Six Things to Look for in Modern Remote Management and Monitoring Tools

If you are a managed IT services provider or a company that gets services from one, you are likely very familiar with remote management and monitoring software. RMM has been a mainstay application used by managed IT services providers for years. It provides several important functions that enable the cost-effective and secure delivery of the end-device services by IT service providers. 

The past two years have rapidly changed the breadth and frequency of remote work. Whether this is a permanent change in work habits or not, the remote worker needs to be supported as a standard part of IT service delivery, not as an exception – what people call hybrid work now. 

For modern RMM software to keep up with the changing nature of work and the applications and systems being used, the following items need to be addressed: 

1. Remote Updating Needs Rock Solid Reliability 

All RMM clients have supported remote patching and other software updates for years. Not all of them have supported remote updates effectively. The challenge in this new hybrid work model is that a remote user whose device gets bricked by a poorly executed update is especially adversely affected. The RMM client also needs to not only give users the option when to update, but also needs to warn them if they should be doing an update because maybe they are not plugged in, are in a public hotspot, or are on an unreliable internet connection. This approach will help minimize the times a user goes down and IT needs to scramble to get them running (typically at a high cost!) 

2. Top Rate Remote Policy Enforcement 

Policy enforcement needs to be included in any modern RMM. This is needed for a variety of reasons including 1) compliance to frameworks like HIPAA or NIST CSF; 2) security from a user making poor decisions like plugging in an unknown USB drive, and 3) intellectual property loss from users copying files or deleting files. The policy management importantly needs to be integrated with a centralized policy management system, so the policies that are enforced by the RMM are always in lockstep with the latest corporate policies. 

3. Remote Revocation of Rights is Critical 

Since employees can be anywhere when they leave the company, the traditional process of “hand me your computer” doesn’t work. Typically, laptops are mailed back after an empty box is shipped to the employee, or the system is just kept by the exiting employee. In either case, the user’s rights to access data on the device need to be removed remotely and preferably the data wiped. Not all RMM software does this well or in coordination with other HR and IT offboarding processes. 

4. Remote Control Is No Longer Optional 

To solve some issues remotely, it is often easier for the support engineer to take over control of the user’s system. This has been an optional feature in a lot of RMMs, but modern RMMs need to support this feature and support it well. It needs to work through consumer-grade firewalls and in typical co-working spaces, airports, and coffee shops. 

5. Need to support Macs and PCs 

Mac devices have continued to make inroads in the corporate environment. The new M1 processor Macs have provided a new price-performance benefit that is noticeable to every user/ Additionally, with more employees working from home, there are more employees that are doing work on their personal Mac. To properly support these users, RMM software needs to either support Mac and Windows equally well or managed IT service providers need to use two RMMs – one for Mac and one for Windows.  

6. Location Information Needs to Be Accessible 

Location information is available on most modern laptops. It can be GPS-based or WiFi-based, but it should be made available to the RMM. This is a necessary feature in a hybrid working world for many reasons. Employers need to know where employees are in emergencies, info-security needs to know where the device is for login and data usage rights, and it is helpful when a device has been lost or stolen. Modern RMMs need to tap into that information so that managed IT service providers can use it to track assets, data, and people. 

Montra successfully manages thousands of remote devices across all the hybrid workplaces of our customers. If you would like to learn more about how we can keep your workforce productive and secure, please email us at sales@montra.io. 

Remote Device Management Trends in 2022

In the third of our four-part series on trends for 2022, we are looking at device management trends. When we talk about devices we mean any physical asset that a person uses to connect to a network of information sources. 

Devices are proliferating, getting cheaper, and becoming more diverse, while our use of devices is expanding in frequency, location, and types of use. Whether we are talking about end-user devices or unattended ones, devices are front and center in the IT discussion and will be for 2022. 

With that in mind, the following are our trends for device management and security in 2022: 

1. Cyber-Attacks on Devices Will Get Bigger and Quieter 

With all the device proliferation, it’s no wonder that devices and the people that use them are now the frontline for security threats. The cloud and the systems and services that reside there are getting increasingly hardened against cyber attacks. Companies are continuing to shrink their private data centers while also getting better at securing them. This leaves devices – whether it’s an end-user device or an unattended one – as the current soft targets for cyber-criminals. 

In 2022, we will see more attacks of the sophisticated variety in which devices are compromised quietly until enough devices have been coopted that they can be used together in a coordinated attack. Unattended devices at the edge of the network are particularly vulnerable to this type of attack and are likely to be used in a number edge swarm attacks. 

2. Remote Management Wars Will Escalate 

Everyone wants to manage user devices – the hardware companies, the OS companies, the device owners, the app vendors, and telecom service providers. They all have legitimate business and technical reasons, usually centered around better device uptime, better service availability and device and data security. There is already a turf war for client software that needs to run on each device or gateway software that aggregates information on lower-end devices. It only makes sense for a very few remote management apps to be running on the device, and in 2022, the battle for that precious real estate will escalate. Corporations will increasingly need to turn to neutral third parties to help them understand how they navigate this battle for their devices. Many companies have opted for either no remote monitoring and management or defaulted to the hardware or security vendor. As the remote worker norm sets in, companies will need to make better-informed decisions about remote device management to make certain their uptime and security goals are maintained while also keeping employee productivity high and support costs minimal. 

3. Device-Cloud Will Kill Client-Server. Sort of. 

The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” William Gibson said that 18 years ago, but it applies to this world of device-cloud and client-server today. Client-server is the computing architecture that replaced mainframe and is basically a PC connecting to a local network on which there is a server (“a big PC”) that runs an application for many people to use simultaneously. That started in the 1980s and the mainframe business has been declared dead every year since. The mainframe market is still alive and kicking, but it ain’t what it used to be. And while many of us work for companies that still have some application that runs on a server, there is not one startup in the past 10 years that have reached unicorn status with a client-server application architecture. 

The replacement for client-server is device-cloud or just “the cloud”. It comes in many flavors but in this context, the device is a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and the cloud is a SaaS application or “serverless” or “native” cloud application. 

There is not one enterprise software startup that will emerge in 2022 that builds their application on anything other than pure device-cloud architecture. In addition, the remote worker norm pushed client-server even closer to the grave because client-server does not perform well with large-scale remote users. The security layers that need to sit in front of client-server solutions to serve remote users create cost and performance issues. So, 2022 will be a watershed year in the corporate move away from client-server architectures, and we will find more than 80% of the screen-time of a typical user is on device-cloud apps. 

4. The PC CPU War Will Move to the Front Page 

The PC CPU ware has already begun, but only industry insiders have really cared. Anyone who has purchased a MacBook in the past 18 months knows about the M1 CPU and knows why it matters. The latest Macs no longer use Intel CPUs – effectively ending their 15-year run. Instead, they use an ARM chip designed by Apple and built by TSMC. The performance is incredibly fast and for Apple, there is no going back. The way ARM chips are designed and built is fundamentally different than the way traditional CPUs are built. The net of it is that large technology companies like Apple, Lenovo, Microsoft, Google, and others can design their own ARM chips and have them built by lower-cost chip manufacturers than Intel. 

The ARM race has been going for a while, but in 2022 it will explode onto the front page. Apple will expand its ARM strategy, but what will make this truly mainstream is that one of the major PC vendors will launch their first ARM-based laptops. When people experience the speed difference and the faster innovation cycles for new chip designs, it will make CPUs a watercooler topic for the first time in 20 years. 

5. Secure Remote Erasure of Devices Will Become a Thing 

Today devices can be locked and erased remotely. This is mostly executed by companies when a remote worker has left their company and the company wants to secure the device as quickly as possible. Separately, the same devices or other devices will be shipped back to a common location, where they are erased using highly secure erasure techniques recommended by the Department of Defense (DoD 5220.22-M) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST Special Publication 800-88). 

As more companies increasingly treat remote work as the norm rather than the exception, these workflows will need to merge. In 2022, more and more companies will begin to require remote secure erasure processes. This will allow companies to protect the corporate data that is stored on the remote devices, and either never retrieve the device or allow the device to ship directly to an ITAD service – saving time and money. 

What are you thinking about device management and security in 2022? What are your big concerns for the upcoming year? Let us know what you think at info@montra.io. 

Remote Workforce Business Continuity

Ensure your Business Continuity Plan Secures your Remote Workforce

In our last Securing Remote Workers Blog, we discussed how organizations in today’s world must adapt to changing business conditions to ensure a secure remote workforce. Another critical element for securing your remote workforce is ensuring your business continuity and disaster recovery plan includes the ability to support your remote workforce with little or no notice. An organization must be capable of sustaining normal operations due to a power outage, illness, flooding, or similar event, which makes it unsafe for employees to travel onsite. In such an event that disrupts normal business operations, an organization must be capable of rapidly transitioning to a fully remote workforce.

If you already have a business continuity plan, you should consider adding remote workforce security capabilities to your plan, such as:

  • Multifactor authentication
  • Data loss prevention (DLP)
  • Advanced Threat Protection
  • Wireless connectivity

If you do not have a business continuity plan, the Department of Homeland Security provides details on the following four steps:

  1. Conduct a business impact analysis to identify time-sensitive or critical business functions and processes and the resources that support them.
  2. Identify, document, and implement to recover essential business functions and processes.
  3. Organize a business continuity team and compile a business continuity plan to manage a business disruption.
  4. Conduct training for the business continuity team and testing and exercises to evaluate recovery strategies and the plan.

For more information you can download a summary guide here.

 

Remote Workforce

7 Critical Considerations for Firewall Performance in the Era of Secure Remote Work

All organizations in today’s world must adapt to changing business conditions to ensure a secure remote workforce. Traditional firewalls cannot scale across multiple applications required for secure telework, placing the burden on IT teams to upgrade existing firewalls. Upgrading outdated integrated firewalls and virtual private networks (VPN) solutions become critical requirements to ensure a secure remote workforce.

Organizations are investing in Next-generation Firewalls (NGFW) to provide performance and advanced capabilities required to scale to meet future demands of distributed teams. 

Below are seven key considerations to guide your NGFW evaluation. 

Download the report here.

1. IPsec VPN performance

Teleworking employees have access to sensitive company data. Protecting this against compromises requires the ability to ensure that remote employee connections to the company network are secure.

To ensure your network is secure, you need to validate that your NGFW can sustain the user connections and encrypted traffic load independent of the location of the users.

2. Threat protection performance

How well does your NGFW perform when running full threat protection? To sustain performance with complete threat protection, you need to insist on real numbers and a close reading of documented performance claims from your vendor.

3. SSL inspection capacity

A majority of enterprise network traffic is now encrypted, and bad actors are continuing to take advantage. Ensure that your NGFW SSL decryption and inspection can offset these security risks and provide predictable performance with minimal degradation in speed.

4. Price vs. performance

Many NGFW vendors increase the size of their firewalls to boost performance and increase the cost. With big leaps in disruptive firewall technology, ensure that your NGFW vendor combines price and performance with an eye to a smaller footprint

5. Credible third-party validation

No organization investing in NGFW should rely on a single vendor. Review third-party evaluations for detailed validation of various NGFW solutions.

6. Easy, single-pane-of-glass management

Security teams that have to toggle between multiple dashboards to assess vulnerabilities, respond to threats, and ensure system resiliency are not efficient. Rely on a vendor that can provide a seamless dashboard that aggregates information for efficient decision making.

7. Future-proofing

All organizations must embrace digital innovation and transformation to become more efficient and secure. Ensuring an NGFW that not only provides performance at agreeable cost and scale but can also anticipate future demands.

 

 

 

10 Ways to Stay Safe As We Return to Work

In the last week or so the national conversation has shifted from sheltering in place to returning to work. Slowly and carefully, but we are opening back up. Now is the time to remain vigilant to the constant threats to your business from ransomware and malicious attacks.

In a recent article, Google stated that since January it has seen a 350% increase in phishing attacks, and they saw more than 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 scams just in the past week. That’s on top of the more than 240 million daily spam messages it sees related to the novel coronavirus.

And it is not just companies that are getting overwhelmed. According to their own report, the FBI fielded 2,047 ransomware complaints in the U.S. in 2019. In response the crushing load of root cause investigations, the FBI has turned to corporate leaders and cybersecurity insurance carriers to better understand how to stop ransomware attacks.

The best course of action, is to proactively protect your organization from being attacked successfully. Making certain of that is a complex problem that is specific to each company, but we have created some quick tips to help you remember how to keep cybercriminals out of your IT operation.

10 Tips to Keep Cybercriminals Out

  1. Get the Facts. Stay away from the rumor mill and use information from reliable sources to make business decisions in chaotic times.
  2. Think Twice before Clicking Links. Make sure staffers are on the lookout for suspicious links that can lead to ransomware.
  3. Be Suspicious of Unexpected Attachments. Ensure users only open attachments from proven, trusted sources no matter how “official” that attachment looks.
  4. Automate Compliance. Have one less thing to worry about by choosing a dynamic web portal system that keeps track of everything.
  5. Protect those Passwords. Encourage safe password practices like using a password manager and not writing them on sticky notes.
  6. Beware of Strange Networks. Make staffers aware of the dangers of logging in from insecure public and home WiFi networks andhow to use them safely.
  7. Use Two-factor Authentication. An extra layer of security keeps passwords and data safe.
  8. Keep an Eye on the Bad Guys. Monitor the Dark Web to watch for company data so a problem can be addressed before it becomes a crisis.
  9. Stay Current on Threats. Work with a responsive partner that’s on top of today’s challenges.
  10. Ask for Help. Consult a security expert to plan effective strategies and get innovative solutions.

10 Tips to Keep Cybercriminals Out

So, while we seek continued improvements in our collective situations both professional and personal, continue to keep your guard up against ransomware and malicious attacks on your IT operation.

If you would like to learn more about how Montra can help you with these or other security threats, please contact us at info@montra.io.