Hybrid work means heightened cybersecurity concerns. Why? Because as businesses move away from on-premises operations and their employees regularly access company data in the cloud; practice BYOD; and connect to potentially unstable networks, legacy security controls can no longer overcompensate.

Think of these controls as a rubber band; employees are stretching this rubber band far beyond its originally intended purpose to accommodate a much different range of risks presented by flexible work practices. Although hybrid work enhances collaboration and productivity, it can, and will, force this digital rubber band to snap — creating increased risks for the entire business if it doesn’t upgrade security to match the new hybrid work normal.

Hybrid work necessitates a multiphase security journey to better protect users and the data they are accessing, regardless of where they work. To succeed, business leaders need to be communicating openly with their security teams to more realistically conceptualize the modern virtual landscape their employees are navigating. Only then can they prioritize critical cyber transformations and advance toward an effective security posture that is more suitable for the world we inhabit today.

Breaking down security communications

By themselves, security teams cannot shepherd their companies through this security transformation. They need to cooperate with business leaders to establish an optimally operating technology stack that simultaneously keeps their companies secure and their people productive. In today’s hybrid world, this means introducing strategies that allow the organization to maximize the availability of web, cloud and private applications while delivering consistent security across all of them. A common refrain states that security is everyone’s responsibility. However, for most employees, security is not top-of-mind during the workday. As hybrid work becomes the norm, keeping data secure must not rely principally on people always making the correct security decisions, nor should employees expect the same user experience or levels of access to corporate resources that they would previously enjoy when working in a corporate office.

Furthermore, technology trends prompted by the onset of hybrid work are altering the ideal approaches for ensuring a high-quality digital experience. Security measurements are moving away from a reliance on synthetic data or simulated traffic to more cloud-centric strategies, with a focus on real user traffic and analytics. Business leaders and security teams are more empowered than ever to develop policies that reflect business risk tolerance. New approaches to cybersecurity can offer the flexibility needed to comfortably expand access to a wider range of applications without fearing the consequences of stretching too far. Automation and machine learning-based capabilities confer significant advantages, because — despite repeated security awareness education — businesses are far past the point where leadership can expect employees to flawlessly execute each and every security procedure.

Once business leaders instill a sense of shared responsibility throughout the organization and undertake what’s necessary to protect their organizations from security risks, they can then communicate those patterns and practices to their employees in a way that is standardized and digestible. It is important to look beyond the technical “alphabet soup” to establish a culture in which employees naturally make good security decisions, occasionally aided by coaching that’s relevant and aware of the business context.

Transitioning networking and security capabilities to the cloud

Many of today’s security practices need an upgrade supported by contemporary tools that change the way security has always been done. Business leaders are capable of making this upgrade, aided by technology choices that eliminate strain on legacy security tooling by relocating many functions to the cloud.

Realistically, developing a security program capable of high-level visibility and network protection for today’s digital operations requires implementing security service edge (SSE). SSE facilitates a security posture that is all-encompassing and malleable. It is an important concept for understanding the larger journey to secure access service edge (SASE), which converges networking and security functions into a single architecture.

Another important aspect to consider is context. Business leaders have to move beyond relying on security teams to define traditional access controls. Incorporating context into access control can help security practices work both for the business and enterprise cybersecurity posture. Contextual signals include the person’s identity, device identity, device health, behavior, application instances (company vs. personal), data sensitivity levels, time/date of access, geolocation of people and data, risk scores, and the latest threats. Each of these factors further emphasizes the need for SSE, especially when today’s security teams need to operate with an active, real-time view of the context with which an individual needs to access specific data in order to keep it safe.

Together, security teams and business leaders have the opportunity to implement modern cybersecurity practices that ensure productivity and security are not interrupted as people and data move ever outward in this hybrid world. This may seem like a daunting transformation, but the right combination of people, processes and technology makes it not only possible, but achievable today.