What you should consider when buying technology with US CARES Act funding

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Did you know that you can purchase technology with The US CARES Act?

The pandemic has left us with an unprecedented number of people working and learning from home.  The $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund was established by The CARES Act to help governments and other organizations navigate the impact of COVID-19.  The Coronavirus Relief Fund includes funding for technology to assist with remote work and remote learning.

What is the Coronavirus Relief Fund?

State and eligible units of local governments, US territories, Tribal governments, and education and healthcare organizations can obtain funding for expenses related to the following:

  • Improvement of telework capabilities for public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions
  • Facilitation of distance learning, including technological improvements, in connection with school closings, to enable compliance with COVID-19 precautions
  • Deployment of remote healthcare systems that enable telehealth and other remote care for patients

Barracuda can help you select, deploy and apply security products toward CARES Act funding

It’s all about selecting the right strategy and solutions that can enable your remote workforce and workers/users to interact securely – and not all solutions are created equal. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider your remote technology options.

What remote work technology do you need?

The answer to this question can be simplified by looking at what your employees need to do in the normal course of business:

  • Connect to their resources
  • Communicate with colleagues and customers
  • Create documents and conduct business transactions

People need to be able to do all of these things securely, and the IT staff must be able to manage all of these things as well as they would if they were in the office.  This is perhaps the biggest factor that will determine whether your remote policy is a success. 

Attackers are taking advantage of any vulnerability cracks in this new work-from-home era. The FBI reports that they are seeing 4,000 cybersecurity complaints a day – up 300% since the pandemic spread across the world. Ransomware attacks can cripple your entire organization – and they can start from anything from an attached document with a malicious payload to an unfortunate website visit.  How do you protect your organization?

Connect Securely

Network firewalls expand protection to remote users and provide secure access to cloud-based applications. Without a proper network firewall, you risk unauthorized users accessing your network and possibly introducing malware.  The ideal network firewall should provide the following features and benefits:

  • Security: Multi-factor and risk-based authentication.  Security experts advise using both a password and an additional security code to log in
  • Ease of use: It’s important to not overload your IT help desk
  • Broad-spectrum capabilities: Remote users may be using a variety of devices and OS types. They might be using a laptop or other device not issued by your organization.  The right solution can protect many devices including smartphones and tablets

Advanced network firewalls can also form a barrier to prevent an attack from spreading laterally across your entire network.

You should also consider upgrading your web application firewall (WAF) to protect your environment from web application and web form attacks. People are using online web forms to do everything from renewing registrations to turning in homework. Your WAF should be able to screen file attachments and protect your applications from DDoS and bot attacks.

Communicate Securely

More than ever, we are relying on email but there are risks. Attackers know this and it has become their preferred vector for attacks – whether basic malware or advanced ransomware. You can screen for many types of attacks – especially when the attack is coming from outside –  with an email gateway. But what if an attacker is impersonating someone in your organization? 

Right now, it's not like you can easily pop your head up from your desk and ask them – did you send this?  It's an awkward question when the email appears to be coming from your boss, or your boss's boss.  It's not obvious to the average user that account takeover is something they even need to worry about.

  • You need to protect from these kinds of emails from appearing in your user's inboxes – whether they originate from inside or outside your organization
  • You need to protect account takeover from happening
  • You need to train your users in all the ways that the organization could be compromised – with real examples

Create Securely

Everyone who has ever typed on a computer knows the horror of losing a file. But what happens when that loss is multiplied by the works of hundreds or thousands of workers? Your organization depends on people creating work that they can save, iterate, share, and collaborate. Microsoft Office 365 SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams have seen a big uptick since March 2020 for this very reason. You really don't want people to be saving off files to their own laptop and nowhere else – there's a risk there.

Attackers know this too, which is why backups are especially prized targets. They know if they can hit you here, your organization will be down for the count. Backups that are presented as a share on the network make it easy for criminals – it's right there for them.

Even if you're not dealing with an attack, people lose files all the time. Your IT department would prefer a backup where that is easy to find what they're looking for and restore it with no drama. You want to keep people working, not waiting on lost files.

Barracuda can help

By taking a look at the ways that people need to connect, communicate, and create, you can see what you need for an effective remote environment – and what you need to protect. These are just some of the ways that Barracuda can help you develop a robust, secure remote organization.

So what’s the trick for securing funding through the US CARES Act?  Barracuda can help you design your remote work technology strategy and give you all the technology justification required by the US Treasury. Work with your internal budget/grant team on what CARES Act funding is available in your area and how to submit the documentation. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to contact us right now as CARES Act funding is only available until Dec 30, 2020.

If you choose to use CARES funding, we can help you develop and justify your technology strategy for now and in the future. Even if you can’t use CARES funding, but your organization works from home, it’s definitely worth a chat.

Click here to start your conversation about how to enable and secure your remote work organization.

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