By Arun Kumar J, Regional Director, ManageEngine
The world of work is contantly changing. The rise of remote and hybrid workforces is now enabling businesses to operate in new ways and take advantage of commercial opportunities on a global scale. Yet these models pose a serious cybersecurity challenge due to the sheer number of endpoints created when people work from home (or anywhere else they can get a reliable internet connection). Flexible work arrangements are emerging as one of the biggest threats for modern businesses struggling to bring clarity, order, and discipline to their digital security.
Flipdish is a hospitality tech company that faced the difficult task of locking down its endpoints and securing a global workforce. It offers digital solutions designed to help restaurants and hospitality businesses manage online orders. Businesses use Flipdish to grow their customer base and increase sales, cutting out the need to use expensive marketplace aggregators.
Flipdish has 280 staff around the world, all of whom are remote first. It is a global business with more than 7,500 customers in 32 countries, generating order revenues in excess of €250 million. Its customers include leading brands such as Cojean, Subway, Base Pizza, and Bombay Pantry. Although its business is novel, the risks facing Flipdish were the same as any other organisation in a hybrid or remote work model. It needed a fast, easy way to secure endpoints, manage access rights, limit permissions, and automate how security updates were deployed.
Workforces are no longer bound by a physical perimeter. Instead of being confined to office-based networks, data flows freely around the world between devices through the internet. The number of devices utilised for hybrid work has increased rapidly, dramatically expanding an organisation’s attack surface. This has created a target-rich environment for threat actors, whose attacks are increasing in complexity and sophistication while the number of opportunities available to them is growing exponentially.
We are witnessing a rise in the number of ransomware attacks as well as an increase in their cost to victims. Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is now a subscription-based business model and accounted for almost two-thirds of ransomware attacks in the last year. RaaS allows malicious actors to deploy malware without needing sophisticated technical skills. Other ready-to-use malware products, including botnets and phishing toolkits, are also available for purchase, waiting to be used in a devastating attack. As attackers are offered both incentives and opportunities, the threat landscape is becoming more for boding than ever.
The Flipdish IT team had to contend with a large number of endpoints created by its remote working model. “We did not know who had what access, and we didn’t know how secure that access was,” Leon Weavers, Head of IT at Flipdish, recalled. “Our biggest concern was people who used insecure laptops and never updated Windows, enabled a firewall, or turned on encryption.”
Flipdish had several difficult tasks to perform. It needed to identify and track all endpoints as well as evaluating access rights and limiting permissions. All endpoints then had to be secured. Some of its laptops and assets were not tracked, complicating the job. It was looking for a quick way to discover, secure, and manage remote endpoints to allow patch management and quickly deploy software to Windows or Mac machines.
To protect its hybrid workforce, Flipdish used Endpoint Central by ManageEngine, a unified endpoint management and security solution that manages servers, laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets from a central location. Such all-in-one solutions enable small IT teams to manage and secure large numbers of machines. In this case, it worked quickly, helping to lock down endpoints within a few days and allowing tech teams to push updates to remotely dispersed teams, without requiring them to come into an office and connect to the corporate network.
By using this sophisticated solution, Flipdish was able to discover where the vulnerabilities were and remove them. The company chose ManageEngine because the solution was entirely cloud-based and easy to use, requiring minimal training or configuration.
Leon added: “On day one, I was able to deploy the endpoint management client and start managing machines within minutes. Competing products such as Jamf for Mac and SCCM for Windows were hugely complicated platforms that required dedicated engineers to build deployment scripts and configuration files. We did not have the time or resource to implement any of those solutions.
“ManageEngine’s partner in Ireland, Servaplex, helped us ensure we had the right products to ﬁt our environment, and what I really loved about ManageEngine was that I was able to discover Mac machines and Windows machines and put them on the same platform. That was the highlighting feature for us: having everything in one place.”
A force multiplier for security teams
Although the IT team at Flipdish is made up of three people, only one of them is ever on duty. The new solution allowed the team to manage and secure hundreds of machines, saving the IT department many hours of work.
Going forward, Flipdish carefully examined its patch management strategies to discover and remove vulnerabilities through further remote security update deployments. It used ManageEngine’s solution to roll out software, patches, inventory management, and security policies such as screen lock, firewall configuration, and disk encryption.
“We quickly discovered our assets in our environment and within the same platform allowed us to run patch management, update a number of important security policies, and deploy software,” Leon said. “It is an all-in-one solution, because it supports mobile, Mac, and Windows — which are all of the main operating systems we use and support.
“It’s good to have a tool like this, because it allows you to run reports on your exposure in terms of security vulnerabilities. Another realisation is that when we lose endpoints, we can block them remotely.
“It has made a positive impact on our everyday work, because we can manage devices remotely without even needing to be in front of the machine — which is massive for us as we are remote first. We get automated reports sent daily of any security vulnerabilities that need addressing and can also remote-lock machines if they are lost. ManageEngine’s instant chat support is also very responsive, helping us to get technical support whenever we need it.”
Counting the cost of a cyberattack
A cybersecurity incident can have a devastating financial and reputational impact. What is often less apparent is the effect it has on trust among staff as well as clients. For a remote or hybrid business to be successful, it must be a truly distributed workforce that has confidence in the systems enabling it to function. Every member of the staff needs to know that they can reliably access stable networks without connectivity issues, will have immediate access to cloud file-sharing capabilities, and so on.
To build this trust in digital ways of working, organisations must adopt a proactive cybersecurity posture. Security tools such as enterprise data replication (EDR) and extended detection and response (XDR) can detect and remediate threats. A Zero Trust Network Access model ensures employees can only access corporate data from any device or app after verification and authorization. After investing in security tools, it is important to train employees to ensure they know about the latest threats and how to respond to and avoid them.
Remote and hybrid work creates vast opportunities. Yet these new workforce models must be carefully managed to ensure that the distributed workforces become an asset, not a cybersecurity liability.