As more businesses turn to remote work, many are asking themselves, “What security issues come with working remotely?” For most businesses, there are these top 4 security issues with working remotely:
- Phishing scams
- Unsecured endpoint devices
- Home office risks
- Network security
Whether you’re new to remote work or have been telecommuting for years, it’s important to understand how working from home affects your business’ cybersecurity. While certain cybersecurity protocols remain the same whether your office is virtual or not, other defenses need to be altered to fit the home office environment for all employees.
Learn what makes remote cybersecurity different, top security issues businesses face, and how your organization can protect itself below.
What Makes Remote Cybersecurity Different?
Regardless of whether workers are remote or not, all employees should understand their personal role in maintaining your business’ cybersecurity. It only takes one wrong click on a phishing email to cost your business hundreds of thousands—or even shut your doors for good. According to a 2018 study on small and medium-sized business cyberattacks, 67% of these businesses suffered a cyberattack in the past year. On average, a single attack cost $383,365.
If most or all of your employees work from home, the responsibility of each individual increases tenfold. That’s because instead of maintaining cybersecurity standards across one office, standards must be maintained across as many offices as there are employees. Often, these security protocols must be upheld without the help of on-site IT support or management as well.
To achieve the best outcome, managers and IT teams should help teleworkers implement and practice proper cybersecurity whenever possible. Ultimately, however, much of it comes down to individual responsibility. When it comes to security issues with working remotely, teleworkers must understand how and why they contribute to their business’ overall cybersecurity.
Top 4 Security Issues with Working Remotely
Before you can figure out how to protect your business’ virtual operations, it’s important to understand the main risks associated with remote work. Get started by considering these top 4 security issues with working remotely.
Learn more about each of these security issues with working remotely below! Please feel free to share our infographic on social media, or copy and paste the code below to embed it on your website:
<img src="https://bit.ly/4SecurityIssuesWorkingRemotely"> <p>Top 4 Security Issues with Working Remotely - An infographic by the team at <a href="https://sdi.ai/">Sentient Digital, Inc.</a></p>
1. Phishing Scams
According to some studies, over 80% of reported cyberattacks are phishing scams. Phishing is a relatively easy way for hackers to gain access to personal identifying information (PII). This information can be used to steal company data or access individual bank accounts.
Employees can be susceptible to phishing attacks whether they’re in the office or at home. However, remote work can increase the likelihood of falling prey to these scams.
Many successful phishing scams targeted at businesses involve hackers posing as coworkers, upper management, or third-party vendors. When employees are communicating regularly in person, it can be easier to identify phony emails as fraudulent. But when all business communication is already performed virtually, it is easier for these types of attacks to go unnoticed until it is too late.
There has also been a recent influx of coronavirus-related phishing attacks. Hackers are pretending to be everything from the World Health Organization to fake charities. These cybercriminals are preying on people’s fears and natural instincts in order to make easy money. Given many workers’ increased anxieties in these difficult times, employees might be even more vulnerable to this type of scam than usual.
2. Unsecured Endpoint Devices
Your endpoints, or devices like laptops and routers, are usually the places where criminals gain access to your network. In an office environment, IT and management can ensure that all endpoint devices have up-to-date software, patches, and vulnerability scanners installed and running. But when employees work from home, they become responsible for managing all their own hardware and software needs.
Some employees might neglect to update their antivirus software or create a strong, unique Wi-Fi password. Others might be led by cybercriminals to accidentally install malicious software marketed as a vulnerability scanner or work-from-home tool, such as a virtual to-do list. This becomes even more likely if your business is unable to issue designated company laptops with the necessary software already installed.
3. Home Office Risks
No one wants to assume the worst about the people they live with. But live-in partners or roommates of employees could potentially steal valuable company information. Even if it seems unlikely, the more people who have access to a company’s sensitive information, the higher the risk. When employees work from home, housemates could gain company information by listening in on phone calls or using the worker’s saved passwords to access company data.
Even if the people living with a teleworking employee are not malicious, accidents can happen. Maybe the teleworker forgets to shut down business software before letting their partner borrow their laptop. Maybe the kids download what appears to be a game to the employee’s computer, but it’s actually malware. Employers simply have far less control over and insight into just how company data is being managed, leading to a variety of security issues with working remotely in home offices.
It is also worth pointing out that during the COVID-19 pandemic, working at home is far more stressful than it used to be. This stress could potentially distract employees or keep them from thinking through the risks of their actions, such as forwarding messages with sensitive company information to their personal emails.
4. Network Security
Network security refers to the cybersafety measures taken to protect your company’s entire computer network. Your network security could include cloud computing, proactive cybersecurity tactics, segmentation, and more.
Your business may already be protecting its network with some of these or other cybersecurity strategies. If most or all of your employees are suddenly working from home, however, some of your company’s security measures may need to be rapidly revised.
For instance, if your company typically employs a user privilege system, those user authorizations might need to be updated now that workers aren’t in a shared office space. Or if your data is currently stored on external servers accessed through an internal network, you might attempt to move this data to a new storage location.
But changing how you protect your network can lead to unforeseen problems, new vulnerabilities, or security gaps. Under normal circumstances, such changes can be carefully planned, executed, and monitored. When circumstances dictate hasty change, however, your security could be at risk.
How to Protect Against Security Issues While Working Remotely
When it comes to mitigating or resolving the security issues of remote work, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The exact cybersecurity measures your business needs will vary based on your organization’s size, operations, assets, and many other factors.
With that said, there are several best practices that can aid in improving remote cybersecurity for many different companies. Below are our best tips for addressing common security issues with working remotely.
Learn more about each of these security solutions for remote work below! Please feel free to share our infographic on social media, or copy and paste the code below to embed it on your website:
<img src="https://bit.ly/4SecuritySolutionsWorkingRemotely"> <p>How to Protect Against Security Issues While Working Remotely - An infographic by the team at <a href="https://sdi.ai/">Sentient Digital, Inc.</a></p>
1. Virtual Staff Trainings
A company’s cybersecurity is always dependent on every employee understanding and accepting their personal responsibility, but even more so when workers are remote. That’s why we recommend virtually training your staff on the best remote cybersecurity practices. Considering discussing topics such as:
- Creating passwords that are longer, contain a variety of keyboard characters, and do not include personal identifying information.
- Making sure passwords are unique, meaning passwords for all accounts and devices are different, and passwords are never reused. This includes passwords for business and personal emails, bank accounts, laptops, routers, and Wi-Fi.
- Ensuring that their home network is encrypted, and explaining how to set up encryption if it is not.
- Downloading only company-approved updates for antivirus software, messaging systems, ad blockers, video conferencing programs, and other business or cybersecurity tools.
- Understanding how to identify, address, and report common tactics deployed by phishing scammers, such as strange syntax or URL addresses.
- Being mindful of not leaving work-related documents or data windows open on computers, especially if the computer is not a designated work computer or is shared with others.
If you plan to offer remote work as a possibility after COVID-19, be sure to continue providing remote-specific training as part of your regular cybersecurity education for employees.
2. Communicate with Vendors
The cybersecurity of your business depends not just on your employees, but on the companies you partner with, too. If hackers gain the right type of information from a third-party vendor, they can wreak havoc upon all partnered businesses.
In 2008, for example, a massive data breach of the Department of Defense exposed the personal records of over 30,000 employees. The breach occurred because cybercriminals hacked data from a third-party contractor that handled travel records. As a result, the DoD is enforcing Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) for defense contractors, a new set of cybersecurity requirements for any organization contracting with the DoD.
Cybersecurity protocols with third-party vendors become even more crucial when your employees or theirs are working remotely. Just as remote work at your business increases your risk, partnering with remote workers can impact your cybersecurity. There are suddenly new security threats in the forms of non-company endpoint devices and the lack of an on-site IT department.
Cooperate with all independent contractors and third-party businesses to come up with a shared set of cybersecurity protocols to keep all of your personnel and assets safe.
3. Allow Remote Employees to Access Data Safely
Remote workers need to be able to access the files necessary to complete their job functions without jeopardizing your company’s cybersecurity. The exact methods you deploy to allow for secure yet remote data access can vary from business to business, but here are a few possibilities to consider:
- Use a workplace VPN. If your company stores its data on external servers, shifting to remote work introduces new challenges. With all the employees who need access to those data centers now working in different locations, it can be difficult to know how to share data remotely and safely from the external servers to so many different home networks. Using a workplace VPN allows employees to access company data through channels more secure than the typical home Wi-Fi. Before purchasing or developing your own VPN, however, be sure to research the unique security challenges some VPNs present, especially since VPN demand has recently surged.
- Use cloud computing. If many or all of your remote workers frequently need to access, edit, or collaborate on workplace files, cloud computing makes all these tasks far easier. Although cloud computing is not without its own security challenges, cloud services also help to minimize certain risks, such as phishing. If employees know that files are always shared among coworkers and vendors through a cloud service, they will be less likely to download a malware-riddled email attachment or give their login credentials to a phishing link.
- Use multifactor authentication. Multifactor authentication gives an extra layer of security to websites or programs that require credentials. Instead of simply entering one password, users must also provide a second piece of evidence, such as entering a code sent to their cell phone. Multifactor authentication is especially helpful for remote businesses, because it helps prevent both malicious hackers and unwitting housemates from accessing sensitive company data.
4. Back Up Data
No one wants to assume that their company might be hacked. But many fail to prepare for this possibility, thinking it will never happen to them, and suffer the consequences. It is always better to be prepared with data backups than be caught unaware and have to pay thousands or millions in repairs and data recovery.
Perform regular backups of your company data, whether to an external server or a cloud service provider. This is an important practice to maintain no matter if you are remote or on premises. But given the extra security issues with working remotely, it is especially critical to continue data backups while your workforce is remote.
Data backups can become slightly more complicated when your employees are remote and working on different networks. Make sure that your employees know where to save their company files and data. Backup services often do not back up all parts of your network, but rather select segments. It is important to make sure that no data gets saved to the wrong location and falls through the cracks.
Let SDi Solve Your Telework Security Concerns
Managing a virtual workforce can be challenging in and of itself. Trying to also address security issues with working remotely can be even more stressful, especially if your company has recently been forced to adapt all business operations to a digital environment.
Here at Sentient Digital, Inc., we specialize in developing technology solutions specifically tailored to your needs. Whether you’re struggling with a newly remote workforce, or hoping to bulk up your existing remote work cybersecurity defenses, we would be happy to help during these challenging times.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can aid your business in creating a safe and remote workspace for all your clients, vendors, and employees.