Vulnerability Management For Virtualized Environments

Building Risk Profile For Virtual Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a game-changer, as it relates to the movement of people, goods, and services. Businesses across every industry are experiencing an evolution with the virtualized business operation model. This evolution has showcased the inevitable necessity of cloud computing, while uncovering newer threats and attack vectors. Therefore the development and implementation of a dynamic vulnerability management plan for virtualized environments must be matched with a robust risk profile for virtual workers.

People are the most critical assets in an organization. In this COVID-19 era, a majority of human-enabled business operations have gone virtual, as employees have been relegated to facilitate critical organizational processes wearing bathroom slippers and pajamas. This current pandemic has accelerated security requirements and it has catapulted the virtual workforce  into the realm of normalcy.

The rise of virtual office environments is most likely here to stay, therefore the cyber-risk posture of small to midsize organizations must evolve to account for the assurance of critical organizational assets within virtualized environments. It goes without saying that organizations are responsible for ensuring the security of their computing infrastructures, which include virtual environments.

Therefore a comprehensive vulnerability management plan can only be implemented for a virtualized workforce unless there are clearly-defined processes to help identify system vulnerabilities, emerging threats, and other related risks due to the sudden shift in human asset management. Hence, incorporating a risk profile for virtual workers with a comprehensive vulnerability management plan ensures that zero day threats are mapped to vulnerabilities within an organization’s computing environment.

A New Breed of Organizational Assets – Virtual Workers

The digital transformation of the recent decade revolutionized industries. The innovations provided scalable solutions for consumers across the globe. Venturing into a new decade, organizations are faced with a new breed of dynamic assets: virtual workers. This non-traditional model of human asset management is reshaping organizational policies, processes and procedures to meet regulatory requirements and market demands.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of virtual workers by 60% between January 2020 and April 2020. The graph below portrays an estimate of the increase of virtual workers throughout 2020, and it clearly paints a picture of the future of virtual workers.

Although the virtualized workforce appears to be advantageous in the reduction of overhead expenses, as it relates to human resource management requirements, certain security challenges have emerged in correlation with advances in virtual computing. One of the security challenges includes the lack of a dynamic risk profile for virtual worker, which is required to map human identities to systems that are permitted to access enterprise networks.

Risk Profiling – An Integral Aspect of Risk Management

A different philosophy is required for understanding risks and vulnerabilities within virtualized environments. This difference in philosophy embodies the importance of risk profiling and asset mapping as it relates to virtual workers. By developing a comprehensive risk and vulnerability management framework, organizations will be able to analyze associated risks properly, determine appropriate risk responses, and implement the countermeasures in the most effective way possible.

As organizations continue to maneuver the virtual computing space, organizational stakeholders must endeavor to update cybersecurity policies, procedures, and guidelines as an integral part of risk management while also considering the risks associated with third-party service providers. In preparation for large scale virtualized business operations, due to a global crisis, the cybersecurity experts at GoldSky Security recommend that the following be analyzed while building a risk profile for virtual workers:

  • Information security risks related to data privacy and security regulatory compliances.
  • Risks from third-party Managed Service Providers (MSPs).
  • Compounding risks related to the inability to comply with government and/or industry cybersecurity best practices, standards, and frameworks pertaining to wireless communication.
Mitigative Steps For Vulnerability Management In Virtualized Environments

The following mitigative steps, when properly implemented, contributes to the hardening of critical infrastructures as well as the risk profile development processes:

  • Protecting Endpoints – Personal Devices – For many virtual workers, conducting business operations requires the use of personal devices or company-issued devices on a SoHo network. Due to the lack of security standardization, such devices are at a higher risk of compromise by Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) actors. Therefore, virtual workers must be educated about the importance of applying security best practices, to assure the privacy and security of critical organizational assets.
  • Protecting Home Communication Networks – A virtual private network (VPN) should be made available to virtual workers. VPN ensures that sensitive network traffic is encrypted using IPSec tunneling between the home network and the enterprise network. However, many virtual workers connect to the internet via a broadband connection or mobile GPRS. To minimize susceptibility to intrusion attempts by malicious actors, SoHo networks should be hardened by implementing network segmentation with IDS/IPS/Proxy infrastructures; utilizing a dynamic IP address on a WPA2 wireless encryption structure; reconfigure default settings, etc.
  • Building Cyber Resiliency – Statistics from a Verizon report prove that more than 80% of data breaches happen because of weak passwords. Secondly, users are not fully aware of the modus operandi of cyber adversaries, such as phishing, ransomware, malware, distributed denial of service (DDoS), etc. Therefore, a robust cybersecurity awareness training is essential for building and maintaining organizational cyber resiliency. This helps the employees to identify phishing emails and take necessary steps to prevent a cyberattack.
  • Regular Backup of Critical Data – Cybercriminals utilize ransomware as a tool to extort financial resources from victims. One of the best preventive and detective solutions to thwart such attempts is by performing a regular backup of critical data. Therefore, it becomes feasible for the users to disregard ransomware threats by restoring the systems to the desired state using saved backup images.
  • Adherence to Organizational Cybersecurity Policies – As more virtual workers connect to the enterprise network remotely, there are higher opportunities of compromise due to intentional or unintentional missteps. Therefore, virtual workers must adhere to all organizational cybersecurity policies and understand security processes.

Final Words

Although utilizing a virtualized environment is not a new business operational concept, its rapid rate of implementation within a short period of time has introduced a plethora of threats and vulnerabilities that must be specifically addressed in policy updates, process reconfigurations, and reformed best practice deployments.

For small to midsize businesses with small amounts of employees, it is critical to develop a dynamic risk profile for each virtual worker who has access to the enterprise network. The availability of a risk profile for virtual workers helps organizations to better understand their risk and vulnerability posture, and develop proper countermeasures to combat malicious activities.

Therefore, a holistic evaluation of an organizational vulnerability management plan is in order across all industries, as we continue to deal with the effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cybersecurity experts at GoldSky Security have deployed speed and agility to cope with the changing times, and are available 24/7 to help small to midsize businesses build, implement, and manage risk profiles for virtual workers. Our experts are also equipped to recommend efficient security countermeasures to ensure business continuity during global crisis situations.

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