The recent COVID-19 pandemic has created a temporary remote workforce that has swelled to unprecedented levels and may signal a larger and more permanent shift to remote work. Working from home reduces certain health risks associated with the coronavirus. However, working at home also creates cybersecurity risks and other IT management issues that must be resolved before any work is done remotely.
Defining Remote Work Helps Identify Risk
Remote work involves working away from the office. The worker may be entirely home-based. More frequently, time is shared between home and the office. Remote work may be temporary and only involve an occasional business trip. Remote work may also involve daily sales or service calls. For the cybersecurity provider, the challenges are many, depending on the circumstances.
The Cybersecurity Issues With Remote Work
Managing the cybersecurity of a blended or fully remote workforce is more challenging than managing the cybersecurity of on-site endpoints.
Three Risky Practices That May Endanger Business IT
- Ignoring Basic Physical Security Practices in Public Places
Cybersecurity encompasses not just digital security but also physical security. Sensitive information can be stolen when an employee talks loudly on the phone while working in public places. They may unintentionally expose their screen to prying eyes at a nearby table or venue. Devices may be left unattended while taking care of personal matters.
- Accessing Sensitive Data Through Unsafe Wi-Fi Networks
When remote workers connect to the home wireless network or access corporate accounts using unsecured public Wi-Fi, malicious actors in the vicinity can easily spy on the connection and harvest confidential information.
Data sent in an unencrypted form in plain text is easily intercepted by cybercriminals. Employees should never access any unknown Wi-Fi networks unless they are using a VPN connection.
- Using Personal Devices for Onsite or Remote Work
Employees frequently transfer files between work and personal computers when working from their homes. This practice is a cause for worry. At the same time, some companies allow employees to use their personal devices at work. This “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD policy is trending in popularity, but it is very risky.
Remote workers may not be updating their software. This neglect or oversight creates security gaps in the work environment. Employers and their managed IT company team must continuously stress the importance of applying software patches in a timely manner and for a good reason.
An employee may quit or be terminated but keep the confidential information stored on their device. IT management must have in place a strategy that controls endpoints. Otherwise, critical data or valuable trade secrets may be lost or stolen.
Teaching employees basic remote security measures is an IT management imperative. Periodically, remind employees not to expose company data while working remotely, whether at home or on the road.
Secure the Remote Workforce: Formalize a Remote Work Security Policy
Employers must ensure that their remote workforce is secure. This can be done by creating a security policy specifically designed for remote workers.
Essential Security Items That Should Be Included in a Remote Work Policy
- Clearly define which positions are eligible for remote work.
Some job functions are too risky for remote environments except under the most controlled conditions. Establish clear guidelines for which positions are a good fit for remote fulfillment. Where appropriate, provide some explanation for why some jobs are excluded from the work-at-home option.
- Specify the platforms and tools remote workers should be using.
Both on-site and remote staff should use the same approved tools, such as project management tools, cloud storage platforms, and communication/video conferencing tools.
- Train employees on how to respond to the first signs of account compromise.
Every company should have mandatory cybersecurity training and a clear, understandable policy and procedure manual for both on-site and remote workers. The environments have their own complexities and need individual attention.
Indispensable Tools That Both Regular and Remote Workers Should Have Installed on Their Devices
- Multi-Factor Authentication
This authentication provides a strong additional layer of security.
- Password Manager
Besides multi-factor authentication, employees should also be using a password manager. With this tool in place, workers will not need to remember the different passwords for work-related accounts.
VPN connections are crucial when remote workers connect to unsecured networks, such as Wi-Fi hotspots. It is recommended that employees use the company’s VPN. The VPN routes the traffic through the internet from the business’ private network, ensuring even more security.
A firewall prevents unauthorized access to and from a network. This tool strengthens the security of the employees’ devices. A firewall monitors network traffic, blocking unwanted traffic.
- A Strong EDR Solution
The exact details of endpoints always need to be visible to system administrators. A complete endpoint detection and response (EDR) solution be deployed. It will allow the IT management team to remotely prevent next-gen malware, data leakage, respond quickly to threats, and automatically manage software deployment and patching.
Innovation and agility are needed to remain competitive when a crisis challenges future business success. Implemented properly, remote work is a safe and effective solution for the workforce and business. Yet, remote work comes with security risks that should be addressed and mitigated before employees work from outside the office. A seamless and multi-layered IT managed solution can protect against cyberattacks whether the workforce is on-site or remote.
For more information about managed IT solutions, contact Mobile Computer Services of Wake Forest at (919) 230-2900.