Five Tips to Help Federal Technology Teams Keep Their Networks Secure with a Remote Workforce

With the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) mandate for federal agencies to implement policies and procedures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, federal technology teams are looking at how to implement “maximum telework flexibilities” while still keeping their agency’s network and data secure. While the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued teleworking guidelines in 2010, many agencies were slow to adopt, with some even cutting back on teleworking programs they previously had enacted. Now that teleworking has become one of the few options available to keep government agencies – as well as private sector corporations – operating during the pandemic response, CIO’s are trying to securely connect a massive workforce remotely – and fast.

Our expert Security engineers offer these five tips to help federal technology teams get their teams securely connected in a remote environment.

Require Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Attackers will often search for the weakest link in the agency’s security posture. With a new remote workforce accessing your network from multiple – and potentially new – endpoints, weak passwords or lack of security on the endpoint is a perfect way for skilled cybercriminals to get into your network. 81% of breaches are caused by compromised credentials. To protect against these threats, the tools used by your remote workforce to get their jobs done should have strong, multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access into your systems. DUO Security, which was recently acquired by Cisco, offers an impressively easy way to layer on MFA with a minimal disruption to the user while incorporating the latest methods of authentication.

Through its authentication application, DUO sits between your points of access and your network. Authentication operates via Universal 2nd Factor (U2F), a more secure means of authentication facilitating push notifications in comparison with less secure SMS (text) based methods. DUO works with PIV/CAC and meets common federal technology requirements, including NIST guidelines for authentication.

Improve Your Firewall to Support and Scale VPN Access

While your firewall can support VPN access, can it support 90% of your employees using VPN to access your network – mostly during the same times each day? If you are using older firewall technology, the answer is probably no. The best way to achieve consistent, scalable VPN access that lets employees work as though they are sitting in their office inside your agency is by upgrading to a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW). NGFWs can support not only the increasing number of users but the increased load on the device to deliver the additional services and functionality required to protect those users in times of need. NGFWs also offer additional controls including enhanced security with identity store and authentication, threat intelligence, URL filtering, and analytics.

Secure Your Cloud Apps – Including Those you Don’t Know About

Regardless of where you are in your cloud migration, remote employees connecting through various endpoints will be using some cloud based applications. Remote employees are also more likely to use shadow IT – those apps that may not be authorized by your team but help them get their jobs done. As your workforce moves remote, now is the time to fortify your cloud applications to proactively protect them against threats inside and outside threats. Cloud security tools such as Cisco Umbrella not only protect against malware and other threats, they also help you gain visibility into your cloud apps and find use of shadow IT across your environment. Umbrella also blocks malicious and unwanted domains and cloud applications before your remote users even establish a connection.

Automate Your Security

Cybersecurity teams were overwhelmed BEFORE the pandemic response moved agency staff to a remote environment. Hackers and cybercriminals could see this new working environment as an opportunity to find weaknesses in your systems. Monitoring, maintaining, and watching for new threats in even more challenging with a remote workforce. As constant vigilance is needed to watch over your network, automating your network security is critical. Scans, queries, and reports can all be automated. Leverage the latest security technology to help you, not make your job harder. There are many security technology tools that are FedRamp authorized that can automate security protocols and spot trends. By using these tools to their fullest potential, it becomes easy to identify unusual behavior that could signify a threat, allowing technology teams to stop a breach from happening.

Choose the Right Collaboration Tools

Employees who are remote must be connected to the office, just as though they were there. Modern collaboration tools allow remote employees to do just that. Collaboration applications such as Webex Teams and Webex Meetings  offered by Cisco allow employees the ability to instant message and participate in group chat sessions regardless of physical location. Webex also offers huddle spaces where interactive meetings can take place using virtual white boards, document sharing, and other features that allow participants to collaborate in real time – from anywhere.

As a federal agency, you also have the added complexity of needing collaboration solutions that adhere to the numerous and ever-evolving compliance demands, including modernization requirements. If mission security is a concern for your collaboration tools, Cisco offers a FedRAMP Impact Level 2 (IL2) Webex tool for Civilian agencies. They also have HCS-D solutions designed specifically for Department of Defense agencies that offer DoD Impact Level 5 (IL5) certification. Remote workers using these tools can achieve the highest level of security as they do in the office environment.

Get Support When You Need It

The entire world is dealing with a new way of working and collaborating as we try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many of the tools needed to securely move your employees to a remote environment can be implemented quickly. Working with a knowledgeable service provider can help. They can be completely focused on ramping up your remote workforce, allowing you to work on all the other demands that are being placed on federal IT teams right now. The right service provider acts as an extension of your technology team.

Unusual times call for unusual methods. With little time to plan, federal teams are going remote. Following these tips will help keep your network secure in this new remote world.

Contact Force 3 today and let us help your agency stay secure with a remote workforce

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