With as much as 44% of U.S. workers working from home for five or more days per week, there’s a buzz around remote work software applications, such as video conferencing and messaging tools. However, not all businesses have considered the associated security implications.
Security experts predict a 30-40% rise in cyberattacks due to increasing remote work operations. But only 22% of small businesses report providing their employees with cybersecurity training to enable remote working. Without adequate security controls, the chances of your business falling prey to cyberattacks are quite high.
Let’s discuss some of the top security threats you might encounter when shifting to the remote work model.
Home networks aren’t as secure as office networks. Attackers can exploit the vulnerabilities in employees’ home wireless networks to infect your business network with malware. Providing secure remote access to employees is one of the key challenges faced by employers, and almost 55% of business leaders feel that remote access security needs to be improved.
Malicious websites and apps
When working remotely, employees are likely to visit potentially malicious non-work-related websites or download apps that can compromise business systems and sensitive client data. According to a report, file-based malware and malicious attacks have increased by 20% and 8%, respectively, since the surge in remote working.
Remote workers are more susceptible to phishing attacks, which pretend to provide essential information, such as how to contact helpdesk support, but instead distribute malware, steal credentials, and scam users.
Companies tend to ignore or downplay the possibility of a cyberattack, forgetting that a single attack is sometimes enough to disrupt an entire business. Follow these four steps to tide over security risks as well as build a strong IT security architecture for the future.
Evaluating your IT security preparedness is the first step to building a strong security foundation. Conduct security assessment exercises to identify vulnerable devices and data and their associated risks.
Security audits also help identify unauthorized or potentially malicious applications installed by employees, weak network points, and systems that are likely to fail. Based on these findings, you can create robust IT security policies as well as plan cybersecurity investments.
Check out GetApp’s security assessment template to identify potential risks, evaluate existing controls, and implement new controls.
Remove the gaps identified in your IT infrastructure by adopting relevant security tools. Use the following software tools to implement secure remote work policies:
Endpoint security software: This software helps protect network servers and end user devices, such as laptops, desktops, and mobile phones, by detecting and blocking malware and malicious traffic. It scans files that enter the network as well as those that are downloaded on individual systems.
Endpoint security solutions offer antivirus protection, integrated firewalls, email gateways, web browsing security, encryption, patch management, and centralized endpoint management to ensure network and device security.
Virtual private networks (VPNs): A VPN secures online activities by encrypting the data transmitted to web servers. Without a VPN, the data sent over the internet is open and vulnerable to hacking.
Make VPN compulsory when employees are remotely accessing the intranet, confidential business information, client data, or any other in-house applications.
Multifactor authentication software: Passwords are one of the weakest links in the security chain, with 63% of data breaches linked to weak or reused passwords. Multifactor authentication software provides an extra layer of security by making it mandatory for employees to use passcodes or biometrics besides passwords to log into their accounts.
Use authentication software to generate passcodes/soft tokens, or opt for hardware-based solutions, such as RSA tokens. Software-based authentication tools are more affordable and easier to implement.
Educate your employees about security threats and the precautions to be taken. Send weekly or biweekly emails outlining the best practices for employees to follow. Here are some guidelines that you can share with your employees:
Patch systems on time: Encourage employees to patch their systems as soon as an update is available and avoid using the “snooze” or “remind me later” option. Patching systems regularly ensures that they are up-to-date against the latest malware and viruses. Use patch management tools to send regular updates to employee devices connected to your business network.
Use strong passwords and change them regularly: Ask employees to change their device passwords every three months (recommended period). Set criteria for creating strong passwords, such as not reusing previous passwords, adhering to a minimum length, and using special characters. Also, remind your employees to frequently change their router passwords. Use password manager tools to facilitate and manage this process.
Be vigilant of phishing and scam emails: Train your employees to identify phishing emails, messages, and scam calls. You can send simulated phishing emails to test how vigilant your employees are. Check out these tips to prevent business email compromise and spear phishing attacks and free resources to build an effective security awareness training program.
Don’t download unauthorized applications: Downloading shadow IT applications can lead to potential security issues, such as malware attacks. Implement software restriction policies, and make it mandatory for employees to check with their managers before installing any third-party applications.
Don’t connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks: Remote employees often log into work devices or applications using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. These networks are unencrypted and can expose business data to hackers. Advise your employees to use personal hotspots rather than connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.
Share this remote work security checklist with your employees to help them adhere to the required security guidelines.
Considering most businesses will be in “remote work mode” for a long time, it’s advisable to revisit your security policies regularly to ensure that they are up to date with the changing threat landscape.
Conduct periodic security assessments, update your IT security software and hardware, and train your employees on cybersecurity best practices. You can also talk to your security vendor or managed security service provider (MSSP) to see what other measures can be taken to improve the security posture of your business.
Businesses are exploring the possibility of adopting the remote work model for an indefinite period. But before you decide to head in that direction, secure your IT infrastructure.
Assess your remote work security posture and invest in the right software tools to strengthen it. Delaying this decision will only make you more susceptible to cyberattacks. Visit our IT security software directory to check out the top software options available on the market. You can also read user reviews to learn from the actual experiences of real buyers.
*Top-rated software tools are products that are rated the highest in their respective software categories by GetApp reviewers as of June 2020.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.