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The Secret to WFH: Remote Support in Zero Trust

03.14.23 | By Ascent

Companies rapidly pivoted to working remotely over the last few years. As socioeconomic factors continue to shift, many individuals prefer to remain hybrid or completely remote.

The persistence of hybrid and remote work has led executives and IT teams to revisit their remote support capabilities. Effective hybrid work environments must protect company data, reduce the risk presented by threat actors, and provide the same level of ongoing support employees would have received in person.

Remote support in Zero Trust allows organizations to better address the needs of their teams, from seasonal and temporary to global and hybrid workers, while ensuring data is secure.

Zero Trust Reduces Friction in Hybrid Work

Zero Trust is an approach to cybersecurity that assumes users are unauthenticated by default, insisting on verification at multiple stages. Pillars such as identity, devices, and network provide guidance on focus areas for high-impact changes companies can make to improve their security posture immediately. By enabling remote support in Zero Trust architectures, companies can create more flexible, secure work environments and protect employees from social engineering.

Zero Trust Identity and Access Management Protects Against Threat Actors

Approaching IAM with a Zero Trust lens can reduce day-to-day friction for users. This pillar of Zero Trust suggests that users should have the least privileged access necessary to do their jobs and that identity should be checked vigorously and frequently. In hybrid work environments, this can be adopted through authentication tools and access management protocols to start.

Authentication measures help ensure a user is who he or she claims to be by checking credentials against another source. Often, this takes the form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) or single sign-on (SSO). These tools help shift organizations away from user-set passwords to verify identity and toward passwordless logins. This allows users to securely and easily access the information they need, from any location, while the organization reduces the risk of social engineering for all employees.

Least privileged access is another principle of IAM that limits the amount of sensitive data employees can view. In the case of a breach, threat actors will then be limited in the information they can access, allowing the organization to recover quicker.

Device Registration Supports Asset and Data Management

Zero Trust principles can also be used to manage and secure devices, leading to better asset management and data protection. In many hybrid, temporary, and seasonal employment scenarios, individuals use their own devices both to support authentication and to access company data, such as using an authentication app or receiving an email confirmation code.

Devices used for company business should be registered. This gives better visibility into activity, which allows IT teams to respond to potential threats quickly. For example, if a device is registered in one location but is used in another, IT teams can request additional authentication or segment the network. These actions can reduce the risk posed by the device while the new log-in is investigated. In addition, if a device is lost or stolen, remote management tools can secure proprietary information, even without having the physical device.

Network Security Segments Information to Protect Data

Finally, applying a Zero Trust architecture to networks and to support access control can improve application and data security. Companies frequently use legacy tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) to manage users on networks. VPNs create perimeters around networks and data in hopes of keeping threat actors out of the network. However, if the data inside the network is not segmented or regulated, any threat actor who breaches the VPN will compromise the entire network. Rather than use VPNs, companies interested in pursuing Zero Trust should use Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

ZTNA provides access to applications and data based on verified identity and contextual information on users. Rather than allow access indiscriminately to anyone inside the network, resources are isolated and access is limited to individuals who are verified and authorized to view them.

How Remote Support in Zero Trust Impacts Employees

Remote and hybrid work environments are popular with individuals, many of whom have indicated they would like to remain remote or hybrid indefinitely. To continue to improve remote access, employees must be able to collaborate with others on their teams, including IT teams.

The definition of remote support in Zero Trust is the process of IT teams providing guidance to users without having physical access to their devices. For example, if a user needs a software update but is unable to successfully download it, IT teams can remotely access his or her device to check for errors then identify and implement solutions.

Traditionally, IT teams have been able to maintain devices in person or have conducted remote support over the network. When adhering to Zero Trust principles, though, these methods are insufficient due to their lack of security and verification.

Without remote support in Zero Trust architectures, neither the user nor the IT team member can be certain of the other’s identity. Either one could be a threat actor attempting to gain access to a device and, therefore, privileged company data.

Remote support in Zero Trust provides a more secure framework for hybrid interactions. To recap:

  • IAM infrastructure ensures individuals are authenticated and authorized before they are able to access sensitive data. This can give both the user and the IT team member the confidence needed to move forward with remote support in Zero Trust.
  • Device registration provides supporting information on each device being used, including the device being remotely accessed. IT teams can then monitor the context of device activity for inconsistencies, such as a changed location, time, and so on.
  • ZTNA reduces the scope of access, so threat actors are unable to view the entirety of a network in instances of a breach, limiting the negative impact.

These practices allow the organization to be more secure and allow employees to better use the tools and information needed to effectively do their jobs.

Make Meaningful Progress Toward Remote Support in Zero Trust

Regardless of the configuration of your company’s workforce, Zero Trust frameworks can make impactful changes to organizational practice without overburdening internal teams. When teams address IAM, devices, and networks, the organization’s security posture improves significantly. In turn, this improves the remote support process by providing peace of mind to end users and IT teams.

Adopting Zero Trust principles can require significant changes organizationally, including changing the company culture and the mindsets of individuals internally. Ascent Solutions’ Business Change Enablement consultants collaborate closely with internal stakeholders to ensure team members buy in to the change and are equipped with the information they need for successful Zero Trust adoption.

Ascent Solutions will guide your team as you enable remote support in Zero Trust and expand Zero Trust practices throughout your business. Contact us today for a consultation to understand the most impactful first steps to take in your Zero Trust journey.

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