"How to" apply a coronavirus doctors recommendations for real world cloud IT improvements.

by: Patrick Monahan

There are some fascinating articles about how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Many ask, “What do we do now that many businesses are closed? How do we improve our health care system? What can be done to prevent the next pandemic?” Everyone has an opinion but who is right? How can we implement such ideas? How can we get ahead of the curve?

Every pundit, friend and journalist declares he or she is the first with the right answers. However, everyone everywhere is playing catch-up in all aspects of our unique new lifestyle and reimagined business practices.

Sorry, this isn’t going to be a session with Dr. Jennifer Melfi from “The Sopranos” but aspires to be a series of recommendations for you and your business via three blog posts. We hope this is a starting point and standard for your business to follow. This origin of the series was an article I read in The Wall Street Journal. With panic comes opportunity — opportunity to develop a serum, opportunity to improve a process, plan or environment (PPE).

The challenges seem insurmountable for businesses today. Many CEOs don’t want to get — or won’t go — into the weeds. They know some aspects of their business are in the cloud but wonder, “Are we truly secure? What can we do to prevent our own IT security pandemic?” Then there is a moment of reflection when people, because of a government order or personal circumstances, must work from home. But can your business excel and expand if employees work from home? Can they work there securely? How do we know it’s secure? How can we attest to executives, board members and investors that their employees are safe and working efficiently?

Dr. Scott Gotlieb suggestions

Then, a revelation: “Holy crap, my whole firm needs a cloud-based IT environment for everything.” A doctor named Scott Gottlieb, who I have been introduced to via Twitter and reading since this pandemic started, co-authored an informed article in the March 30 edition of The Wall Street Journal with the headline “The Road Back to Normal: More, Better Testing.” Dr. Gottlieb, according to his online bio, is a “fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and board member of health-care companies.”

My main thought was, how can I extrapolate his plan for my clients with the cloud services, and IOT we consult, license and support? He outlines ways to get America back to a healthy, normal life. In reading it, I was drawn to how I can apply his “system of ... three components” to the IT world and specifically to the tools that we utilize for businesses. Dr. Gottlieb’s first system was a “sentinel surveillance system ... which collects high-quality data from specific locations and ... detect where and when the virus may be spreading.” Such a “system could help find small pockets of infection before they multiply into larger outbreaks” — what a novel idea. Many cloud services try to execute geo-location-based alerts. Many cloud services don’t have and can’t achieve this type of warning or protection.

Okta is one of the firms we represent for its deployments. Okta’s Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication (AMFA) resolves such “alerts” based on location. For example, all of your employees and partners are now working from home. They’re on their home internet with little to no firewall or enhanced security; that’s usually handled by IT in-house.

Let’s use Tyler Durden from “Fight Club” as the character for this series. Talk about a motley miscreant. Tyler is sitting in his apartment, having not showered in weeks, still in his onesie, checking his email, checking company files, checking expense and accounting reports, submitting hours, and he’s trying to work from home. How do you know that Tyler is, well, Tyler? Okta’s Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication enables a customer on the Okta framework to make sure it’s not members of his Fight Club attempting a data breach.

What can Okta AMFA do for my firm?

AMFA can cover your system by “finding small pockets of infection” but we advise “monitoring and detecting” before the infection occurs. Here’s how: AMFA is processing inflection points and triggers. With Okta’s Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication, an Okta admin can challenge Tyler to provide additional verification before gaining access to business-critical services. By leveraging Behavior Detection and Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR), IT enables users to help prevent unwanted access. First, Behavior Detection helps track and monitor patterns in Tyler’s activities without being invasive. By analyzing high-quality data via Okta’s Syslog (System Log), events that trigger behavior change can then, in turn, trigger limited or denied access. Here’s how: AMFA - Behavior Detection process’ two key components:

  • Analyzes the behavior to track and
  • Enforces an action to take for an end-user profile.

Is Tyler on a new device? Is Tyler in town or traveling abroad? Is he in New York when the log-in request is coming from Las Vegas? The criteria to create policies based on behavior are executed with AMFA. Okta administrators then can define the action to take, such as to permit access if Tyler is allowed sign-in from Las Vegas but deny it if he’s in China.

To monitor behavior, we recommend enabling Suspicious Activity Reporting. This is a highly effective process that features an all-hands approach to prevent account takeovers and fraudulent log-in attempts and activity. Suspicious Activity Reporting provides an end-user with the option to report unrecognized activity from an account via an email notification. With this component in place, your Okta instance will have marked and established “to make sure the things you own don’t end up owning you” via rogue actors.

Okta’s AMFA could be your first line of defense on Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s road back to normalcy! Ask us how to set up AMFA and manage your Okta framework.

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