Jul 21 2021

Q&A: How Chrome OS Foils Ransomware in Hybrid Work Environments

Google’s Thomas Riedl explains how Chrome OS keeps employees safe while enabling IT to manage remotely.

As more workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 and employers begin reopening physical workspaces, they’re starting to resolve open questions about how often employees will be expected to work onsite. Most seem poised to operate hybrid work environments that include both onsite and remote work.

That leaves businesses with tough challenges for device management and security in evolving hybrid environments. We recently sat down with Thomas Riedl, director of product management for Google’s Chrome operating system, to discuss how Google Chrome OS and devices support managers in keeping their coworkers and organizations safe as they make the transition. Here’s what he told us.

BIZTECH: As the business world move away from pandemic restrictions, how does Google envision the future of work?

Riedl: The pandemic continues to deeply affect our lives around the globe. In some places, new cases are surging, and returning to work is the last thing on people’s minds. In other areas, conditions are improving, and companies are starting to think about transitioning their workforces back to the office.

Exactly when and how to do this remains complex and varies by country, industry and company. What’s certain is that a large portion of organizations will adopt a hybrid way of working, some will be fully in the office and a few organizations will adopt a fully remote work environment. Finding the right solutions that bridge the gap between “in person” and “somewhere else” is crucial.

At Google, we are moving to a hybrid workweek, where most Googlers spend about three days in the office and two days remote. We’re also allowing employees to apply to work from a different office or to work entirely remotely.

DISCOVER: Learn more about how Chrome can help power your organization's new way of working.

BIZTECH: What will IT leaders need, both from a technology and management perspective, to empower workers in hybrid and remote work environments?

Riedl: For a successful hybrid and remote work model, organizations need to enable their employees with the right tools. They need flexible, secure devices and access to work tools and apps that help employees maximize productivity and collaboration irrespective of their location.

In addition, IT will need to manage all the devices from their given locations, quickly deploy them and ensure they are staying cost-effective. Another important piece is security. According to Security Magazine, 78 percent of employees said they received a phishing email while working on their personal laptops between March and July 2020, and 68 percent admitted to clicking a link or downloading an attachment within that email. To make sure this doesn’t continue, organizations need to provide end-to-end, proactive security to keep employees, customers and data safe.

Google Chrome OS is a modern, secure, cost-effective platform that is the only cloud-first platform designed to support hybrid work and your return-to-office strategy. Chrome OS devices turn on and are ready to use 76 percent faster than rival devices. Zero-touch enrollment allows IT to drop-ship devices that automatically enroll into the enterprise domain. The cloud-based Google Admin console allows IT to manage devices from anywhere. With data and user profiles stored in the cloud, it’s easy for employees to access the info they need remotely or at shared flex desks in the office. Chrome OS offers built-in and intelligent security, granular policy controls and automatic updates to protect from ransomware, malware, phishing and employee errors.

BIZTECH: What are the unique security challenges of hybrid work environments, and how does Google help organizations keep endpoints secure?

Riedl: The transition to a hybrid workplace has placed a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of organizations to keep business profitable and secure. Ransomware, malware and phishing threats are spreading faster and costing businesses more each year. With the odds inevitably stacked against them, IT security teams find themselves on the defensive — only able to react to threats. Security teams spend tremendous effort attempting to monitor endpoints, identify vulnerabilities and detect compromises. Operations teams are overwhelmed trying to update firmware, operating systems, utilities, drivers, browsers and applications across hundreds of distributed devices. IT must take a full-stack approach to defend against external attacks and internal vulnerabilities while keeping the business running.

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Chrome OS provides built-in, intelligent security, granular policy controls and automatic updates for continuous protection against ransomware, malware and phishing threats with a tamper-proof OS and devices. In fact, there have been no reported ransomware attacks on any business, education or consumer Chrome OS device. Because of its cloud-first nature, your data and files are stored in the cloud and protected from ransomware, and in case of a breach, they’re easily recoverable from the cloud. With sandboxing-verified boot and a read-only tamper-proof OS, there’s no need for third-party anti-virus protection. And Google Safe Browsing warns users before navigating to malicious websites that are known to have malware or phishing. IT teams can remotely disable devices if they are lost or stolen or set devices to auto-wipe after a user logs out. Each layer of Chrome OS’s vertically integrated stack reinforces security, while systemwide automatic updates keep you continually protected.

The built-in Titan C security chip combined with the Advanced Protection Program offers two-factor authentication in addition to other protections and safeguards users with high visibility and sensitive information, who are at risk of targeted online attacks. We use these protections at Google, and our IT teams don’t even have to require users to change their passwords the way many other companies do. Chrome OS plus BeyondCorp Enterprise offers integrated threat and data protection and grants workforces simple and secure zero-trust access to applications and cloud resources that enable secure and productive remote and hybrid working models.

BIZTECH: How are Google and its customers using Chrome OS for hybrid work and returning to the office?

Riedl: As I mentioned earlier, at Google, we are moving to a hybrid workweek and also allowing employees to apply to work either from a different office or entirely remotely. We realize that for this transformation, a modern, secure and cloud-native solution is a key enabler. As the first step, we deployed the Chrome OS Readiness Tool to our extended workforce to identify employees who are able to switch to Chrome OS.

Next, in select office locations, we enabled Googlers to reserve flex desks through an internal booking tool and set up Chromeboxes and Chromebases with supporting peripherals. This allows employees to easily log in at any station, with their data automatically synced from the cloud.

Earlier this year, we also announced new docking stations designed for Chrome OS devices that provide flexibility for employees to bring in their Chromebooks from home and connect to the dock with a USB-C cable and peripherals for a full desktop experience. Our IT teams also use our BeyondCorp Enterprise to provide secure web access to employees, which was a real game changer for us to allow employees to securely access data remotely.

Some of our Chrome OS customers are also using our unique Grab and Go program and are deploying Chromebooks to their frontline staff. Just like in our Chromebox example, this enables them to quickly grab a device when they need one, log in and get access to all of their data right away. In addition, customers are deploying Chrome OS devices for information workers in the office, helping them stay productive and secure by providing them tools and resources through Google Drive and the Chrome browser.

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