2020 forced most organizations to adapt to having many of their employees working from home. Cybercriminals were quick to identify vulnerabilities that arose due to businesses shifting their operations online.
In an office setting, a business can mitigate the common cybersecurity risks through a firewall, employee training, and separation of work and personal devices. However, when employees are working remotely, putting up cybersecurity measures becomes a little difficult.
In the wake of remote work, the lines between personal and professional lives are blurring, forcing businesses to mitigate risks that might arise from employee’s online behaviors.
Remote workers are not entirely to blame for the increased attacks that businesses experienced due to remote work. A combination of poorly considered guidelines and support for these workers has also contributed to an increase in the number of cyberattacks directly associated with remote work.
Some of the top cybersecurity risks associated with remote work include:
Cybercriminals are known to exploit unsafe network connections to access personal and business data. Remote work has magnified this issue by giving employees the ability to use home Wi-Fi and public Wi-Fi to access corporate assets.
Home networks with poor security configurations leave room for cybercriminals to intercept the traffic that goes through that network. Public Wi-Fi networks are worse as they are easy to hack and lack the protection of well-secured corporate Wi-Fi.
When employees work remotely, the lines between their personal and professional lives are blurred.
Most personal devices lack the same security measures as corporate devices, thus are an attack vector that exposes the entire corporate network to risk of a breach.
Employees who store corporate information on their devices might sell the data to third parties after they leave the organization.
In an office setting, employees are likely to go to the IT department to have a problem resolved. However, when working from home, most employees are finding solutions from the internet to help them remain productive and meet their responsibilities.
The IT department has not approved or accounted for most of these solutions; therefore, the risks they bring also remain unknown to the business.
Shadow IT applications may require permissions that allow these applications to read and store sensitive corporate data on the employee’s device.
Human error remains a common way cyber criminals use to infiltrate otherwise secure systems. An employee’s mistake such as clicking on a phishing link or using an unauthorized device or application can be damaging to your business.
Mitigating Cybersecurity Risks of Remote Work
Fortunately, your business can take certain measures to mitigate the risks that come with remote work. Some of the best practices your organization should follow include:
• Develop and enforce a remote working policy that outlines the guidelines all work-from-home employees have to follow. The policy should include the systems they can access, the approved devices, and steps to reduce their attack surface.
• Remind your employees to keep their software updated
• Use encrypted communication devices and tools
• Establish a secure and traceable authorization system
• Use secure cloud infrastructure
• Set up a VPN to provide an alternative IP address when your employees access your corporate network.
• Have a cybersecurity policy with guidelines employees should follow, including setting up strong passwords for their accounts and home Wi-Fi networks.
• Create an employee cybersecurity training program that educates your employees on the best practices to adhere to when working remotely or accessing your corporate networks. Train them on the signs of common social engineering attacks and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
• Constantly review and measure your cybersecurity efforts
The sudden need for businesses to work remotely caught most companies unprepared to deal with the sudden increase of cyberattacks targeting their data. A year later, businesses are settling into remote work and embracing its benefits.
However, remote work is also creating a need to mitigate new risks by implementing the tools, policies, and practices that reduce the attack surface that your business is exposed to.
Implementing security measures such as firewalls, VPNs, anti-virus, anti-phishing tools, and employee education are important in protecting your business network from cybercriminals.
Read more: Set Up a VPN