The sudden shift to employees working from home poses new cybersecurity risks for businesses and the employees who work remotely. While the ability to allow staff to work remotely when needed gives greater flexibility and health safety to corporations, it also comes with cybersecurity risks. Not only can remote workers put their privacy at risk, but working remotely could result in a breach of the company’s security.
So what are the best practices for working from home and remotely to avoid cybersecurity risks? As a distributed workforce working remotely, staff has to pay more attention to cybersecurity threats themselves. Installing multi-factor authentication, backing up data, and strictly keeping work data on work computers will ensure the safekeeping of work data. Using VPN, avoiding public networks, and using antivirus and internet security software are also some practices to decrease the threats of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity for Remote Workers
Whether you’re committing to remote work or just using it to get through the pandemic, you face the same challenge of cybersecurity risks. Companies are moving toward long-term remote work arrangements, requiring advanced safeguards against cyberattacks and data breaches.
- Importance of Cybersecurity for Remote Workers
Remote workers are typically the first to face security threats. They’re often the source of network security incidents that can ripple quickly through the rest of the organization. Remote working opens up space for these attacks to occur, as it’s harder to control breaches of home networks. In consequence, they’re at a higher risk of becoming victims of cyberattacks, whether it’s a typical malicious email that comes with a malware load or a simple data loss by family members using the equipment just for a quick lookup on the internet.
Remote workers are being warned to be suspicious of any emails asking them to check or renew their passwords and login credentials, even if they seem to be coming from a trusted source. Ensuring network security when all employees work remotely is a different kind of challenge for companies. However, each staff should know how to protect themselves from the possible cybersecurity risks they might come across while working remotely.
- What Are the Cybersecurity Risks of Remote Work?
Without the security protections that office systems provide such as firewalls and blacklisted IP addresses, work from home workers are far more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The most obvious risk is that most of our tasks are conducted online.
Below are some of the most serious threats that security teams will face while working from home or remotely:
- Using Unsecured Personal Devices and Networks
Some companies do not equip their staff with work devices such as laptops. Employees’ personal computers do not have the same protections as work devices, nor the same capabilities to monitor activity. Their personal devices often lack strong antivirus software, customized firewalls, and automatic online backup tools built into business networks.
Employees often access company networks using Wi-Fi from popular locations such as coffee shops, making them more susceptible to the risk of an online attack. Home networks are also vulnerable to attacks when a proper firewall is not set up.This increases the risk of malware finding its way onto devices and infiltrating both personal and work-related information.
- Video Attacks
Remote working often means relying on video conferencing software which, in turn, creates potential work-from-home security risks. Popular video application Zoom has been under scrutiny for a surge in “Zoom-bombing,” in which hackers hijack video meetings to spread malicious content. These types of video attacks are unpredicted and can cause a major breach in the privacy of the company.
- Phishing Emails
One of the top cyber threats to remote employees is phishing schemes. Phishing schemes involve a person or entity posing as a legitimate source, usually over email, to trick a victim into providing personal login credentials or sensitive information. These information can then be used to hack into accounts, steal more sensitive information, carry out identity fraud, and more.
Phishing emails have become so sophisticated that it’s increasingly becoming harder for employees to detect them, especially when these emails make it past email filters straight to an employee’s main inbox.
- Lack of Cybersecurity Training
Many companies previously didn’t have the infrastructure to support a mass amount of people working remotely, and even less have the security to ensure their sensitive data isn’t being exposed. For the majority, their underlying hardware, software, and support infrastructure are only designed to accommodate a small portion of their employee population working remotely. Organizations need to offer continuing cybersecurity awareness training so remote employees remain vigilant.
Best Practices for Working From Home and Remotely
- Install Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can add a lot to your cybersecurity plan. A good MFA protects you and your employees without making it more difficult to log in. Multi-factor authentication relies on more than just putting in a password to access secure systems. These simple security systems should be one of the first upgrades you consider when you’re looking for ways to improve cybersecurity across your remote work environment.
- Avoid Public Networks
Free Wi-Fi is available in shopping malls, airports, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, public transport, and other public places. These networks are used by millions of people daily, which makes them vulnerable to attacks. A hackers’ ultimate objective is to get connected to a network where multiple users are already connected. Once he gains entry into such a network, he can deploy his tactics to take control of all the data and communications taking over this network.
- Use a VPN Network
No matter where employees work, they need to access and share data. Using a VPN makes that much more secure, especially on public wifi.
One way to secure data as it moves between your core systems and externally based employees is to deploy a VPN. A VPN is a means of providing more secure connections over distance. Using a VPN is like putting a tunnel over the road along which your data travels. This will hide the user’s IP Address, encrypt data transfers in transit, and mask the user’s location. No one from outside can view or access the information while in transit.
- Keep Work Data on Work Computers
Providing laptops for all employees can be costly, so many organizations rely on staff using their home computers when suddenly working from home. However, your personal computers don’t have the same protections as work devices, nor the same capabilities to monitor activity.
It’s important to remember to keep work devices safe and not allow other people to access the employees’ work laptops, mobiles, and other forms of hardware. A company laptop is for an employee’s business use only. Personal tasks should be done separately from a business laptop or mobile device.
- Use Antivirus and Internet Security Software
One of the most effective security tips for working from home is to invest in a comprehensive antivirus suite for your work from home setup.
Ensure antivirus is in place and fully updated on your remote work setup. Although a firewall can help, threats will inevitably get through. A good, advanced antivirus software can act as the next line of defense by detecting and blocking known malware. Even if malware does manage to find its way onto an employee’s device, an antivirus may be able to prevent it.
Firewalls also act as a line of defense to prevent threats from entering your company’s system. They create a barrier between your devices and the internet by closing ports of communication. This can help prevent malicious programs’ entry and can stop data leaking from your work devices.
- Back Up Your Data
All important files should be backed up regularly. In a worst-case scenario, you could fall afoul of malware and lose everything without a backup. Having backup options such as hard drives puts you in a better position when something goes wrong, such as connectivity loss or server failure. One of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to ensure important files are backed up is to store a backup of data in the cloud.
Formalizing Working From Home and Remote Work Policies
Companies should review their current cyber insurance policy to assess limits and make sure the program is optimized for the increased risks of working remotely. Employees should be reminded of the incident response plan and be advised what events or circumstances trigger the policy. If they do not know when to let superiors know about an incident, the company may miss out on crucial response time.
In addition to making sure the company’s IT infrastructure can handle large numbers of remote workers, management needs to check if their organization has any established security guidelines for remote work. This includes employee use of personal devices for company business and remote access to company information systems. If no relevant plans or policies are in place, this is a good time to establish at least some basic guidelines to address these issues.
Improve Your Cybersecurity While Working Remotely With Abacus
Cybersecurity for remote workers requires constant vigilance. If you’re nervous about your current remote security policies, give us a call. We will assess and implement the precautions necessary to ensure your remote employees can work safely and productively.
At Abacus, we are committed to excellent customer service and continuously strive to exceed your expectations. Schedule a consultation with us today.