Countering The Cybersecurity Effects of
Remote Work With Browser Isolation

Written by Nihad Hassan, Cybersecurity Author at Apress

Secure Remote Working With Browser Isolation

As a result of Coronavirus, many organizations are adopting social distancing techniques by shifting their workforce to work from home. Obviously, this solution allows many organizations to remain operational to some extent, despite closing their physical presence, however, this gives rise to a variety of cybersecurity challenges.

Large IT corporations like Apple, Google and Microsoft have allowed segments of their employees to work remotely to stop the spread of the disease, however, the internet is considered a hostile environment, and most deployed security solutions, like Firewalls and Intrusion Detection/Prevention systems, are set to protect IT systems from attacks originated from the cyberspace. When employees begin to work remotely via the internet, this will increase the attack surface because potential adversaries can now exploit the security vulnerabilities of employee endpoint computing devices (which aren't secure in comparison to company devices) to steal personal and business data, and to gain an entry point to an organization's IT infrastructure.

In this article, we will study the cybersecurity risks associated with working from home, then we will discuss how browser isolation technology can help organizations reduce the cyber-attack surface against their employee endpoint devices when connecting to the organization’s network from their home machines, for the purposes of this articleusing the WEBGAP browser isolation solution as an example.

Browser isolation is a short cut to securing remote workers from the risks that working from home exposes them to, by securing their personal computers from browser based cyberattacks you can effectively protect them from cyber risks.

Cybersecurity risks when working from home.
Anyone goes online will be subject to all kinds of cyberthreats, nevertheless, for employees working remotely, they should give special care for the following cyber threats:

  • Unsecure Wi-Fi Connection - Home Wi-Fi should be secure enough, if the router or the access point is configured properly, but for those employees using public or shared Wi-Fi access points, a reliable VPN service should be used to secure their connection between their computer and corporate networks.
  • Personal Devices Are Not Secure - Employees working remotely will typically use their own computers (laptops, tablets or home workstations) and these devices use different operating systems, applications (e.g. Office, Adobe) and security solutions (antivirus). The risk of having outdated applications and unpatched OS increases dramatically on employee owned devices, leaving them vulnerable to malware attacks that can result in them leaking personal and business confidential data.
  • Phishing & Ransomware Attacks - Malicious email messages will become more effective as the emails are not passing through the corporate SPAM filter and firewall. Humans are still the weakest link in any cybersecurity defense plan and an employee clicking a malicious link or opening an email attachment can compromise their computing device with malware and ransomware.

Countering Cybersecurity Risks Using Browser Isolation
Web browsers are our window to the world wide web and most of a user’s online activities such as web surfing, reading emails, accessing the corporate intranet, in addition to personal activities like socializing and personal file sharing are conducted via web browsers. This makes securing web browsing activities a top priority for employees working outside their secure office networks and environments and browser isolation technology is the answer to neutralizing these web threats on employee owned devices.

What Is Browser Isolation?
Browser Isolation is a relatively new cybersecurity model, it works by separating a user's internet browsing activities from their local device or an organizations internal IT infrastructure. This physical separation prevents browser-based attacks from penetrating a users local machine and your organization's network.

The key concept which underpines the browser isolation model is that it allows a user to use a remote web browser hosted on a cloud server and direct all of the users internet browsing activities onto this isolated environment. By doing so, any web threats hit the remote browser without affecting the physical device of the user. In the case of WEBGAP, the remote cloud server will hysically isolate all malware and other security exploits that tries to infect the user while they work and surf around different websites online.

This is the preferred model to use by home workers to mitigate many risks associated with online works (phishing links and malicious files attached to email messages) and it does not require the installation of any software or special configuration on the endpoint device.

Benefits Of Browser Isolation
Browser isolation technology is gaining popularity as a reliable and easy to use prevention technique against browswer based cyber threats including phishing emails, malware and ransomware. We have seen a sharp increase in the number of browser isolation users as a result of the increased number of people working from home because of the Coronavirus outbreak. The following are the main benefits of implementing browser isolation technology to protect your remote workers endpoint devices.

  • LFewer Web Threats - Most attacks targeting internal networks come from the internet and they are most commonly introduced through your employees web browsers. By isolating web browsing, organizations can lower web-based malware attacks up to 70% according to a Gartner study published in 2018. In many instances, antivirus solutions are useless at preventing ransomware and other malware types infecting endpoint devices. The damage can be even greater if the infected endpoint device was operating inside the organization’s internal network. Browser isolation technology can deter such attacks easily and prevent the infection of end-user devices spreading to other devices on the network. For example, with browser isolation, cyberattacks that target big enterprises such as ransomware and advanced persistent threats (APT's) can be effectively mitigated, as the malicious code will not execute on end-user device. Instead, it will run within the physically isolated environment of the remote browser.

  • Save Admin Time & Increase Productivity - Access to the web is a practical requirement for any organization operating in today’s information age. To offer a secure work environment for their employees, organizations need to govern access to web content and they can achieve this via various technical solutions like routers and firewalls, but the hassle comes when they need to whitelist a website based on individual request. A system administrator may need to update the list of whitelisted and blacklisted websites many times a day. Obviously, this increases network administration time and reduces productivity. By implementing browser isolation, no one will worry about the danger of accessing harmful sites, as the physically isolated environment of the remote browser will handle the risk without affecting endpoint devices.

  • Stop phishing attacks - Phishing attacks are a huge concern for any organization, a malicious email can contain links to dangerous websites housing exploit-kits or a harmful attachment that installs malware or ransomware if it is clicked on by an unaware user. Browser isolation solves this problem by running the web email inside a sandbox, so if a user clicks on a malicious link or a malicous attachment, their machine will not get infected when the malicous payload executes.

Take a shortcut to remote worker security with browser isolation
If you do not have centralized control over your home remote workers personal computers it can be almost impossible to make sure that their apps are up to date, that their operating system is upgraded and patched, or that they have security software installed to protect their machines. With so little control over your users computer environments browser isolation is a great way to protect their machines at browser level and close the hatches on web based cyberthreats like malware and ransomware.

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