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Why it’s time to rethink information security

How technology can keep your information and your employees secure in a remote-working world.

Why it’s time to rethink information security
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The pandemic has fueled a process of rapid digitization that’s transforming how people work and has huge implications for the way organizations will operate.

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The pandemic has accelerated several trends we’ve been watching for years, from the adoption of cloud-based business processes and seamless collaboration, to the protection of employees and systems from “bad actors”.

While many organizations were already embracing these trends, many more are now experiencing how these technologies allow them to create new ways of working, rethink the customer experience, develop new business models, and find new markets.

Managing digital platforms

But the wide-scale adoption of digital platforms comes with challenges that must be managed closely, especially those that relate to document security, end point protection, and backup.

Let me give you an example around ransomware, where a “bad actor” takes control of your device and asks for ransom to return access. This presents two threats: first, the loss of control of your machine, data and information – possibly permanently. A backup just prior to the attack remedies this threat.

The second threat is that they will sell your information to the highest bidder. Storing the data in a highly fragmented way in the cloud – and only reconstituting once the user is validated – means that it is of no value to anyone who would gain access nefariously.

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While this capability is visionary, only a company with content management and security expertise would have the competency required to deliver such a solution.

The work-from-home security conundrum

The rush to remote working highlighted many security problems: people opening phishing emails, using personal email accounts or consumer “file sharing” services for work matters, ignoring company security policies, and more.

A recent survey by Webroot, an OpenText company, found that 3 in 10 people have clicked on a phishing link in the last year. And during the pandemic, the numbers become even more worrying, with 20% of people saying they received phishing emails directly related to COVID-19.

These problems aren’t really new. But the new ways of working digitally and remotely, on a range of devices, have meant that security has become more complex and a far greater priority even than it was before the pandemic began.

New approaches to collaboration

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One of the most common issues facing organizations is “document sprawl” – the number of times the same file is saved in multiple locations, such as OneDrive, Teams, or your company’s corporate file system. Multiply this by the number of versions of the document in existence, and the number of groups or individuals using each of the versions of the document. The sprawl quickly becomes unmanageable, costly, and inherently less secure.

The proliferation of digital content has major security and compliance implications”

This is one of the key challenges facing our customers. If employees are sharing, collaborating, and storing content on multiple platforms and devices, how do you ensure information security and compliance?

At the start of the pandemic, heads of IT had to figure out how to transform all these home offices into places that had the same security protections of an access-controlled office. That meant asking if employees were working in a secure environment, through an open wifi or on an uncontrolled laptop.

Now, organizations need to adopt new approaches to redaction and document access protocols and automate the differing levels of security associated with various types of information. It’s about driving business processes to the cloud, increasing collaboration, and protecting the systems, people and networks that support these processes.

Finding the balance

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As we approach the 1-year anniversary of the emergence of the novel coronavirus, we all have a strong sense of the trade-offs required. Transparent information builds collaboration, giving everyone the same knowledge required to make decisions, and to see this information from their own unique perspective. The downside is that as you share more information, you’re increasing risk.

The more information you share, the bigger the risks”

What’s clear is that organizations need to find that delicate balance between promoting a culture of sharing, creativity and collaboration, with creating mechanisms to protect the information that powers and supports their customers, clients and employees.

Our Webroot survey found that education is critical to ensuring a more security focused workforce and organization. If – as a business – you are asking individuals to make behavioral changes for the greater safety of all, you need to make the appropriate investment in training, education, and technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for organizations to provide seamless, secure access to the information their customers and employees need—no matter where they are. By rethinking their information security practices, and investing in information security technology, processes and education, business leaders can enable a more agile, hybrid workforce that’s prepared for whatever comes next.

Lou Blatt is the SVP & CMO of OpenText.