Businesses were already undergoing hugely impactful changes as employees were increasingly working outside the office, and applications were rapidly expanding to the cloud. This transformation has recently accelerated on a massive scale – with the exodus of employees out of the office and into their homes, and a subsequent rush to push many more applications into the cloud to help facilitate a seamless remote worker experience.
In light of this, the term ‘business continuity’ has taken on a whole new meaning. We must still aim to minimize downtime in the event of an incident, but we must now do so with our workforce largely outside of the traditional confines of the office.
Business continuity now extends beyond just keeping the business running to preserving your employees’ ability to be productive no matter where they are and what they are doing. And of course, making sure their devices, applications, data, and your network remain secure in the process.
Expanding support for customers
As a leader in both networking and security, Cisco has been able to provide a significant amount of support for our customers over the past several months. For example, we quickly expanded our free Webex offerings and increased usage counts for existing customers at no extra charge.
But of course, with rising IT demands comes a greater need for security. The new normal of working from home has opened us up to many new cybersecurity concerns. So we are also offering extended free trials and expanded usage counts for several of our security technologies to help organizations safeguard their infrastructure during these unprecedented times.
Our recent work in provisioning customers to meet these new challenges has culminated in the creation of the Cisco Secure Remote Worker solution. Cisco Secure Remote Worker consists of four integrated technologies that protect your users on any device, wherever and whenever they choose to work.
Together, Cisco AnyConnect, Cisco Duo, Cisco Umbrella, and Cisco AMP for Endpoints enable organizations to: 1) grant secure access to the network, 2) verify users trying to connect to corporate applications, and 3) defend against threats across multiple devices. Today I will focus on two critical components of the Cisco Secure Remote Worker solution – secure access with Cisco AnyConnect and multi-factor authentication with Cisco Duo.
Enabling secure network access with VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) uses encryption to securely connect employees to corporate resources over public networks. The Cisco AnyConnect VPN authenticates the user trying to access the network and can assess a device’s security posture before allowing a connection.
Although it’s often viewed as a legacy security technology, the VPN is once again top of mind as organizations scramble to accommodate new remote connectivity challenges. The increased demand for network access, coupled with the complexity of delivering consistent security everywhere it’s needed, is forcing organizations to look differently at their VPN implementation. Cisco AnyConnect goes way beyond just the basic VPN functionality to serve as a vital component of an enterprise security strategy.
Cisco AnyConnect empowers remote workers with frictionless, highly secure access to the enterprise network at any time, with any device, from any location. The AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client not only provides VPN access, but also offers enhanced security through various built-in modules, including:
- Endpoint posture and compliance checks
- Web security to block users from accessing risky websites
- Visibility into endpoint flows
- Off-network roaming protection with Cisco Umbrella
Additionally, Cisco AnyConnect integrates with other technologies such as Cisco AMP for Endpoints to provide comprehensive threat protection. A complete, secure access solution like Cisco AnyConnect can go a long way in ensuring business continuity.
Bolstering security with MFA
A second critical component for business continuity today is multi-factor authentication (MFA). For optimum security, VPN and MFA should go hand in hand. We were surprised to find in our recent CISO Benchmark Study that only 27% of respondents are currently using MFA to secure their environments.
Multi-factor authentication can protect your applications by using a second factor to verify user identity before granting access. It is especially important to use if organizations have implemented single sign-on options for employees.
You can extend your business continuity and security by using the Cisco Duo MFA solution to verify users trying to connect to your environment. Duo provides an easy way for authorized users to connect using a second validation factor such as their smartphone. It can also inspect the security of the devices accessing your resources.
Layering strong MFA on top of a VPN defends against credential theft, reduces the risk of a data breach, and helps organizations meet regulatory compliance requirements. According to Tristan Hammond, IT infrastructure manager at online retailer Threadless, “Our overall experience with Duo has been extremely easy – that’s not something that always happens in the technology world.”
MFA is a key component of a zero-trust security model. It becomes even more crucial as more applications move into the cloud, since it can provide consistent, secure access across both on-premises and cloud applications.
Integration for streamlined security
Another benefit of Cisco AnyConnect and Cisco Duo is that they are integrated with each other, and with many other Cisco and third-party offerings, through our Cisco SecureX platform. Cisco SecureX makes our technologies stronger by allowing them to share intelligence and work together to provide greater visibility, threat protection, and security automation. This is critical since 42% of respondents in our 2020 CISO Benchmark Study said they are suffering from cybersecurity fatigue.
Keep your business on track
Business continuity means many things now, but having strong solutions for secure access can make a big difference in putting you on the right path to preserving the integrity and vitality of your business. Visit our business continuity and remote worker planning sites for further information on how to keep your business secure during difficult times.