The ever-evolving pandemic has caused a meteoric rise in people working remotely from home. Before this, the adoption of remote work is foreign to many companies. However, desperate times call for desperate measures as employers embrace a new mindset of supporting a remote workforce, even long-term.
The sudden attack and highly contagious pandemic forced many companies to adapt and make significant changes over a short period. The various types of remote work models require different considerations for each. Even though companies emphasize the security needs in their remote workforce, the relevant cybersecurity best practices have not been enforced thoroughly due to the abruptness of this transition.
They include securing the user devices, relevant software, equipment, the whole infrastructure network, and any necessary Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to help guide the remote workers. Cybercriminals are aware of this and target their attacks on remote workers.
Do not think that your remote employees are safe at home. There are always risks when online. At least at the office, they are heavily protected by the full suite of security products and cybersecurity best practices that your Management Information Systems (MIS) team has implemented. However, maintain cybersecurity at home is a new ball game altogether.
And, since remote employees are an easier target, hackers will level their attacks on them at home instead of at the office. That said, rest easy as there are ways that can help improve the cybersecurity of remote workforce:
Perhaps, the first thing they need to look into is securing the home Wi-Fi.
There are several steps to follow, as below:
Having comprehensive security software is a must for every employee’s device. Hackers are rampantly trying to infect their devices with malware, spyware, trojans, worms, and ransomware to steal information.
Installing and having anti-malware tools running in the background of the devices help thwart such threats. Most anti-malware tools also guard against phishing scams via emails. Some come with a firewall utility tool that functions as a barrier and a guard against outside threats.
Whatever it is, these security tools are only as good as the updates done. So, make sure updates are done regularly on your security programs to give that much-needed protection at all times.
The quality of your employees’ passwords is imperative to ensuring that your cybersecurity measures, policies, and best practices work. A company can also have high-end security devices and tools, but they are only as strong as the passwords controlling their access.
Use passwords that cannot be easily guessed and are unrelated to your details. Use a combination of alphanumeric characters with special symbols, and do not use the same password. Imagine the catastrophe when a password is compromised; other accounts will be compromised.
It may be difficult to remember and manage many different passwords, but this is necessary. Use password managers. A reliable password manager act as a helpful tool that can help generate complex passwords and help manage them.
Some companies opt for two-factor authentication (2FA) for all account access. Having 2FA adds another layer of protection where the remote worker keys in a One-Time-Password (OTP) sent via the mobile phone (which is valid for a short time) with a valid password to gain access.
Using only strong passwords is an essential security measure to protect your company data from hackers; this makes it harder for hackers to gain entry.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your online activities, using a Virtual Private Network is a no-brainer.
A VPN transmits your company data via an encrypted tunnel so that nobody can pry into your sensitive data. A VPN also masks your actual IP address and replaces it with an IP of the VPN server. As such, this safeguards your privacy.
Enforce the usage of a VPN for all employees so that sensitive and crucial information is safe. The VPN must always be on when your remote workers are online. Also, do not forget to use strong and complex passwords for VPN access.
Encrypting your files and documents adds that extra layer of protection to your sensitive information should your employees' devices be compromised. So, even if a hacker has access to the device, the files are locked and protected. The hacker cannot see anything meaningful and valuable. Hence, this can help thwart future attacks.
Also, use only communication tools that utilize encryption so that your conversations remain private and secure. You do not want any confidential information to leak.
Remote working relies heavily on collaboration tools. Virtual meetings are often, so you need a reliable and trusted video conferencing tool. However, this can cause security risks.
Look at Zoom, a household name when holding online meetings. Zoom was under pressure when they experienced insistent ‘Zoom bombing’ attacks; they occur when uninvited participants gain access to the meetings with the express intention to disrupt them. The security risk you face is that private information can be leaked and stolen.
There are ways to safeguard your Zoom meetings. One of them is to make the virtual meeting private - require a password to access or have the meeting chairperson take control of each participant's access.
Since remote working requires frequent online meetings or video calls, these virtual meetings need a webcam. However, cybercriminals can hack the webcam and compromise both security and privacy. Once they are in, they can see everything from the background to any important documents. As such, pay attention to securing the webcam.
If your webcam is a separate device, unplug it whenever not in use. However, if you have a built-in webcam, use a webcam cover. Also, when in a meeting, blur the background. Although this can slow down your connection, it is a small price for the sake of your remote worker's privacy.
New technologies are evolving, be aware of your outdated software. Regularly updating your software and tools is so vital that this deserves a section on its own. This simple act is essential to protect everyone in the company. If not, all the applications and software that your remote workers use are vulnerable to attacks. However, updating them can save you from potential security weaknesses and attacks.
Timely updates help patch any security loopholes and give that needed protection while safeguarding your whole system.
Any remote workforce would do well with policies they can base on when in doubt. Such policies should include SOPs that govern information systems use, compliance, data protection, accounts access, backup, storage, etc.
If unsure where to begin, you can consult with cybersecurity teams. It would be good that each employee signs a copy of the SOPs as an acknowledgment. Also, have a comprehensive knowledge base for internal consumption as this helps to point your employees in the right direction whenever in doubt.
Employees’ ignorance is what causes most breaches in companies. As such, conduct security awareness and training for them. They need to know the cybersecurity best practices when working remotely, for example, the best safe browsers to use while working. You want everyone to be safe and stay safe even when working from home.
A company is only as strong as its employees, even more so when working from home. As such, they need to stay vigilant at all times.
Your employees must always use company devices for work use only. They cannot use them for personal reasons, like allowing their kids to access streaming sites to watch movies.
Use strong passwords to protect the company devices. They must never share the passwords with the family members or use the same passwords. A simple practice as such helps heaps in minimizing cybersecurity challenges and avoid sensitive information from leaking.
Always backup all data; this is perhaps the number one cardinal rule in work. Companies emphasize the importance of performing a backup in everything; they are aware that data losses are detrimental to the health and progress of any business. This backup practice must be enforced even when working from home.
Remember, any loss of data especially sensitive information, whether accidentally or not, can be quickly remedied with the latest backup in place. However, if you do not have any backup to fall back on, there is nothing that can be salvaged.
While Cloud storage is not bulletproof, it offers significant advantages compared to other options. Many users still keep files on local devices and perform occasional backups to external sources. Unfortunately, that’s often simply swapping the risk platform. Even worse is the risk of remote workers not adequately securing any personal devices with antivirus software.
Cloud storage services can reduce the risk of data loss because the service provider takes care of all physical infrastructure and software maintenance. Additionally, due to the redundant nature of the hardware, data is rarely lost. Data integrity is vital, especially for those working with sensitive data.
It is much cheaper to subscribe to Cloud storage services than to invest in local infrastructure and pay for maintenance and upgrades. This cost scale will become glaringly outstanding the larger the size of an organization. That's especially true if you have a larger remote workforce who may need to replace personal devices with company-issued ones.
The best part of using the cloud to backup data is the simplicity of most Cloud storage systems. You don't have to go through complicated setup processes or learn how to use complex software if you want access to your files.
Since not everyone needs to access everything in the system, it is best to assign different authorization levels. Match each employee’s role and responsibility with what they need. Then give them access to only those they need. Doing so can help mitigate any risks associated with compromised employee access.
The frequency and severity of cyberattacks grow as time passes; they never seem to reduce. You cannot afford to put cybersecurity as an after-thought in your business plan. Especially with remote work being a priority in many businesses now, it is pivotal to improve and maintain cybersecurity aspects of your remote workforce. Follow the above tips, and you will find them helpful to safeguard your business from cybercrime.