Shift to Telework: Enabling Secure Cloud Adoption for Long-Term Resiliency

Over the past few months, agencies have strengthened remote work tools, increased capacity, improved performance, and upgraded security to enable continuity of operations as employees work from home and in various new locations.

However, as networks become more distributed across data centers, cloud, and remote connections, the attack surface increases, opening up the network to potential cybersecurity threats. Agencies have been forced to balance operations and security as they shift how users connect to government networks while remote.

The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS – CISA) has played a key role in providing telework guidance through updates to the Trusted Internet Connections 3.0 guidance (TIC 3.0). This was an important step to provide more immediate telework guidance, open the door for modern, hybrid cloud environments, and provide agencies with greater flexibility.

In a recent webinar, I had the opportunity to speak with Beth Cappello, Deputy CIO, DHS, about IT lessons learned from the pandemic and the future of modern security with TIC 3.0 and zero trust.

TIC 3.0 and the Cloud Push

“When you think about TIC 3.0 and you think about the flexibility that it introduces into your environment, that’s the mindset that we have to take going forward,” said Cappello. “No longer can it be a traditional point-to-point brick and mortar fixed infrastructure approach.”

TIC 3.0 has enabled agencies to take advantage of much-needed solutions, such as cloud-based, secure web gateways and zero trust architecture to support secure remote work.

Prior to the pandemic, DHS had begun adopting cloud – moving email to the cloud and allowing for more collaboration tools and data sharing – enabling the agency to transition from about 10,000 to 70,000 remote workers almost overnight. Many other agencies have similar stories – moving away from legacy remote access solutions to cloud and multi-cloud environments that offer more scalability, agility, and security.

IT administrators must be able to recognize where threats are coming from, and diagnose and fix them through “zero-day/zero-minute security.” To do this, they must turn to the cloud. Cloud service providers that operate multi-tenant clouds can offer agencies an important benefit – the cloud effect – which allows providers to globally push hundreds or thousands of patches a day with security updates and protections to every cloud customer and user. Each day, the Zscaler cloud detects 100 million threats and delivers more than 120,000 unique security updates to the cloud.

Secure Connections From Anywhere 

When the pandemic hit, agencies needed to find a way to connect users to applications, security as-a-service providers, O365, and the internet, without having to backhaul traffic into agency data centers and legacy TICs – which often result in latency and a poor user experience. Agencies required better visibility to identify who is connecting to what, see where they are connecting to, and send that telemetry data back to DHS.

Rather than focusing on a physical network perimeter (that no longer exists), the now finalized TIC 3.0 guidance recommends considering each zone within an agency environment to ensure baseline security across dispersed networks.

As telework continues, many agencies are evolving security by adopting zero trust models to connect users without ever placing them on the network. We know bad actors cannot attack what they cannot see – so if there is no IP address or ID to attack on the network, these devices are safe. Instead, agencies must verify users before granting access to authorized applications, connecting users through encrypted micro-tunnels leading to the right application. This allows users to securely connect from any device in any location while preventing east-to-west traffic on the network.

The Move to the Edge

For long-term telework and beyond, the next big shift in security architectures will need to address how agencies can continue optimizing working on devices in any location in the world. As agencies move to 5G and computing moves to the edge, security should too. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) changes the focus of security from network-based to data-based, protecting users and data in any location and improving the overall user experience.

A SASE cloud architecture can provide a holistic approach to address the “seams” in security by serving as a TIC 3.0 use case and building security functions of zero trust into the model for complete visibility and control across modern, hybrid cloud environments.

For agencies like DHS, who have a variety of sub-agencies and departments of different sizes and missions, cloud is ideal to facilitate secure data sharing and collaboration tools.

“So, when we’re securing our environment, we’re provisioning, monitoring, and managing. We have to be mindful of those seams and mindful of the gaps and ensure that as we’re operating the whole of the enterprise that we are keeping track of how resilient the entire environment is,” said Cappello.

About Stephen Kovac
Stephen Kovac is the Vice President of Global Government and Head of Corporate Compliance at Zscaler.