Cellular Connectivity at the Forefront of Network Security
By Donald Schleede
From large corporations to small, local business, COVID-19 is creating a new global workforce paradigm. For the foreseeable future, working from home is central to “the new normal,” as people express reluctance to return to public transit and crowded workspaces – 41 percent of employees are likely to work remotely post-pandemic according to Gartner.
While it now seems obvious that the remote work model will last for an extended period of time, many companies are still in a reactive mode. They have largely focused on setting up employees with devices and giving access to corporate networks as quickly as possible, with less attention on anything else. Just a few months later, priorities have shifted. As the number of people working remotely increased, so do the threats that companies face – compounded by the race to just get people online. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives 4,000 cybersecurity complaints a day, four times its pre-COVID pace which puts more pressure on IT, security teams and leadership to maintain organizational cybersecurity.
How can organizations protect their proprietary data and confidential communications in the face of aggressive cyberattacks against an expanded remote workforce?
Upgrading Network Security for the Distributed Workforce
As the volume and sophistication of threats, remote access becomes a bigger concern because workers are relying on connections that are not provisioned with the advanced security that protected them in the corporate and office settings. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing IT professionals can do to secure remote workers. Cellular connectivity options bring several security advantages to the distributed workforce and much-needed support to IT teams dealing with network capacity and uptime challenges. Cellular routers and extenders deliver connectivity that is provisioned and managed by corporate IT – complete with encryption, firewall, VPN capabilities and a variety of security protocols. These can provide a critical layer of security that enables employees to continue business as usual while reducing security risks for themselves, their colleagues, and ultimately the organization.
As you make decisions about secure cellular technology, consider the following:
- Home Wi-Fi routers won’t suffice.The consumer-grade security features of home Wi-Fi routers are simply not strong enough to protect corporate assets. By contrast, commercial-grade cellular routers and extenders help IT expand and enforce critical security policies to the edge of the corporate network.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are only the first step. The first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic drove many organizations to deploy or expand their VPN. VPN tunnels with multiple options, such as IPsec and OpenVPN, are the standard secure connectivity option for most organizations, typically providing remote access to centralized resources. However, local internet browsing still uses a local connection, creating risky scenarios for remote employees. With cellular routers or extenders, encrypted VPN tunnels run between remote work environments and the corporate network, providing greater security as well as remote configuration and administration.
- Location matters – when it comes to connectivity. Whether employees are located in outer-tier suburbs, rural areas or even in dense urban settings, cellular extenders enable them to isolate the best signal reception in their work environment and then run a single secure cable back to their home office.
- Centralized security management. This is the critical factor for any distributed enterprise environment. IT teams must be able to monitor and remediate any unauthorized configuration changes or device resets and track data consumption and device performance. Cellular connectivity includes centralized management capabilities. A single-pane-of-glass view to monitor and access remote devices is essential. The ability to open or close the network or perform updates to security protocols and firmware must be part of a future-proof security plan.
For those already betting on cellular technology (or looking into it) to improve their workforce security, the goal is to ensure cellular communication devices can be quickly deployed, centrally managed and pre-loaded with secure configurations. This helps limit who can access the network and improves content filtering and blocking for protection against malware, viruses and ransomware. Secure VPN tunnels from the edge router back to the corporate data center provide end-to-end data encryption.
The Future of the Workforce is Here
We don’t know when this remote work season will draw to a close, but we cannot sit passively and wait for it all to end. We must start planning now for the post-pandemic era. The COVID-19 situation represents an ideal (albeit, unwanted) test of future work environments, preparing us to face an expanded distributed workforce. Embedding cellular technology in a business continuity plan allows organizations to scale the network as needed, offers further security for those outside the corporate walls and ensures IT teams can more easily monitor and resolve any potential issues faster and easier. The workforce of tomorrow will see remote work security and cellular connectivity go hand-in-hand.