Encouraging collaborative workplaces without sacrificing security

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In an age of mobile devices, remote workers, and lightning speed innovation, cloud software and tools for collaboration are a no-brainer for any organisation to remain competitive. After all, collaboration is the cornerstone of the modern workplace. A recent survey found 78 per cent of Australian IT decision makers expect IT spending to increase within the next year on unified communication and collaboration tools, with 62 per cent considering these tools essential to the success of their business.

But this investment in collaboration software can come at a price.

While collaboration tools can empower employees to work more efficiently and effectively together, they are often associated with security risks that can prove detrimental to the integrity of any organisation. Popular collaboration techniques, such as video conferencing systems and cameras can be hacked, data exfiltration is increasingly common in document sharing systems, and one lapse in judgement from an employee accessing information remotely can have severe knock-on effects.

In the span of just one year, it was reported, cyber attacks and data breaches increased by seven-fold in Australia with the cost of the data breach averaging to $2.5 million.

As security threats evolve and the stakes get higher with every data breach, security must remain front and centre for organisations investing in collaborative tools and building open networks.

So, how can organisations best foster a collaborative work environment without compromising on security?

Employ privileged access management

The best collaboration systems have security baked into their very foundations. But looks can be deceiving. Building a collaborative and transparent environment doesn’t mean you need to provide complete accessibility to every team and operation – in fact, this can prove to be a detrimental undertaking. Access to sensitive corporate data should be provided strictly on a need-to-know basis – and doing this doesn’t mean you aren’t adhering to the core tenants of collaboration.

No matter how democratic you’re aiming to be with data and workplace collaboration, it remains an essential responsibility of the IT and operations team to manage, limit, and control access, so sensitive information and data is only available to the right users at the right time. Data breach risk is massively reduced when IT teams have complete visibility and control over how teams access data on collaboration platforms.

This does become harder when we consider the expanded perimeters resulting from cloud networks, which decreases the visibility for IT teams. One key way to address this is to tighten policies around how to verify an employee’s identity to control access, which can mitigate phishing and other intruder-based attacks.

Train everyone on cybersecurity best practice

Collaboration certainly makes sharing easier – but sometimes employees share things they’re not meant to! Education can also make the world of difference when securing collaboration platforms.

Time and time again, the role of the insider and human error in cybersecurity incidents have proven detrimental for many. For example, just last year, a Westpac manager exposed the passwords of 80 customer accounts to a mortgage broker, giving them direct access to personal bank accounts and resulting in a major breach of customer privacy.

Clicking on malicious links disguised in popular document sharing portals is also a common way collaboration software can be exploited if not properly monitored.

For organisations to exist on the cloud and foster an effective collaborative environment, it is vital to enforce cyber compliance and train employees on security best practices, which can include how to spot malicious links. It will give teams the confidence to use collaboration tools to their fullest potential.

There is a fine balance between reaping all the benefits of collaborative workplace management tools and ensuring employees and company data is kept secure in the process.

As teams grow more accustomed to these platforms through education, and the right security measures baked in from the outset, security will be part-and-parcel with all best of breed collaboration tools.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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