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Customer Corner: HubSpot Security Leader on Banding Together Through COVID Crisis

Michael DeCesare, Chief Executive Officer and President | June 8, 2020

One thing that has stood out to me the most during this COVID-19 crisis is how, even in some of the most challenging of times, people are standing together to help each other out. One place I’ve seen that inside of Forescout is our Slack community, where hundreds of security leaders are working together to help each other secure the unprecedented transition to remote work.

I sat down with Nick Duda, principal security engineer at HubSpot, who started the Slack community and has helped lead its discussions during this difficult time. We spoke about the collaboration he’s seeing across the industry to make this remote transition possible, as well as how they’re supporting each other emotionally.

Tell me about the Slack group you created.

I started the Forescout Slack community a year and a half ago as a way for customers like us to collaborate in real time. At first, it was just a place for Forescout power users like me to bounce questions off one another and get answers quickly from the Forescout team – even just minutes in some cases. 

But – as they say – if you build it they will come. We now have 550 members and growing. It’s a mix of hardcore power users, Forescout employees, and new customers. There are now more than 30 channels to talk about all aspects of the platform, as well as automated channels to pull in news and updates to make sure we’re all up to date on the latest and greatest coming from the company. It’s a pretty powerful group.

What changes did you see in the group when COVID-19 hit?

Once more and more companies started working remotely to protect their employees during this pandemic, we started to see activity pick up in the Slack channel. Some of it was questions about Forescout products, but it also quickly became a place where security leaders could come to ask any question they might have or need support on during this difficult transition. While remote work isn’t new, doing it at this scale and executing on it at this speed is a challenge none of us have faced before. It certainly helped to have a place where you could ask those questions and provide support to your peers during this uncertain time.  

What sort of topics are security leaders looking for support on during this remote work period?

We’ve had questions about phishing concerns, endpoint protection, overall security awareness. The topics really vary, but ultimately they all center around how to keep organizations safe while working remotely.

I also saw support that went beyond the technology. Once everyone started working remotely, we all just wanted a way to break up the day. We’ve started hosting a daily Zoom call where product managers can come on and talk about new products, or we can just take a few minutes to ask about how we’re all coping. Having that emotional – as well as technology – support during this time has been crucial

When it comes to transitioning to remote work, what are some of the steps HubSpot took?

With working remotely as the new normal, we knew we had to think outside the box on what security is like during these circumstances. We have so many cool pieces of technology that do an outstanding job in protecting our assets and data when physically in the office but may not have the same effect remotely. So, how can we use them to extend those security controls when at home? Are there tools you can use in a different way, or leverage the other tools in your arsenal to complement, to ensure you have full visibility and control of your managed devices?

Some of the steps that we took included tuning our device classification, policies, and configurations to get accurate visibility into remote devices. Some examples of these changes included focusing classification policies on VPN devices so we could fine-tune rules to run more efficiently. We also created custom conditions and leveraged third-party integrations, such as Palo Alto Networks’ Global Protect, Crowdstrike, and JAMF, to get more information on the data and devices. Having these third-party integrations with Forescout already in place helped us make this transition both efficient and effective.

What do you think the long-term implications of this crisis will be on your security strategy?

Working from home is now a new normal. Every company out there needs to figure out a strategy for how the home network can be a secure extension of the corporate network. That home network needs to now be in the scope of our security tools, technology, and process. Essentially, the corporate attack surface just grew pretty much overnight because of this crisis.

I’ve also learned how much this industry cares about supporting one another. This Slack group is one example, but also technology companies care deeply about the struggles we face in these times. I’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive and proactive response from these companies ranging from endpoint security to video conferencing and even security awareness materials.  It’s opened my eyes up to some interesting technologies and approaches to security.

Finally, I’ve learned to appreciate taking small breaks away from the desk. Get up, move around and go for a run or walk (safely of course). We all need to keep both our body and mind health during these times.

To learn more about what Nick Duda has done at HubSpot, take a look at this “Lessons From the Trenches” Webinar, where he speaks about the ways we can improve using the Forescout platform to help with visibility and control in this world of working remotely. Nick cover ways you can improve your classification policy and why that matters. He also shares ways to get richer visibility into your assets including using 3rd party integrations.

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