How Desktop Virtualization Helps Secure Businesses in the Age of Hybrid Workforce

Businesses want employees to be productive and happy, which is part of the reason why organizations across the world have embraced remote and hybrid work.

But businesses also want to protect against cybersecurity risks. And unfortunately, that goal is often at odds with remote and hybrid work.

How can companies square this circle? In other words, how can they ensure that employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere, while also enforcing strong cybersecurity postures?

The answer is desktop virtualization. Virtual desktops deliver the flexibility that businesses need to operationalize remote and hybrid work, while also making it easy for IT teams to protect against the security threats that plague distributed workforces.

Why remote work breeds cybercrime

To understand why, let’s first examine how remote and hybrid work increase the security challenges that businesses face.

According to Verizon’s 2022 Mobile Security Index, nearly 80 percent of respondents report that recent changes to working practices – which include the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work models – have adversely affected their organizations’ cybersecurity postures.

The main reasons why include:

  • Remote work makes it hard to guarantee the physical security of devices that may store sensitive business data. Attackers could steal the devices themselves to exfiltrate private information from the business.
  • Remote devices can’t be protected behind firewalls and VPNs in the same way as devices that are located on-site.
  • IT teams can’t easily monitor, patch and update remote devices in order to stay on top of security threats.
  • Remote devices often connect to business systems through insecure home networks.
  • Employees may inadvertently install malware or vulnerable applications on devices that they use when working remotely, especially if they use the devices for personal reasons in addition to working.

In short, when workers are off-site some or all of the time, it’s simply not possible to deploy the same security protections that work for on-site employees and devices.

How desktop virtualization secures modern workforces

Faced with challenges like these, some business leaders may be tempted to pull the plug on remote work policies and force everyone back in the office.

But that’s not practical in many cases. As the Harvard Business Review points out, businesses gain a variety of benefits from allowing remote and hybrid work – such as reduced real estate costs, higher employee retention rates and even increased profits.

So, instead of abandoning remote work, companies need to find ways to embrace the “new normal” of working without compromising on security. And the obvious solution is desktop virtualization.

Desktop virtualization means replacing conventional desktop computers with virtual desktop sessions hosted on servers inside a business’s data center or a public cloud. Employees can connect to these sessions from anywhere, at any time, so they get all of the flexibility that they need to work remotely.

At the same time, however, desktop virtualization plugs the most serious security gaps associated with remote work. Virtual desktops can be protected with firewalls and operated in such a way that sensitive data never leaves the virtual desktop infrastructure – so it is never at risk of physical security breaches.

In addition, desktop virtualization allows for rigid isolation between employees’ personal computing resources and business resources. Instead of mixing personal apps with business apps, virtual desktops keep business applications isolated inside the virtual desktop environment, so that malware or other threats present on local devices are essentially a non-issue from a business security perspective.

The fact that IT teams can continuously monitor virtual desktops and patch them in real time to address security threats adds yet another layer of protection for remote workers. Businesses don’t need to worry that attackers will take advantage of unmonitored, un-updated remote PCs to gain a beachhead from which they can launch further attacks against a business.

Protecting traditional PCs as well as mobile devices

The security advantages of desktop virtualization apply, by the way, regardless of which types of devices employees use when working remotely. Whether they log in from their own PCs, company-supplied laptops, or even mobile phones, they connect to secure virtual desktop environments.

That means that desktop virtualization gives employees the freedom to connect from any device they choose, while still allowing employers to enforce strong security policies.

Access controls like multifactor authentication, geofencing, and whitelisting of devices secure devices in a hybrid work environment while enforcing network controls like firewall with IPS & IDS protection further secure corporate data from bad actors.

Desktop virtualization also allows setting of desktop-level controls like Active Directory integration of authentication and Group Policy Objects (GPO)-based restrictions on virtual desktops.

Conclusion

In short, desktop virtualization provides the best of both worlds: The flexibility that employees expect from the “new way of working” and the cybersecurity protections that businesses need to keep critical applications and data secure. For many companies, there’s no going back to the old days of having everyone in the office, all of the time, which is why desktop virtualization has assumed an absolutely vital role in business success.

AUTHOR

Yogesh Yagnik
Yogesh Yagnik

Yogesh Yagnik is the Data Protection Officer at Anunta. With over three decades in the industry, he has diverse experience in Information Technology, Information Security, Infrastructure Technology Services, and Project Management across industry verticals and geographies.