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The Stealthy Menace of Spyware: How to Protect Your Workspaces

The remote work revolution has transformed the modern organization. Employees and third-party vendors now frequently access the corporate network from remote locations, giving far more flexibility to organizations regarding, when, where and who can access sensitive data. This, however, has come at a cost, leading to security vulnerabilities that result from enabling remote access to corporate networks.

The potential of this threat was underlined recently when spyware was discovered in over 100 Android applications, whose cumulative download count was more than 421 million on Google Play.

Dubbed ‘SpinOk’, by antivirus company Doctor Web, once the malicious module is installed on victims’ devices, it stealthily steals data and files.

 

An Omnipresent Threat

Sadly, the omnipresent threat of spyware is just another security threat that puts organizations at risk, compromising privacy, and potentially leading to severe data leaks and consequences. 

Spyware works by infiltrating devices without user consent or knowledge. It can sneak in during software downloads from the internet, capitalizing on lengthy and convoluted licensing agreements that are commonly overlooked. It can also employ pop-up windows in web browsers to trick workers using their own devices into triggering a download. Once embedded, spyware operates discreetly in the background to steal sensitive information, such as login details, and data.

A total 39 percent of knowledge workers worldwide are forecast to be engaged in hybrid work by the close of 2023, according to Gartner. In the United States, this figure climbs even higher, with 51 percent of individuals adopting hybrid work arrangements, and an additional one-in-five identifying as fully remote employees. 

However, remote employees are just one security concern. From suppliers to software and resourcing needs, businesses are increasingly turning to third-party contractors. According to Deloitte, over the past five years, the use of third-party vendors has increased exponentially. This is exposing them to increased security threats.

This means that for organizations the obstacles to achieving a true zero-trust environment will remain. 

 

Vulnerabilities in Current Solutions 

With a heavy burden placed on the healthcare sector to be HIPAA compliant, the first line of defense is to ensure devices include the necessary safeguards to guarantee against theft and data loss through the use of a robust layer of security.
HIPAA regulations also require that ePHI data must be encrypted when transmitted over a network. The most popular way of doing this is to create a VPN through which VDIs (virtual desktop infrastructure) can connect to the data, therefore negating the need for it to be encrypted. This however raises problems.

Usage can be limited because a user needs to make sure no one else is using the VDI. This means they have limited flexibility and can be more difficult to scale as needed. This can be a problem for organizations with fluctuating user numbers or those looking to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. There are also security concerns as users operating in a VDI environment can as easily click on a malicious link in an email or on a web page as someone using a physical desktop. 

VDIs also require a heavy level of management and maintenance, which places a heavy burden for qualified IT staff where ongoing training and staff turnover can become problematic. To comply with HIPAA data encryption and data wiping tools may also need to be implemented and maintained. This can add to the management burden. 

 

Addressing the Risks Posed by Remote Access

Employees operating beyond the confines of the corporate network, leveraging personal devices to connect with sensitive business data, expose organizations to heightened security vulnerabilities. This necessitates addressing the expanded stack of identities and endpoints, requiring a comprehensive approach to secure, protect, and manage this multifaceted ecosystem. 

The core focus of securing remote access to corporate networks, implemented by most solutions, lies in managing the multitude of users and devices accessing sensitive data. By implementing robust solutions that facilitate increased cyber resiliency and remote access, organizations believe they can fortify their defenses. This entails mapping the intricate network of users and devices, enabling comprehensive visibility and control. Through this proactive management approach, organizations attempt to respond to emerging threats, ensuring that only authorized users and trusted devices gain access to sensitive data, regardless of their location or endpoint. This however is costly, resource intensive and has inherent security flaws.

 

The Solution to Remote Access Security Concerns

The problem with existing security strategies and solutions is that they focus on protecting devices and people, rather than a sharp focus on protecting the data. They also tend to require significant technology infrastructure upgrades or additions to implement the required secure zero-trust environment. 

Symmetrium revolutionizes this current approach by offering a device-agnostic low-resource solution that enables organizations to maintain their existing information and security technology infrastructure (and protocols?), while focusing on securing an organization’s data. 

This is achieved through the creation of virtual mobile devices (VMDs) that reside within the organization’s network perimeter, and integrate with established enterprise security protocols.  

Authorized remote and third-party users can securely access data using their own devices through Symmetrium’s VMDs. Leveraging P2P encrypted streaming, these VMDs enable users to view data without transferring it to external devices. This view-only functionality ensures that sensitive data never leaves the secure organizational network. 

By maintaining data within the protected perimeter, Symmetrium guarantees that information remains secure, mitigating the risk of data compromise or unauthorized access.

A Game-Changing Zero-Trust Solution

As organizations prioritize the implementation of zero trust, Symmetrium emerges as a game-changing solution. By offering virtual mobile devices that operate within the organization’s network perimeter and leveraging P2P encrypted streaming, Symmetrium ensures data remains secure and never comes to rest on external devices. This approach eliminates the need for extensive technology replacements, allowing organizations to seamlessly integrate Symmetrium within their existing infrastructure. 

With Symmetrium, organizations can confidently navigate the challenges of zero trust and embrace secure digital transformation, safeguarding their data against existing and emerging security threats, such as spyware, and maintaining a competitive edge in today’s evolving landscape.

Protect your workspaces from the ever-present threat of Spyware by creating a true zero-trust environment. Book a demo with Symmetrium here.

The Flaws and Costs of Mobile Security Policies and How to Instantly Fix Them

The era of hybrid and remote work environments has given Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) many sleepless nights as they struggle to ensure optimal protection for their corporate networks. With the frequency of cyber attacks targeting mobile devices and remote workers continuing to rise, implementing a comprehensive mobile security policy is essential to safeguard an organization’s work environment.

While there has been a rapid increase in the popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies over the past number of years, its inherent security flaws has seen organizations embrace other models in search of a better solution, such as

Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) and Corporate-Owned, Business-Only (COBO). The truth is, however, that all of these policies leave networks and their data vulnerable.

However, there is another option available. Organizations can quickly and cost effectively implement a zero-trust data mobile access solution that enables productive collaboration while dramatically minimizing the risk of data breaches. This is achieved by turning any mobile device, managed or unmanaged, into a virtual extension of an organization’s network, with all its compliance, security, and IT.

So, let’s first look at the pros, cons and costs associated with traditional solutions, and then outline how organizations can implement a truly zero-trust mobile security environment that will immediately optimize data security using a minimum resources approach.

 

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

BYOD policies allow employees to use their personal mobiles, reducing the financial burden on companies, as employees bear the cost of purchasing and maintaining their devices. It promotes flexibility and mobility, enabling employees to work from anywhere, at any time. However, implementing BYOD requires proper security measures to protect company data, ensuring strong device management and encryption protocols are in place.

Pros:

  • Enables employees to work from anywhere, at any time.
  • Reduces need to purchase and maintain devices for employees.

Cons:

  • Increases security concerns, as personal devices may be vulnerable to data breaches or malware attacks.
  • Different devices and operating systems may pose challenges in terms of integration with existing IT infrastructure.
  • IT departments may face additional workload in terms of software updates, and troubleshooting.
  • Balancing employee privacy with the company’s need to protect sensitive data can be challenging.
  • Companies may have limited control over employee devices, making it harder to enforce policies and ensure compliance.

Costs:

  • Investment in security solutions, such as mobile device management (MDM) software, encryption, and remote wiping capabilities.
  • Additional resources may be required to provide technical support and address device-related issues.
  • Expenses may arise from ensuring compatibility with existing systems and software.
  • Companies must consider the costs associated with meeting legal and regulatory requirements related to data protection and privacy.

 

Choose Your Own Device (CYOD)

CYOD allows employees to select their devices from a list of approved options from their employer.

Pros:

  • Ensures that only approved and secure devices are used for work, reducing the risk of data breaches and malware attacks.
  • Limiting selection of devices ensures better compatibility and seamless integration with existing IT infrastructure and software.
  • Technical support is more streamlined and efficient.

Cons:

  • Companies need to invest in purchasing and maintaining a range of devices.
  • Introducing new devices may require additional training and support.
  • Upgrades and replacements will increase costs over time.

Costs:

  • Purchasing and maintaining devices.
  • Allocating resources for training employees on the selected devices.
  • Expenses may arise from ensuring compatibility with existing systems and software.
  • Device upgrades and replacements.

 

Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE)

COPE provides employees with company-owned devices that can also be used for personal purposes.

Pros:

  • Greater control over device security measures, ensuring compliance with data protection and privacy regulations.
    Better compatibility and integration with existing IT infrastructure and software.
    Software updates, and technical support is more streamlined and efficient.

Cons:

  • Reduced device choice for employees, limiting personal preferences and flexibility.
  • Purchasing and maintaining company-owned devices.
  • Employees reservations about using company-owned devices for personal use.
  • Training and learning curve.
  • Employees may prefer using their personal devices.

Costs:

  • Purchasing devices.
  • Device management and technical support.
  • Training and onboarding.
  • Upgrades and replacements.

 

Corporate-Owned, Business-Only (COBO)

Corporate-Owned, Business-Only (COBO) is where companies provide employees with company-owned devices strictly for work-related purposes.

Pros:

  • Can enforce strict policies to protect sensitive data and ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Consistent hardware and software configurations across devices.
  • Minimizes the risk of data breaches, malware infections, and unauthorized access.
  • IT departments have centralized control over devices, making troubleshooting, and support more efficient.
  • Optimized for work-related tasks, promoting focused and efficient work.

Cons:

  • Concerns about privacy and potential monitoring by the employer.
  • Employees heavily rely on IT support for device-related issues, increasing workload for the IT department.
  • Employees may resist using COBO devices, preferring to use their personal devices instead.

Costs:

  • Device procurement.
  • Device management.
  • Training and onboarding.
  • Upgrades and replacements.

 

How to Solve these Security Flaws and Eliminate Associated Costs

The traditional solutions to mobile device access, detailed above, are far from ideal. Each has its flaws and ultimately leaves organizations vulnerable to security breaches to greater or lesser degrees. Each one also has associated costs and requires oversight. Organizations today, however, can quickly benefit from a solution created by Symmetrium that not only offers vastly superior levels of security, but also requires minimum resources.

The zero-trust environment needed to keep data private and protected is achieved by deploying Symmetium’s virtual mobile device (VMD) solution. When these virtual devices, which reside within the organization’s network, are remotely accessed by employees using their mobile phone or laptop, they act as extensions of all organizational security and compliance policies using end-to-end encrypted streaming. The result is a completely native mobile experience with seamless deployment and management.

Corporate data is accessed virtually and therefore at no time sits on the user’s actual device. The result is that data remains secure and is never put at risk.

Maintaining Full Control Over Mobile Data Access

Organizations using Symmetrium are able to maintain full control over the data accessed by employees through their mobile devices, safeguarding it from potential risks. This allows for the efficient management of multiple devices, regardless of their brand or operating systems, with minimal resource allocation, thanks to a centralized management console.

The integration seamlessly aligns with existing security and GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) protocols through a unified application. As a result, organizations gain confidence in the security and protection of their data, irrespective of the device used for access.

Symmetrium instantly deliveries the following benefits:

  • Seamlessly maintains and enforces strict network policies to protect sensitive data and ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Works with all hardware and software configurations across devices.
  • Eliminates the risk of data breaches, malware infections, and unauthorized access.
  • Requires minimal resource allocation.
  • IT departments have centralized management via console.
  • Allows employees to use their own devices without compromising their experience and privacy.
  • Highly cost effective as it requires no investment in purchasing, maintaining or upgrading devices.

By using Symmetrium’s streamlined approach organizations can confidently ensure data remains secure at all times, reinforcing data governance and mitigating potential vulnerabilities.

Discover how easy it is to optimize your network security by booking a demo with Symmetrium here.

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