Companies of all sizes are now working remotely from their usual workplaces. The importance of securing the technology that remote workers are using is constantly increasing. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic changed industries to the core. It is also implementing a great number of new opportunities for cybercriminals to take advantage of unsecured technology systems, overworked information technology (IT) staff, and struggling employees, who are new to the concept of working from home. Remote-access technologies are, therefore, exposed to more external threats.
The following question arises: are all mobile workstations and access points adequately secured to ensure smooth and secure access to internal corporate data?
Although remote work now plays a significant role in our daily work lives, very few technical and organizational security measures are taken to adequately protect people and businesses against attacks.
The trend toward working from home brings benefits for companies and employees, but it also creates additional security risks. The general insecurity of people and inadequately protected computers and networks that are used and accessed remotely, provide a perfect attack surface for cybercriminals. You’ve probably read various recommendations on IT security over the past year. However, some of them are not immediately obvious.
Working from home is likely to become the new norm for the majority of workers worldwide. As a result, organizations are facing a new set of security challenges. Both companies and employees are trying to make sure everyone is connected and able to work remotely. This often leads to IT security taking a back seat.
With many employees working remotely and needing to connect quickly to a variety of devices and SaaS services, the number of vulnerabilities that organizations could face is increasing. There are several important points that should be considered to ensure that the security of the processed data is not compromised:
- Location-independent working offers new attack surfaces for criminals. Companies or IT departments have significantly less control over the networks and end devices used remotely by employees.
- Employers should therefore protect themselves legally, for example by obtaining written confirmation from employees that data protection guidelines will also be adhered to outside the regular workplace.
- It is also essential to raise awareness among all employees of the dangers that arise in connection with working from home.
Helpful tips ensuring IT security
How can individuals ensure greater security when working from home? Both employers and employees should actively work to maintain the company’s IT security when working from home. Increased home office work also places greater responsibility for IT security on employees. This is because measures that can be centrally regulated in the office are not necessarily established at home. Below are some important tips on how to achieve this.
1. Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) is a network via which participants can connect securely, even if they are physically separated from each other. Unlike the home network, the devices are not physically connected (by a network cable or Wi-Fi).
Via a private or public network, data is transmitted in encrypted form through an IP tunnel between the user’s terminal device and a gateway in the company network. Through the VPN server, the end device is logically part of the company network, even if it is physically located elsewhere.
2. Get an SSL certificate
In order to keep customer information private and secure, companies are advised to get an SSL certificate for their websites in order to enable safe online transactions.
3. Use a Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
Multifactor authentication (MFA) is an account security method that requires a user to prove their identity in two or more separate steps. MFA can be used to secure login procedures and verify transactions.
4. Establish a Mobile-Device-Management (MDM)
An MDM involves integrating mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets into an enterprise network and protecting sensitive data. It refers to the centralized management of mobile devices in enterprises, government agencies, and other organizations and must accomplish the following two tasks: Ensure security and optimize functionality.
5. Make regular updates
Performing regular updates increases security. Software updates can also include new or improved features or better compatibility with different devices or applications. They can also improve the stability of your software and remove outdated features. Automatic software updates are an important part of good, professional IT security and close important security holes in your system.
6. Contact qualified service providers
For companies that prefer to leave their IT security in the hands of specialists, it is highly recommended to contact qualified external service providers. Companies and institutions should not be afraid to accept external help in the event of IT security incidents.
When we work remotely, we can work from anywhere in the world. That can be from home, but also, in a post-pandemic future, from a coffee shop or other public place. At least in theory. That means your employees need to be able to access their corporate accounts while connected to Wi-Fi networks with weaker security layers, such as their home Wi-Fi and/or even public Wi-Fi.
Nearby hackers can then spy through the shared network connection and gain access to sensitive information. To avoid this, your employees should be instructed to only access unknown Wi-Fi networks when using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection.
Further tips for both IT departments and employees
- Carefully review collaboration tools before incorporating them to mitigate security vulnerabilities.
- Don’t reuse or share passwords. Recognize the impact of this bad practice.
- Deploy technology that automates the detection and prevention of compromised credentials.
- Educate about the risks on the home network.
- Ensure that not every device and service opens the organization up to a variety of IT security risks. This includes devices and services that belong to the rest of the family, including those of children. And don’t overlook IoT devices.
- Watch out for phishing scams as cybercriminals try to exploit work from home. Skype and Zoom are starting to become popular phishing lures.
Key Considerations for Cybersecurity During Remote Work
The following table outlines the considerations given to various security aspects when working remotely:
|Ensuring people use secure channels such as VPNs as well as multi-factor authentication
|Prevent unauthorized access while using endpoint protection (encryption, antivirus, firewalls, etc.)
|Strict policies regarding the handling of data and the use of encryption
|End-to-end encryption at the very least, as well as training to prevent phishing and similar cyber threats
|Explain the importance of physical locks and a safe work environment
|Implement tools to track network movements and regular audits to spot vulnerabilities
|Ensure clear instructions are given on how to respond during an incident and what to prioritize when reporting
Common IT Risks Associated with Remote Working
Remote working brings with it a certain amount of risks, mostly technical and cybernetic in nature, which we have discussed below:
- Expanded attack surfaces: Remote working adds to an organization’s vulnerabilities as it has many more endpoints.
- Lack of personnel: Due to an overwhelming demand but a shortage of competent people, remote working can delay the necessary security arrangements due to a lack of personnel.
- Outside the purview of the security staff: Remote working does take some of the system access, traffic, and data outside the security of the organization. By association, it is outside the purview of the security staff.
- Bad practices: Human error also plays a role in such IT risks, especially when people inadvertently download sensitive information on their personal devices, which is easy to hack.
- Cyberthreats: Remote workers are more prone to cyberattacks such as phishing.
- Unsecured network: Despite using VPNs on the native device, there is no guarantee that the remote worker’s internal network is much more secure than the enterprise’s.