehensive, yet easy to use security solution for their employees as they work from home, they need to stop turning to VPNs as the answer.
Using a zero-trust formula, a software-defined perimeter (SDP) is designed to micro-segment network and application access, dynamically creating a secure one-to-one connection with multiple locations, at the same time. In doing so, an SDP completely avoids the possibility of slow running connections due to a high volume of users. What’s more, due to running on a decentralised system, SDPs can scale directly in order to cope with an increase in concurrent users or bandwidth-hungry applications, avoiding any need to disable the tool depending on the employee’s use. With the ability to successfully cope at scale with the demands of today’s workforce, adopting an SDP tool enables employees to work securely and productively – without the need for a complex toolbox of solutions.
Whatsmore, by switching to SDP solutions, businesses benefit from instantly reducing their attack surface. Couple this with fewer rules to manage and adjust and businesses can actually see productive increase as network access and auditing processes are greatly simplified.
Hassle free security
In the face of huge user numbers and band-width draining applications, VPNs are failing to make the mark as organisations continue to work remotely. As a result, businesses are at risk of increasing their exposure to security threats and spiralling into a web of ineffective quick-fix solutions.
While working from home can certainly bring about its challenges and complexities, your business security shouldn’t be one of them. With the right solutions in place – such as an SDP solution, organisations can feel confident that their employees are working effectively and securely, without compromise.
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