Blog 24 February 2021

Home working is here to stay – how low-code can improve remote corporate security

by Richard Farrell


Company data breaches regularly make the headlines, putting customers at risk and incurring reputational damage. Over the past year, we have seen some of the highest-profile data breaches in history. Whilst these targets are all large, established companies, it’s important to remember that data breaches can affect businesses of all sizes – whether they are large, medium or small. Many businesses, unaware they could become a target, fail to plan for a potential data breach – and when they are attacked, the results can be catastrophic. Fines into the millions, bans on data processing, reputational damage and loss of customer confidence and trust are just a few of the potential consequences.

With the majority of the global population having shifted to working from home over the last year, and businesses having rapidly transitioned to remote operations, cybercriminals have pivoted and exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to carry out highly advanced cyberattacks. In fact, according to a global survey released by VMware Carbon Black, 91% of enterprises reported an increase in cyberattacks with more employees working from home amid the coronavirus outbreak. This has led to increased pressure on IT Teams – both internal and external – to keep on top of latest technology developments and ensure cybersecurity hygiene is as strong as possible.

Shadow IT risk increases as remote working continues

In large organisations, IT functions are under pressure to provide accelerated business change, but the vast majority of budget and resources are dedicated to maintaining legacy hardware, and to managing the vital, back-office applications that businesses run on. This is where shadow IT – the use of IT-related hardware or software by a department or individual without the knowledge of the organisation – can sneak in. Shadow IT usually occurs where a department or individual is not willing to wait for an IT-sanctioned solution, and feels they can deliver something themselves more quickly and easily, or use quick workarounds under time and resource constraints. However, the use of unsanctioned solutions can inadvertently open new vectors for cybersecurity attack. It is therefore critical that IT has visibility to ensure this does not happen.

According to Snow Software’s ‘2021 IT Priorities Report’, 41% of workers said general access to technologies has improved, but IT leaders may overestimate the ease at which teams are able to procure applications, cloud resources and software. As a result, this could provide an opening for shadow IT, with employees bringing in solutions to help modernise and improve productivity without considering potential risks and consequences. Shadow IT is becoming a huge problem for companies, because remote working has caused massive growth in the number of uncontrolled bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) and cloud apps. These are typically owned and managed by non-technical staff. This opens new entry points to accessing critical systems – access points which aren’t governed by corporate regulations or strong password guidance. Cybercriminals can therefore exploit these.

Bridging the gap between employees and IT

Whilst shadow IT can seemingly help to enhance efficiency, it also subjects users and organisations to heightened risks of data breaches and non-compliance issues. This is where low-code platforms can help. They can be scaled up without the need to hire developers to meet demand, consequently reducing operational costs, such as maintenance and support. In fact, the Forrester WaveTM: Low-Code Development Platforms For AD&D Pros, Q1 2019 report, highlights digital businesses’ demand for the latest software is the biggest driver of low-code adoption.

Here, a low-code platform can help mitigate shadow IT by bridging the gap between business and IT. For organisations looking to put the power – safely – back into the hands of its employees, the platform makes it easy to build apps without needing specialist development expertise – but that have a ready-made understanding of the problems that need solving. These apps can help streamline internal processes and automate manual tasks, whilst adding value and driving developments from the very core of the organisation. And it helps reduce the risk of employees using unauthorised apps and tools to do their work, subsequently minimising potential security threats.

Low-code providers secure their platforms on their ‘own’ clouds, which helps mitigate various security risks, particularly around issues like hacking techniques such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting.  So, while business users can build apps, they do so under a ‘security umbrella’, provided by the platform and managed and controlled by IT. The platform itself must be secure and ensure that the apps it supports are also secure with full identity management capabilities and access control.

Plus, IT teams are provided with the tools they need to ensure that new app development is done underneath the security umbrella. This is achieved by providing the correct policies, to enable secure access and use of the apps being built. After all, one of the biggest causes of shadow IT is a lack of visibility. Put simply, in embracing low-code technology, businesses can build multiple apps while IT retains control of new systems and applications.

No room for error

Low-code technology, by its very nature, enables applications to be more secure when built. During development, users are prompted for required information, causing fewer entry mistakes compared to hand-coding apps directly. In addition, low-code platforms often include a validator that checks over an application and flags any areas that need addressing. The platform provides end-to-end security throughout the development lifecycle of the app, including development, testing and deployment.

At a time when cyberattacks are on the rise, providing businesses and employees with a range of easy-to-use and scalable tools will be pivotal as we head into 2021. The myth that low-code is only useful for simplistic apps was dispelled long ago. Enterprises need to better understand its power to create effective tools, and foster alignment between IT and business. Providing employees with more effective tools can help to significantly reduce the security risk of shadow IT whilst increasing employee productivity. Now that businesses have adapted to everything that 2020 threw at them, the importance of good cybersecurity hygiene cannot be ignored in 2021 and beyond.

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Chief Innovation Officer

German-born, Simpsons-obsessed and with a not-so-secret penchant for Welsh techno, Richard is Netcall’s long-serving CIO – he’s been with us for an impressive 19 years, meaning he’s somewhere between ‘living legend’ and ‘part of the furniture’ around here.

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