Remote work cybersecurity risks are growing. Remote work has increased significantly since the pandemic. Because so many employees have discovered the benefits of working from home, employers are under pressure to continue to offer flexibility. However, remote work cybersecurity risks have increased 74% since the pandemic started. The same report reveals that 80% of business leaders believe their companies are at higher risk because of remote work.
How Remote Work Increases Cybersecurity Risks
Whether you have a fully remote workforce, people who work from home regularly, or employees who travel frequently for work, the risk to your network is increased because of it. It’s much more challenging to provide security with so many more endpoints. Yet, not offering remote and flexible work options will put you at a disadvantage when attracting and retaining talent. With a much larger attack surface for cyber criminals to exploit, your cybersecurity strategy must be even more comprehensive.
7 Cybersecurity Risks from Remote Work and How to Mitigate Them
Your remote staff may unknowingly place your organization at risk. A remote workforce can lead to an increase in data breaches. Identity theft and other risks are also common. Continue reading for The ITeam’s remote work cybersecurity guide highlighting top risks and how to mitigate them.
Remote Work Means Lack of Visibility
When your employees work from home, you lose visibility into how secure the network is. You can’t be certain about the level of security they have. The password to their router could still be defaulted to “password” and the entire neighborhood could have access.
Solution: Establish clear policies to which your employees are required to agree in order to work from home. A remote work policy will help you define the parameters that guide how your employees are able to access and use data away from the office and what kind of security measures you will need to have in place to support them. For best risk mitigation, provide a firewall to each remote work employee.
Remote Workers Often Use Public Wi-Fi
Employees who “work from home” don’t always work at home. Sometimes they’re working while they’re traveling – in hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops. If they’re doing so connecting through public or unsecured Wi-Fi, they’re leaving your network at risk.
Solution: Insist on the use of – and provide – a VPN. A VPN allows remote users to establish a secure connection to your network from outside the office. It also provides stability to employees who are connecting from home to ensure productivity and connectivity.
Mobile Device Use
Employees using their own mobile devices put your network at risk. While this is not solely an issue for work at home employees, it is more difficult to manage with employees who are not in the office. From accessing and storing private company information to not updating their software, their devices leave you open to vulnerability.
Solution: Establish clear rules for the use of personal devices. Mobile phones are being used to conduct business whether you authorize it or not, so your best bet for protecting your organization is to have a highly sophisticated MDM security plan in place that includes the following:
- Strict usage requirements that include installing your security on the device being used and requiring the use of a secure network when conducting business
- Remote wipe capabilities to disconnect the device from your network in the event that it is stolen, or the employee leaves the organization
- A no-tolerance policy for any employee who refuses to comply with the security requirements
Even when you have your employees using VPNs and applying patches, they may fail to use proper password security. No matter how much risk there is in doing so, or how many times we’re told not to, we are all guilty of using the same password in more than one place.
Solution: Multifactor Authentication (MFA): Multifactor authentication is a critical layer of security. It makes access to data require more than just a password or more than just a single authentication method and blocks all access to a device, network, or terminal unless two of three factors are provided: something you have, something you know, or something you are. These independent identity authorizations include a password, a security token or code, and often, a biometric verification such as a fingerprint. According to Microsoft, 99.9% of all attacks on your account can be prevented with MFA.
Phishing is an issue in and out of the office, but out of the office, your employees may not have the tools to keep cyber criminals at bay. Phishing emails are more sophisticated than ever. Without the email filters used by the company email network to prevent them from landing in the inbox, work-from-home employees are more vulnerable.
Solution: Ongoing, comprehensive employee awareness training. Keeping your organization safe requires you to keep your employees aware of what the threats are and how to respond to them. Employee awareness training will teach your employees to:
- Identify phishing attempts to prevent potential costly attacks,
- Recognize when an account takeover happens,
- Understand social engineering and how to prevent it,
- Distinguish malicious requests that appear to come from a senior executive.
Unencrypted File Sharing
Data traveling back and forth between your employee and your company can put you at risk if it’s not properly shared. So much sensitive information passes through their hands that is intercepted and leads to ransomware attacks, fraud, and more.
Solution: Use secure web-based applications for business operations. For example, Microsoft 365 is one solution in which everything is cloud-based, allowing employees to access calendars, email, and file-sharing tools through the cloud.
Work from Home Is Here to Stay
Offering remote work options and flexible working options are not going anywhere, but there are many steps you can take to mitigate the risk to your organization while still allowing the flexibility your top talent is seeking.
The ITeam understands the risks facing organizations who are offering remote work options to their employees. We are committed to helping Calgary- and Alberta-based businesses develop proactive, cost-effective IT strategies that minimize risk and maximize efficiency. Contact us to learn more.