Securing Federal Remote Infrastructures in a Distributed Workforce

7.1.2020 | Ralph Kahn, Vice President of Federal at Tanium

With the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time, the majority of the federal workforce is decentralized. In March, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an Enterprise VPN Security Alert encouraging organizations to adopt a heightened state of cybersecurity as it pertains to maintaining their VPNs. While this may seem logical, the fact that CISA felt the need to address the matter highlights the struggle that all agencies have faced for ages. Those that were already struggling with basic IT hygiene before the crisis hit are facing even more challenges with the addition of new stressors and a completely remote workforce. Most agencies’ IT tooling was not designed to work well over large scale VPNs, leaving gaps in capability around patching, DCO and overall visibility.

Agencies don’t have the budget standing ready for all the new hardware suddenly needed to enable their entire workforce to work from home. Even if they did – the supply chain is overcommitted. There simply are not enough laptops, desktops and other devices to set up every federal employee to work remotely.

This means many agencies are leaning on a mix of government-issued and BYOD devices – introducing new security risks – from the operating system, to the browser, to the third-party applications on the hardware. Agencies need to evolve cyber operations quickly to help ensure they can keep teams working and keep their networks safe.

Now that nearly everyone is working remotely, the devices and the applications that live on those devices also need to be managed and secured remotely. Most agencies’ IT and cyber tooling was not designed to work well in this environment. Agencies are left with no choice but to enable their mission with significantly reduced cyber capabilities. This leaves them much more vulnerable than they were before.

How Tanium can help

Rather than rely on over-burdened VPNs, Tanium helps securely connect endpoint security and management functions directly to the endpoint device through the internet with minimal impact on VPN traffic or performance/user productivity.

By considering both IT operations and security, we help solve one of the most challenging issues facing IT teams and CISOs as they rapidly ramp up telework: how to effectively manage security, compliance and performance for a now organization-wide distributed workforce.

Tanium provides the ability to understand the environment and gain visibility and control over endpoints, both on and off the network. Too often, IT operations teams use many different tools to control endpoints. But, these tools can’t scale and can impact user performance in a remote telework environment. Agencies then create fragmented data and information silos, limiting the ability to understand mission impact across the organization when a vulnerability or issue is identified. Tanium unifies teams on a single platform, effectively breaking down the data silos and closing the accountability, visibility and resilience gaps.

Agencies must build a foundation for resiliency by ensuring that existing operations can withstand daily threats caused by the newly distributed workforce. Similarly, federal IT leaders must develop resilience and restore operations within this new escalating crisis, while setting a foundation for secure, effective operations after the pandemic passes and the new normal takes effect.

Where to start?

Agencies were required to rapidly transition to remote work – and have successfully established remote infrastructure in a short period of time. The demand for a predominantly distributed workforce will not snap back when the pandemic subsides – agencies must consider the sustainability of solutions long-term, specifically in terms of mitigation of the inherent risk a distributed workforce carries.

The challenge can’t be resolved by disjointed solutions, by following policies and procedures that worked in the past, or by asking overstretched internal teams to simply do more. Agencies must consider a radical rethinking of how IT administrators manage and secure operational environments. The risk landscape has changed dramatically and permanently. Agencies are focused on one goal – achieving their mission, remotely and securely – and they must build a foundation based on unification for assessing and addressing risk by ensuring not only that existing operations can withstand daily threats caused by this change, but that this risk mitigation continues as the current crisis subsides and agencies transition to the new normal.

To learn more about how Tanium can help, read: Helping Organizations Move To An Enterprise-wide Work-from-Home Policy, or see our remote solutions on the Tanium Community Distributed Workforce portal.


Interested in seeing Tanium in action? Schedule a one-to-one demo or talk to our Tanium experts at our upcoming events.