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The right security strategy is the key to maximising efficiency and security

Digital transformation is rapidly changing the way we work. In a world where computers used to fill entire rooms, it is now AI-powered tools that help us perform our daily tasks more efficiently and take our productivity to new levels. The Modern Workplace is not just a concept, but a necessity to keep up with the rapid pace of digital transformation. It requires an IT environment that is flexible and adaptable to meet ever-changing requirements.

This development brings many benefits, but also presents companies with new challenges. At a time when the IT landscape is becoming increasingly open and collaborative - just think of solutions such as Microsoft 365 - the focus is shifting away from the IT infrastructure as the primary target. Instead, access to data, applications and cloud infrastructures are moving to the centre of security considerations.

An effective security strategy in such a modern working environment must be flexible and have the ability to quickly adapt to new circumstances and integrate innovative technologies. Many companies are faced with the challenge of seamlessly integrating AI-based tools into their employees' day-to-day work. One example of this is Copilot, our digital assistant in Office products, which can be activated with just one click. However, this seemingly simple interaction harbours complex challenges, particularly in the area of data security. Let's take a look together at how we can overcome these challenges and create a secure, modern and future-proof workplace.

What is a SECURE Modern Workplace

When we talk about a secure modern workplace today, we are talking about flexibility, higher productivity, but also new agile security options to protect users and data.

  • Flexibility: Modern workplaces offer more flexibility in terms of working hours and location. This allows employees to adapt their work to their lifestyle and promotes a better work-life balance.
  • Technology: The use of the latest technologies is a key feature of the Secure Modern Workplace. Cloud services, collaborative tools and mobile solutions enable employees to work more efficiently and effectively.
  • Productivity: By optimising work processes and using automation, companies can increase their productivity. Modern workplaces utilise data analysis and AI to improve decision-making processes.
  • Communication: Modern workplaces promote open and transparent communication across traditional hierarchies. This leads to greater employee involvement and better collaboration.
  • Adaptability: Companies must be able to adapt quickly to changes. A Secure Modern Workplace supports this adaptability with scalable and flexible systems.

Identities, data, security

The principle of Zero Trust "Trust no one" is not new, but it takes on a completely different meaning in the context of the Secure Modern Workplace. In the past, we were able to control exactly which resources our employees could access in an isolated environment. Today, we have a situation in which employees around the world have access to a wide range of data that they don't even know exists.

That may sound a little exaggerated, but in a cloud environment like M365, the principle of "always verify" applies. You always need to know who you are, where you come from and what you are accessing. In addition, access should only be allowed when a user needs it - we're talking about "least privilege" here. However, we must not forget that a complicated and complex process leads to a user trying to circumvent or simplify it. This leads to a search for alternative options. This harbours the risk of shadow IT. This is also shown by the Microsoft Digital Defence Report 2023, in which attackers are increasingly targeting end users with around 4,000 averted identity attacks on Microsoft 365.

Identity in the IT context means that every user has unique characteristics that define them and determine their access rights. Dynamic identity and access management (IAM) ensures that users only receive the authorisations they need for their work. This system flexibly adjusts authorisations and requires approval for access to non-everyday resources. In the event of identity theft, the damage is limited as the attacker can only act within the scope of the assigned authorisations. IAM increases security by strictly regulating access to resources and at the same time increases efficiency through clear processes for requesting and authorising access.

The management of identities and authorisations in an IAM system includes:

  • Identity Management: creation, updating and deletion of user accounts.
  • Access management: definition, monitoring and control of access rights.

By implementing such a system, organisations can ensure that identities are protected and access to company resources is properly managed, increasing security and efficiency.

The securing, sharing and collaborative editing of documents is becoming increasingly important, as is the management of large, unstructured and difficult-to-monitor volumes of data. Firstly, it is important to identify the different types and categories of data. It is also important to clearly regulate the handling of documents. These guidelines should be set out in IT policies to avoid errors or security risks from compromised end users. Important aspects are:

  • Access control
  • Editing rights
  • Release options
  • Encryption
  • Data loss prevention (DLP)

Manufacturers are increasingly endeavouring to integrate the automatic categorisation of data into everyday working life. Microsoft, for example, is trying to do this with its "Purview" product, which integrates seamlessly into the entire IT environment. With the help of document templates or AI-trained recognition patterns, documents are automatically categorised - whether they are received, processed on the computer, in cloud applications or on network drives. Data categorised in this way can then be provided with appropriate security requirements regardless of where it is stored.

Legacy issues

The modernisation of an existing IT infrastructure into a modern workplace often reveals existing vulnerabilities. Historical migrations have shown that the transition to a new IT landscape often took place without sufficient consideration of security aspects. Problems with legacy systems were either carried over or not correctly integrated into the new environment. Existing security policies and procedures have been neglected or only slightly updated over the years. The real challenge, however, is to not only secure cloud applications and cloud identities, but also the corresponding components of the existing infrastructure. Otherwise, figuratively speaking, you build a fortress wall but leave a side door open.

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Conclusion

A modern workplace is essential to remain flexible and to be able to integrate new technologies quickly. However, it is important to be aware of the dangers that this way of working entails. Even the most advanced security measures - such as data loss prevention, protection against malware installation, defence against phishing attacks, multi-factor authentication and AI-powered behavioural anomaly detection - are useless if end users are not properly trained.

An effective security strategy in a modern working environment must strike a balance between adequately protecting users and maintaining functionality while being flexible and able to adapt quickly to new circumstances.

You can find more exciting topics from the world of adesso in our previous blog posts.

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Picture Marc Iridon

Author Marc Iridon

Marc Iridon is a Microsoft security expert and has more than seven years of experience in the cyber security industry. He specialises in data security. A key aspect of his work and expertise is the protection of identities in the cloud environment and the implementation of data protection measures.

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