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Securing Windows and Office in a time of COVID-19: update policies, remote options


The stay-at-home alerts for many large cities, US states, and countries is putting information technology and security professionals on the forefront of the battle to keep businesses up and running with most employees working remotely. Technology has risen to the challenge in some ways, but for some things there’s just too much on our plates to deal with right now. Here’s how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our Windows security in that regard:

Releases and servicing changes

Google was first to announce that the work-from-home mandate was impacting Chrome’s ship schedule. Chrome 81 did not ship on schedule and Google announced that it is “pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases.” They emphasized instead that they will ensure releases are stable, secure, and reliable. Google is prioritizing security over feature releases.

Microsoft has announced that it is pushing back the end of life for Windows 10 1709 as a result as well. The end of life for 1709 was scheduled for April 14, 2020, but now security updates will be released from May to October. The final update will be released October 13, 2020. It remains to be seen if Microsoft Office click-to-run releases and Office 365 features will also be impacted. Keep an eye on the Microsoft Office 365 roadmap to see if any of these releases will be impacted.

Introducing remote technology

To allow for remote technology, we’re madly rolling out virtual private network (VPN) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections, often at the expense of security. One alternative is to deploy an 180-day trial version of Windows Server 2016 or 2019 and use Remote Desktop Services with Remote Desktop Gateway (RD Gateway) along with RDWeb technologies to allow remote connectivity.

You can also use OpenVPN solutions to stand up a temporary VPN server as a solution. Don’t forget to review what solutions are in your firewall to allow for VPN connectivity.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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