Azure security must enable change to effectively support remote employees: Part 1

By Russell Tal, Alliance Marketing Manager

In March 2020, the world changed forever, and the COVID-19 pandemic has driven radical changes in business operations. Organizations were forced to transition their workforce form working in the office to working from anywhere overnight—and Microsoft Azure was often a huge part of the immediate solution. Even after 18 months, many offices still sit empty and for many organizations, remote work is the norm. Many companies have adopted a hybrid model, requiring some days in the office and some days remote.

In the midst of a complex and ever-changing digital infrastructure, IT teams were pushed to implement changes in days that before might have taken years. In prioritizing functionality, however, spinning up systems to support a dispersed workforce created many systems and network vulnerabilities that cybercriminals were—and are—eager to exploit.

This year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, held virtually November 2-4, focuses on cloud security more than ever before. Check Point is proud to sponsor this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, and this three-part blog series discusses cloud security in Microsoft Azure. Companies must adjust their long-term cybersecurity plans for remote employees, especially when leveraging a cloud platform like Microsoft Azure. We’ll focus on recommendations for defense-in-depth strategies, zero-trust security models, and new approaches to secure their network, data and people from advanced cyber threats. We will additionally examine how an AI-enabled cyber security framework can help organizations thwart the growing complexities of automated cyber-attacks, allowing security to become an enabler, not a blocker, for organizational change.

The rise of work-from-anywhere workforce

An estimate by Upwork states that 1 in 4 Americans, 26% of the American workforce, is expected to work remotely through the end of 2021. Organizations are forced to trust their workforce to work from anywhere with unsanctioned devices (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) as well as Wi-Fi that isn’t controlled by the company. This has heightened security concerns: workers now access enterprise network and data from anywhere – whether at home or at a coffee shop.

Many use personal phones and laptops that may or may not be patched to defend against the latest vulnerabilities. Some employees rely on unsecured home or public Wi-Fi connections to access corporate data and networks. Each environment requires different levels of access control, compliance needs, and system access. This complicates the security team’s job, as they must support the same user when working from home, a coffee shop, or the office.

Cloud adoption is increasing to support the demands of the business

To support this massive shift in business operations, organizations have accelerated adoption of cloud services and assets. Microsoft Azure cloud adoption has increased by 50% to accommodate the increasing capacity demand by remote workforces and digital engagements with clients and customers. The cloud promotes scalability and agility for the business, allowing infrastructure and application teams to deliver crucial access and functionality to their employees and customers.

Additional security challenges—and how organizations address them

While the Azure cloud provides many benefits to organizations, it also presents another element of cyber risk. Many cyber criminals take advantage of cloud vulnerabilities, relying on common malware and more advanced threats. Organizations relying on traditional security measures have limited visibility into cloud operations, and it is estimated that nearly 90% or organizations are more likely to experience cyber threats such as malware and data breaches as cloud usage increases.

Where do we go from here?

In the second part of this blog series, we’ll discuss recommended approaches to the cloud security issues outlined above—and where Check Point can help.

Be sure to visit Check Point’s virtual booth during Microsoft Ignite. To learn more about on how to Microsoft and Check Point can enable a security-first strategy within your Microsoft investments, check out our sessions at Microsoft Ignite this year: