Cohesity: Eight ways to cyber-proof data management in the post-pandemic remote-work era

Cohesity: Eight ways to cyber-proof data management in the post-pandemic remote-work era

Gregg Petersen, Regional Director for MEA at Cohesity, has explained the importance of cyber-proofing data in the post-pandemic era that sees many of us working remotely or in hybrid environments…

The pandemic changed the landscape of the workplace globally – and it looks like there is no going back. The latest Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study reports that almost 90% of employees in the UAE want to either work in a fully remote or hybrid model, with 61% claiming they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they were able to work remotely or partly remotely. So if they haven’t already, going forward most companies will have to adapt to the reality of operating with a bigger remote workforce. That comes with a mix of benefits and headaches for companies – but an issue that simply can’t be ignored is cybersecurity and data management.

When Covid-19 first hit and companies across the Middle East scrambled to enable their teams to work from home, IT vulnerabilities were exploited by cybercriminals, and cyberattacks understandably rocketed. Data was fragmented and often insecure. But with remote working now firmly embedded across the UAE, companies need to shore up their IT security and future-proof their systems and data management processes to stay both current and secure in the new environment.

Here are eight key issues and solutions to future-proof your data management and keep your data secure:

Phishing scams and social engineering. When employees are busy, stressed and distracted – none of which is helped by global staff shortages and ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic – they’re more likely to be tricked by malicious phishing scams or social engineering.

Solution: Give teams lists of validated web addresses that they can check against, or set whitelists for use of any client-based content monitors. Educating employees in what to look out for is vital – you could even periodically send ‘dummy’ phishing emails to check whether they have a good understanding.

Cybersecurity attacks. Working from home increases the risk of a cybersecurity attack such as ransomware.

Solution: Plan ahead and implement a strong IT policy that’s updated for the increased risk that comes with remote working. Set up alerts that identify unusual activities and try to spot problems before they happen. It’s vital to have a multi-layered defense and recovery plan in place that is fit for the new landscape.

Local recovery: If your teams are using their own computers or personal laptops, can they restore them locally?

Solution: If they are using their own devices for work, it’s important to have local recovery tools in place so remote workers can restore their computers or laptops themselves. There are also various tools that enable a device’s working disk image to be stored centrally and restored if there is an emergency. It doesn’t take long to take a backup image, and the benefits are huge if there is a sudden problem or connectivity loss.

Backup protocols. Are your data backup protocols up to date and fit for purpose?

Solution: Savvy industry advice is to follow the 3-2-1 rule:

3 – Securely store at least three copies of your data – the original and two backups.

2 – Store copies in at least two different types of media, like cloud-based and local storage.

1 – Keep one backup offline or off-site.

Employee backups. If you’re allowing your employees to restore their computers locally if there’s an issue, they need to understand how important backups are, and know how to deal with problems that might arise.

Solution: In this case it is important to educate your teams and provide them with regularly updated information on when and how to carry out a local backup, your policies on file storage, and more so there are no adverse impacts on live data.

Integrity of backups: Backups do not always complete, and they can be unreliable, which can cause major problems.

Solution: Check that data copies are usable and trusted for restores by testing them via a backup tool. Today, this can be carried out through a provider’s dashboard in the cloud – it’s straightforward for IT teams to do this remotely, but it has a big impact.

Data fragmentation issues: Duplication or scattered data assets can be potentially insecure, and can clog up space and slow down systems.

Solution: Check for file copies and identify where duplication exists. If you can, utilise deduplication and compression tools, and small-file optimisation. This frees up storage if new hardware isn’t an option, and also improves the total cost of ownership of current systems.

Filesharing systems: It is inefficient and can be unsafe if data has been or is shared on unsecure platforms or services, or is inaccessible to those working from home.

Solution: Modernise your IT systems and ensure your filesharing system is remotely accessible or cloud-hosted, so your employees can work from anywhere and your data is secure.

With the sudden switch to widespread remote working, there has been a radical change in the requirements of IT departments. They’re expected to source and implement new and innovative systems and processes, while dealing with business as usual. Implementing the solutions outlined above will enable IT teams to deal with the challenges associated with remote work and move forward with delivering the products and services required in today’s hybrid workforce.

Safely handling data management requirements with a highly dispersed workforce will not just keep your sensitive data safe and secure, it will also help you take the lead in meeting the new working from home expectations of employees, and place them firmly out in front in the new remote-working era.