Goodbye to events. First it was the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and later all the others, both in the technology industry and in other sectors. And not only. Everything points to the fact that once the epidemic is overcome, it will take a few more months before the world can afford to hold again those massive events to which we have become accustomed in recent years.
Forecasts in this regard point to a precautionary scenario of at least 18 months. And even if we eventually reach a “safe” scenario in which these events can be held again, it is not unreasonable to predict that more and more companies will opt for other types of formats involving less personal contact.
And what industry can be seen to “benefit” from this change in trend? Mainly those related to a new way of “perceiving reality” that is: virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality.
And not only because of the health crisis we are going through. An IDC report already indicated at the end of 2019 that global spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) would reach $18.8 billion by 2020, an increase of 78.5% over the previous year.
What’s more. While it is true that at first many of the contents that had been developed for these platforms were related to games and entertainment, now the trend is for the professional sector to be the one that “pulls the cart” the most. In this sense, IDC points out that sectors such as retail or industry will invest more than 1,500 million dollars in these technologies before the end of this year.
It is a perception that is also shared by many of the companies that are developing software for this type of platform.We’re going to see a big push in terms of business application development. And we are going to see the adoption curve of these corporate solutions grow. Above all because unlike what happened a few years ago, the devices are already ready.They just need to incorporate 5G connectivity to fully exploit the demand.
We also saw this in the recent presentation of the Microsoft HoloLens 2. That “industrial future” that they promised and that we could almost touch with our hands. The demand for ad hoc applications for HoloLens designed to meet the specific needs of each company has grown tremendously, but with horizontal applications such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist or Dynamics 365 Guides as a common element to almost all of them.
Virtual reality and teleworking
Outside the industrial sector, if this technology is called to grow it will be indicated by the experts, by capacity to limit the number of face to face meetings, to have to move physically to an event and in certain cases, also to telework by allowing several people to collaborate in the development of a project.
There are already all kinds of social tools, tools that allow users to meet in ‘virtual rooms’ where they can not only talk, but share documents, take tours of the different parts of a presentation or project, create interactive tours of onboarding for employees.
The same is true for the virtual training of professionals, which will allow them to improve their knowledge without having to travel to a specific space, reducing the learning curve by avoiding unnecessary distractions and allowing training managers to be in control of the experience. And from training workers to, as we may see in the future… training in the classroom?
Virtual reality is a technology that, among many other things, allows the limits of learning to be expanded. The way in which we tell stories, from the use of fire in caves, is also the way in which we transmit knowledge and experiences from generation to generation and thus explains that VR applications have the potential to make knowledge much more immersive, with more capacity to encourage the involvement of students and can provide educational experiences that are perceived in a more real way.
Take the case of Facebook Horizon for example. Presented at the last Oculus developer conference, the new Facebook is announced in the future (it is currently in beta) as an infinite space where users can create their own VR worlds and experiences, play games, explore new worlds, etc. in the company of other people. As a true Second Life designed for virtual reality, Horizon promises to be a space where imagination will have no limits.
It is becoming increasingly clear to the industry that in some way, and in some specific sectors, this is the future we are heading for.
Working or Studying at Home: The Cyber Security Challenges of COVID-19
Thousands of companies around the world are sending their employees home to stop the new coronavirus pandemic. And millions of students are home for the same reason, relying on online classes to try to stay on track. The teleworking strategy is an interesting one to keep up with, but the headaches for IT departments are being equally important in the face of the cyber security challenges of COVID-19.
Working from home or studying with online programs are not new. However, the almost instantaneous migration of millions of users from closely monitored and protected corporate and university networks to largely unsupervised and often insecure home Wi-Fi networks creates a huge opportunity for cybercriminals.
The concern is more than theoretical. Attackers have already conducted cyber attacks that exploit uncertainty, fear, or the search for information for their own benefit. One APT, for example, was recently seen spreading a unique, customized remote access trojan (RAT) that takes screenshots, downloads files and more, in a campaign with the COVID-19 as a backdrop. Fake Coronavirus maps with AZORult malware as a “prize” are becoming another widespread occurrence. Another was the emotet and malware attack discovered by IBM X-Force and Kaspersky, while the WHO has been issuing warnings about fraudsters pretending to belong to the organization for weeks.
In general, attackers look for a vulnerability to carry out their attack. In these cases, people’s fear of the coronavirus is the vulnerability that attackers will seek to exploit. If a person is worried or stressed about the virus, they are less likely to remember their security training and more likely to, for example, click on a link in a phishing email or give their credentials to a malicious website.
People who work from home are easily distracted, especially if they are normally used to working in the office, and will mix work with personal email and web browsing increasing cyber security risks. So now is a good time to warn people to be extremely cautious.
Another major threat comes from the sphere of the mobile. Students and workers who stay at home, or possibly stranded in remote locations, will be heavily dependent on their mobile devices. Mobile attacks are particularly effective because they often provoke immediate responses from recipients on instant communication platforms such as SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, WeChat and others.
The Challenges of Remote Working
Lack of IT resources can affect many organizations as they move to enable remote strategies. When workers and students are sent outside the usual perimeter, managing device expansion and patching and securing hundreds of thousands of endpoints becomes much more challenging.
As a security team, you lose control of the environment in which the user works. Have you secure your home wifi? If you are using a personal computer, what mechanisms do you have to ensure that the device is not compromised? Essentially, your network perimeter now includes all of your employees’ homes. Some security programs are ready for this, others are not.
It is important to remember that there are a large number of companies that do not normally allow teleworking and therefore are not prepared for the cybersecurity challenges of COVID-19. Government, legal services, insurance, banking, and health care are excellent examples of industries that are not prepared for this massive influx of remote workers.
Many companies and organizations in these industries are working on legacy systems and are using un-patched software. This not only means that remote working is a security issue, but it makes working an unproductive and negative experience for the employee.
Regulated industries are another area that poses a significant challenge because they use systems, devices or people that have not been approved for remote working. Many companies must have secure environments and devices to comply with regulations; it is not possible to secure and certify remote work due to security issues and access by unauthorized persons. Proprietary or specific software is usually legacy software as well. It is difficult to repair and maintain, and can rarely be accessed remotely.
Many organizations, including those in the education system, have proprietary software on site that will require special configurations for remote access. In a world of growing SaaS and cloud adoption this can be very simple, but if all systems are on an internal network, the challenge is to provide users with a secure way to access those systems through a VPN or other network solution.
5 Tips for Securing Remote Access to Corporate Networks
As you may have read above, the cyber security challenges posed by the arrival of millions of workers or students home from COVID-19 are formidable. And especially for securing corporate networks. Remote working has been promoted, but surely without all the security guarantees due to the urgency of the pandemic.
It is no longer enough to protect the perimeter, we must ensure the protection of a host of endpoints such as laptops, mobiles, tablets and many devices from the Internet of Things (IoT).
That’s why we offer a series of tips for securing access to business networks from home:
1- Obviously, the computer trying to connect must be protected with an advanced protection solution, but to reinforce security it is essential to have an EDR system that certifies that all processes executed by that computer are reliable. This way we will prevent those cyber attacks that do not use malware, and those that are advanced and directed from entering the corporate network through our equipment.
2- The connection between the computer and the corporate network must be secured at all times by means of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection. A private network connection that allows the creation of a secure local network without the need for its members to be physically connected to each other, also allowing them to remotely take advantage of the data tunnels of the local servers in their office.
3- The passwords we use to access corporate services, and always in general, must be complex and difficult to decipher to avoid being discovered. Not in vain, to certify that the connection is requested by the correct user and that they are not trying to impersonate our identity, we should have a multi-factor authentication system (MFA).
4- Firewall systems, whether virtual or physical, have proven to be the first line of defense in business network security. What these systems do is monitor incoming and outgoing traffic and decide whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a set of previously defined security logics.
5- The services of monitoring networks, applications and users, and those to respond and remedy the setbacks that may arise, are absolutely necessary to monitor and ensure business continuity when working remotely and we must prepare them for the volume they must support these days. Because this increase in remote work can also place an extra burden on network monitoring tools, or detection and response services, as they are faced with a greater number of devices and processes to be monitored.