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The Stealthy Menace of Spyware: How to Protect Your Workspaces

By

Omer Cohen

| July 26, 2023
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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.

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