August 1, 2022

As digital workplaces become firmly entrenched amongst knowledge workers, we’re seeing unique challenges occur when it comes to the protection of work devices and the safety of the employees using them.

One challenge, in particular, is getting a clear understanding of what a digital workplace is, how to use and implement it, and how to secure it.

As we delve deeper into the topic of digital workplaces over the following months, we’ll be demystifying what they are, the challenges surrounding them, and how to solve the most common problems that businesses face as their employees continue working outside the office.

In our article below, we’ll be defining what a digital workplace is and the common security challenges that put employees and organisations at risk.

What is a digital workplace?

Many terms are being thrown around (such as hybrid, remote, and work from anywhere) to describe ways to work outside the office – and it can be quite confusing to understand the relationship between all of them.

Simply put, a digital workplace is the umbrella term for any working environment that exists outside a traditional office. It’s what provides all the communications and collaboration tools, applications, and more, for employees to be able to work from any location and at any time where they have an Internet connection.

So, whilst hybrid, remote, and work from anywhere policies cover different ways of working, the term “digital workplace” encompasses them all.

To explain further, digital workplaces are made up of five key components:

  1. Connectivity – between your digital workplace and wherever your organisation’s files, emails and applications reside.
  2. Device management – platforms that can remotely access, secure and manage computers & mobile devices.
  3. Collaboration tools – that your staff use to work with each other (for example, Microsoft Teams or Dropbox).
  4. Unified communications – that can be used to communicate remotely, like soft-phones.
  5. Cloud services – to host your files, emails and applications and remove the need for physical servers.

All of these come together to create a workplace that can be accessed anywhere at any time by a remote workforce- but creating this environment comes with its own risks and dangers.

The security challenges of a digital workplace

Most employees are well-versed in how to use their computers and business applications, but many remain naïve to cyber threats or the seemingly innocent behaviour that puts their devices, data, and employer at risk.

Especially so if an employee uses their work device for personal reasons. In one case, a client with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy had an employee using crypto mining applications on their computer. Which may be perfectly fine to do so on a personal device, but highly risky on a device that holds confidential work files.

So as businesses settle into new ways of working and implement digital workplaces, they need to be aware of the most prominent cyber threats likely to be faced by their staff:

  • Unsecured networks – Home and other ‘out-of-office networks’ do not have the same level of security that a business would e.g., internet firewalls. But this means employees are constantly accessing unsecured networks that may leave something nasty behind, or even allow confidential information to be accessed.
  • Phishing & ransomware emails – globally and in Australia, these are the 2 most common ways a cyber-criminal will gain unauthorised access to an organisation’s IT environment, and it costs businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Unfortunately, most people still aren’t trained to look out for or suspect cyber threats coming into their email inboxes.
  • Shadow IT – shadow IT is when employees use unsanctioned software and other applications on their work devices (such as Google Drive, Slack & WhatsApp), without the approval or knowledge of their IT department. But, just like the above two concerns, this increases the risks of being hacked or leaking information.
  • Losing devices – regardless of whether it’s a personal or work device, when employees are taking devices between their homes, office, and other public places, there’s always a chance of losing the device. Unfortunately, personal devices are much harder to lock down and if found by a stranger it will be easier to get into them and steal information including company data.

All these behaviours increase the risk of threat actors accessing your employees’ devices and valuable information.

It’s not enough to have basic threat protection anymore

A common mistake that businesses make when attempting to secure devices and applications in the digital workplace, is that they think “out of the box” settings are enough to prevent all kinds of breaches. They’ll see that Windows devices come with built-in malware and anti-virus protection and assume that this is all they need – but this is only the bare minimum at best.

Without dedicated security applications, device management and IT support that has prepared for potential cyber threats or disaster scenarios, businesses can face unexpected downtime or the loss of tens of thousands of dollars at any moment.

Organisations need to step back and evaluate their current setup and identify gaps in their security posture – whether it’s software, hardware, or people. And moving forward, they need to start filling those gaps and ensuring they have all threat vectors covered.

How to properly secure your digital workplace

There are a variety of solutions available that will keep your digital workplace safe and secure without compromising on speed or what your employees can do on their devices. These include:

Secure internet connections

The challenge for organisations is how do they allow their staff to access company data securely and easily across public internet connections, such as those found in homes, airports, hotels etc. The good news is it’s now easier and quicker than ever to securely access work files and data through technology such as Zero Trust Networks, SD-WANs, and Citrix Gateways. What these solutions do is allow your employees to use their own Internet connections, whilst creating a private overlay on top of the public connection from the digital workplace to your office IT infrastructure.

Device management

Device Management is a security platform that enrols all kinds of devices such as laptops and mobile phones and gives them access to company files & data, dictates which applications can be used gives employees set rules to follow (e.g. they can only access company files if their anti-virus is up to date), and prevents data leakage.

Using virtual desktop cloud services

A virtual desktop provides cost-effective flexible working, whereby users can access a full Windows desktop through any device and operating system. All they need is an internet connection, meaning they can work from anywhere at any time.

It provides many secure options that typical remote desktop solutions don’t – such as using work applications natively on the device or through the cloud, preventing users from making mistakes that would allow threats to enter, isolating the environment to the individual user and device to prevent attacks from spreading, utilising checks and balances before allowing users to access certain applications, and centralising all applications and users into one system.

Finding the right security solution for your business

Your business’s IT is one of your most important and critical assets, so protecting your data and information, as well as allowing your employees to work from anywhere at anytime, should be at the top of your priorities.

Whether you want to know more about implementing a secure digital workplace solution or learn how to reduce your risk of cyber threats and breaches, you can find expert help with VITG. We’ve helped over 750 clients manage their IT and understand just how important it is to provide a secure IT environment for their staff, no matter where they are located or where they are working from.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you reduce the risks of cyber threats and hacks, you can contact us today.

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