The PCs protecting workers on the move

Business man holding a tablet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every single modern business has one thing in common – they can all be undone by a single cyber security incident. Whether that’s a crippling ransomware attack or a major leak of customer data, no company can realistically hope to thrive in the 21st century without robust defenses.

Traditionally, a defensive perimeter could be placed around the office, with company firewalls, strict device usage policies, and on-site IT support doing much of the heavy lifting to protect both the business and each employee. That arrangement relied on the fact that most employees worked from a centralized location, using computers and accessories that rarely left the office. This approach to cyber security is quickly becoming archaic, largely due to two major developments over the past few years.

The first is the mass shift to remote work. Far from being a temporary, makeshift solution for keeping businesses afloat during a pandemic, the remote work experiment has created a new working paradigm, one in which the employee has a much greater say in how and where they work. The footprints of most businesses have dispersed as a result, with many employees now operating outside of the company firewall, whether that be at home, in a cafe, or on public transport. Of course, some businesses will have had the agility to roll out specific employee laptops to maintain a homogenous cyber security strategy, but many others will have done so haphazardly with whatever kit they had available, or relied on bring your own device (BYOD) policies to plug the gaps.

This would have simply been a logistical problem, if it were not for the second major development of the past few years – an evolution of cyber crime. Hackers are constantly looking for new ways to exploit their victims, and just as businesses begin to get to grips with one tactic, another surfaces. Whether that’s through the emergence of new approaches like ransomware, or iterating on tried and tested techniques like phishing, cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated and easier to carry out.

Separately, these two developments would pose a challenge for any business, but combined they have the potential to create a cyber security nightmare – one that requires a new approach, and new equipment.

Reducing our over-reliance on software

Humans remain the biggest challenge for any business devising a cyber security strategy.

According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, around 82% of system breaches involved the exploitation of a human agent, typically by tricking them into performing an action that leaves their company at risk.

Employees don’t even have to succumb to phishing attacks to expose their company to hackers. Simply using a work device for personal use, whether that’s shopping online or using social media, can put business data at risk. It’s possible to clamp down on this sort of behavior with work policies, of course, but it’s a trend that is somewhat inevitable.

Businesses are well aware of this ‘human’ problem and, in the sudden rush to secure employees as they dispersed beyond the company firewall, many began to pile layers upon layers of security software upon employee devices. While this may have provided a quick and easy way to generally improve security, it’s a heavy-handed approach that creates an over-reliance on software, potentially exposing businesses to further risk.

Not only is software inherently vulnerable to skilled hackers or those exploiting bugs or flaws, but multiple layers can also be a significant cause of frustration among employees. In fact, a recent research from Harvard Business Review found that, during a 10 day study, 67% of employees admitted to violating one or more company cyber security policies, precisely because these software layers prevented them from getting on with their jobs.

For modern businesses, there is an alternative. New innovations in technology have made it far easier for businesses to apply additional safeguards at the hardware layer, helping them to reduce their reliance on software and easing the burden placed on employees.

Intel vPro®, An Intel Evo® Design™ based PCs offered by HP are built from the ground up with security in mind, offering hardware protections against threats that older designs simply never considered. One such protection is hardware-based virtualization that allows an employee machine to run multiple virtualized environments for different applications while keeping them isolated from each other and any threats they might encounter, such as malware or credential theft.

For example, using a system like the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 with Intel vPro, it’s possible for a laptop to run Microsoft or SAP business apps inside one virtual machine, with another running a web browser or other personal apps. This is something that would be difficult to achieve using software alone – advanced hardware is needed to deliver these similarly advanced protections.

Importantly, these defenses are engaged without any employee input, and can allow your business to do away with unnecessary layers of security, especially as robust security technology like biometric security can be integrated into the employee’s device and used in conjunction with virtualization. These robust security features run without any effort from the user, delivering fast performance so that they can focus on their own roles without interruption inside or outside the company firewall.

The changing nature of security

Modern businesses are not only looking for ways to address today’s security challenges, but also future-proof their systems against emerging threats. This hardware-level approach to security is one of the most effective ways for your organization to achieve this.

Hackers are no longer just in the business of data theft. They are now deploying sophisticated attacks against operating systems, system memory, and even the software responsible for powering hardware, known as firmware, signaling a dramatic shift towards targets that are beyond the reach of most cyber security software. This is particularly problematic, given that most employees are now operating outside of the company firewall, and may even be beyond the reach of IT support.

Intel® has worked with partners such as HP to create a new breed of laptop and desktop that is hardened against these emerging threats. Intel vPro, An Intel Evo Design based laptops feature a range of security features that ward against attacks at the system level, preventing third-party tampering, stopping malware from gaining hold of system resources and allowing IT teams to remotely manage employees’ machines, ensuring that systems remain up to date no matter where workers are based.

Having so many devices being transported and used in a variety of locations also creates the inevitable risk of loss or theft. Intel and HP have worked to address this through a tool known as Total Memory Encryption, which encrypts all memory by default and prevents criminals from accessing data on stolen devices, even if components are separated from the machine itself. With PCs like these, loss and theft remain inconvenient rather than potentially catastrophic for your whole business.

These types of defensive capabilities are becoming critical for businesses hoping to stay safe in the modern world. By investing in advanced PCs like those from HP with Intel vPro, An Intel Evo Design, your business can retain that sense of flexibility and freedom offered by hybrid working, while still benefiting from the sort of cyber security you would traditionally only find in private, isolated environments. By employing these devices, you can counter the cyber threats of today while putting your business in the best position to face the future.

Intel technologies may require enabled hardware, software or service activation. No product or component can be absolutely secure. Your costs and results may vary.

@Intel Corp. Intel, the Intel logo, Intel vPro® and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.