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Many IT service providers are in the process of moving their SMB clients to cloud environments to support their new remote workers. These transitions are great opportunities to modernize network security.

However, this can be a challenge when security for remote work isn’t your customers’ main focus, which is likely the case right now. They understandably just want new services up and running fast to keep their staff productive. Even though security isn’t one of their priorities, it should be one of yours. There’s a good chance that the new services you’re deploying now will become permanent additions to your customers’ IT portfolios. You don’t want one of them getting compromised six months down the road.

Let’s go over some essential cloud security concepts and services you should consider putting in place right now.

Use the Zero Trust security model

While most of us are working together to get through this current crisis, there are still bad actors out there looking to exploit vulnerable business networks. The new cloud technologies that you provision need to be secured against these attackers.

The traditional “castle” model of network security that emphasizes strong perimeters was already showing its age. And now, with everyone working from home, it makes even less sense. Every user action is passing over the internet from home networks to business networks and back again.

The Zero Trust model for network security is much better suited to cloud services. Modern data control tools, like some of those discussed below, are an essential component. The Zero Trust model focuses on authenticating user and device identity at the point of every network interaction. Once authorized, only the least privileged access is assigned whenever possible.

Include multi-factor authentication

With everyone working at home, network services will start seeing authentication requests come in from a variety of new and unsecured home networks. Attackers may try to hide their login attempts in this wave of new traffic.

Multi-factor authentication can help keep new sign-in requests secure. Fortunately, there are multi-factor tools included in Microsoft 365, and some are also available in Azure tenants if you have AD Premium licenses.

You can configure Microsoft 365 and Azure to send secondary authentication requests via SMS, email, or the MS Authenticator mobile app. All are easy to configure in the Microsoft 365 or Azure Admin Center.

VPNs are an important consideration

VPNs have been a staple corporate network technology for years, but for many SMBs, they’ve never been a high priority need. That can change when the majority of a business workforce moves off-site. Directly exposing more connections and resources to the Internet creates too many attack surfaces.

If a customer doesn’t already have a VPN consider deploying one so you can safely control access to services inside one manageable container. We’ve also found conditional access policies are a great way to prevent connections from unqualified sources. And if you already have VPNs deployed for certain customers, make sure to validate them for the higher utilization rates you’re expecting to see over the coming months.

Set up device management

Many SMB clients may not have bothered to deal with BYOD policies in their workplace before. Now with staff at home, many businesses might have most of their workers connecting from personal devices. Over time this can become a real management and security headache.

Microsoft Intune offers mobile device and application management on Microsoft’s cloud services like O365 and Azure. It lets you monitor personal and corporate devices to make sure they’re compliant with security policies. You can restrict what client data is shared from their cloud tenant and what apps can be installed on devices.

Reliable threat detection

With everyone working at home, many workflows are in flux. Attackers may use this disruption to hide novel threats in network traffic. Fortunately, there are some reliable threat detection tools available on Microsoft cloud platforms.

Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)

This is a set of threat detection, prevention, and mitigation tools available in a few different versions of Microsoft 365 and Office 365. ATP includes dynamic email attachment, URL, and identity verification that block any malicious activity or files detected. Attachment scanning is able to detect zero-day exploits and will sandbox any suspicious files for further analysis.

ATP also integrates well with the collaboration platforms built on Microsoft cloud services, like SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams. Files shared on these platforms can be scanned in real-time.

Office Protect

The popularity of Microsoft cloud services continues to make them enticing targets. As of 2019, Kaspersky Labs found that Microsoft products remain the target of up to 70% of all cyberattacks.

Sherweb Office Protect is an O365 add-on that lets Sherweb Partners quickly deploy new policies and settings as well as run security reports on their clients’ Microsoft cloud environments. The extra layer of defense provided by Office Protect helps mitigate both attacks and accidental breaches that are more likely as the number of insecure home network connections to corporate resources increases.

Backup systems remain important

They’re not in the news as much as in previous years, but ransomware attacks remain a serious threat to business data. For that and many other reasons, backup systems will always be important.

As your clients get used to a new way of working, make sure to fine-tune and test their disaster recovery plans. These plans should include backing up any new resources they’ve committed to cloud environments. Tools like Acronis Online Backup can help simplify these setups.

Online Backup can automatically backup data from cloud servers as well as PCs, Macs, and connected mobile devices. It can also back up services like Microsoft 365 apps, SQL servers, and Exchange servers. Data is secured at any one of Sherweb’s North American SOC2 Type II-compliant data centers.

User education is critical

All these tools are valuable, but half the battle right now will be training users on safe computing practices in their new remote work environments. That training might be challenging when you’re not able to show up on-site to walk staff through a new process.

QuickHelp security awareness training lets you customize training modules for each client’s needs. You can track their progress so you know exactly what sessions their users have completed. You can also create customized videos to help maintain a personal connection with remote contacts.

Deploy security that works everywhere

Your clients may be focused on getting back to work ASAP, but spending the time to secure their new cloud environments today will save you time and headaches months down the road. It will make getting back to business as usual that much safer and easier.

It’s critical to keep your customers secure. Contact Sherweb today for help finding the right cloud security solutions.

Written by The Sherweb Team Collaborators @ Sherweb