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How are network management and security converging?

Network management and security have become even more intertwined now that more employees are working from home. How can enterprises ensure they are keeping their networks secure?

The COVID-19 pandemic drove sweeping changes to corporate and public sector network operating models. In the blink of an eye, brick-and-mortar businesses, governmental agencies and educational institutions shifted to remote work and distance learning models. The sudden and overwhelming swing to virtual collaboration and communication had some glitches, exposing many technical challenges and policy gaps.

Cybersecurity breaches -- which have appeared in several forms -- became a prominent problem for IT departments as they scrambled to support staff that were no longer centralized but remote. Enterprising cybercriminals quickly exploited vulnerabilities that emerged as employees connected through unsecured home networks and devices.

Hackers raced to find weaknesses, knowing that, in some cases, they only needed to find a single poorly configured off-site device to gain entry to organizational information. Phishing campaigns -- many related to COVID-19 -- emerged as a real threat to operational continuity and precious corporate data.

IT, security staff must work together

Today's new normal of remote work -- temporary as it may be for some organizations -- underscores the important convergence of network management and security. Both disciplines are coming together to support a remote work environment that's both protected and productive.

As such, network visibility is vital. IT must be able to monitor and have insight into what's happening across the newly virtualized network. IT can establish a variety of security controls to better safeguard enterprise resources, including smart password management, multifactor authentication, and consistent configuration of home router and modem firewalls.

A VPN is a practical way to protect enterprise resources by having users log in to a VPN whenever they're working remotely. Yet, typically, most organizations only provided VPN access to a small percentage of employees.

Today, however, VPN access is becoming a requirement, which means IT staff must contend with managing a sudden increase in traffic. And it must wrestle with the potential vulnerabilities that stem from those workers who opt out of using the VPN to transmit their data.

It is important, therefore, for network management and security staff to be on the same page, working collaboratively to support a consistently available, reliable and protected environment. Adding services like backup VPNs, as well as data loss prevention and endpoint protection technologies, helps. IT managers should also understand how security is embedded in cloud applications.

In environments where telework is the new operating structure, network visibility is not just challenging, but it's absolutely vital. Never has adopting a zero-trust model been more important.

Next Steps

Zero-trust security model primer: What, why and how

This was last published in September 2020

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