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What Is a Distributed Enterprises and Why Does Cybersecurity Matter for Branch Offices?

What Is a Distributed Enterprise?

A distributed enterprise, such as a retailer, bank, or hospital, has several locations or branches, often worldwide. For many such organizations, the headquarters are protected against cyberattacks, but the branches are not, leaving back doors open for cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive data. In a recent breach, Checker’s, a drive-through restaurant operating in 28 US states, was attacked by point-of-sale malware in 2019. The malware collected cardholder information, including card numbers and verification codes, dating back to 2016. 

Why Does Security Matter for Distributed Enterprises?

According to Forbes, 2020 was a record-breaking year for data lost in cyberattacks and sheer numbers of breaches on companies, government and individuals. Unit 42, in its most recent Ransomware Threat Report, points out that the average ransom paid by organizations in the US, Canada and Europe rose from US$113,123 in 2019 to US$213,493 in 2020, a 171% year-over-year increase. Cybercriminals have been taking advantage of the pandemic to prey on healthcare organizations, businesses, governments and utilities.

Why is a distributed organization more vulnerable to cybercrime? Simply put, the attack surface of a distributed organization is larger. The higher the number of branches and remote locations, the more attacks the organization is subject to.

Branch employees need secure access to customer data and applications online, but companies often lack the tools to detect or prevent cyberattacks. To avoid critical data loss, every branch and remote location must be secured with the same level of world-class enterprise security as the corporate headquarters and data centers. 

Below are the three must-haves to protect your distributed organization:

  1. Next-generation firewalls (NGFW). NGFWs allow for early detection and reporting of cyberattacks across the network.

  2. Centralized network security management. A centralized security solution allows you to view all firewalls, users, applications, content and potential threats to your network, all from a central location.

  3. The ability to scale. As you add more locations, your firewalls should automatically detect and configure new security software without the need for additional IT work.

Find out how Palo Alto Networks protects the distributed enterprise

Get the 2021 Unit 42 Ransomware Threat Report.


1 Chuck Brooks,” Alarming Cybersecurity Stats: What You Need to Know for 2021,”  Forbes.com, September 2021,  https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckbrooks/2021/03/02/alarming-cybersecurity-stats-------what-you-need-to-know-for-2021/?sh=454df1a758d3.