Is Remote Work Safe from Cyberthreats?
While remote work options have tremendously increased in the past two years, IT departments are scrambling to stay ahead of the accompanying wave of heightened cybersecurity risks.
Many employees love the convenience and flexibility of remote work. But the potential of an IT staff’s loss of tight control on a business’ infrastructure, coupled with more relaxed employees who don’t have any idea what phishing scam is, presents ideal opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.
A recent study from Help Net Security surveyed 1,000 business leaders at small/medium-sized enterprises and determined that 77% of them believe remote work poses a great cybersecurity risk to their business.
Many employees both from small and medium-sized businesses expect some form of remote work option. But business owners know that they could be opening themselves up to greater risk to make that option available. Thankfully, there are several steps a business can take to significantly reduce the threat of risk exposure while keeping employees happy with ongoing work-from-home options.
Let’s examine some of the primary threats, along with steps that can help mitigate them.
Don’t’ Get Sunk by Phishing Schemes
Phishing emails, text messages, and private messages on social media networks are sneaking through even the strongest filters to trick employees into interaction.
Hackers target employees with malicious links embedded in carefully crafted phishing emails or messages. Upon clicking, employees unknowingly download keylogging software onto their PC, providing their credentials to cybercriminals. Hackers can then freely access important business assets and data, all while masquerading as a legitimate employee.
So how do businesses defend themselves against phishing messages? Companies can employ one or more of three categories of business email filters: hardware spam filters, software-based spam filters, and cloud-based spam filters. Each of these types uses a variety of methods for separating spam and malicious messages from genuine email communications. When set and functioning correctly, advanced spam filtering for small business use typically blocks more than 99% of spam emails and 100% of messages containing known malware.
It’s best not to put your total trust in these filters, though, as phishing methods are constantly evolving and becoming even more insidious. Educating your employees on ways to discern what emails might be phishing, as well as what steps to take if they receive a suspicious email, is essential in your preventative practices.
Be Aware of Trouble Brought by Unencrypted File Sharing
Companies may have encryption policies for data stored on their networks. However, they may not consider encryption on data in transit between systems. That includes third-party cloud file-sharing services and email solutions. With your employees sharing so much sensitive information on a daily basis (e.g. client account information, proprietary product information, and more),our business simply cannot afford to not secure this information from being intercepted by a hacker.
Your IT department needs to take measures for sensitive data to be encrypted when it’s sent over email or phone. Regarding email encryption, Outlook, a popular email platform, has features that can convert plain text emails to scrambled ciphertext. With this, only the recipient with the key can decrypt the message. You can also use email encryption platforms to secure email attachments, contact lists, and more.
A secure file-sharing platform such as Dropbox and OneDrive has a feature that encrypts data from end-to-end. Additionally, most VPNs include end-to-end encryption options, though the specifics may vary by deployment.
Insecure Home Wi-Fi Can Become a Threat
Small businesses may be prone to forget about the security situation of their employees’ personal networks, specifically, their home WiFi networks. They actually often disregard securing WiFi and even its updates and maintenance.
Hackers seek to exploit those routers that have security gaps due to lack of updates. Likewise, password settings on a home WiFi router can lead to a false sense of security for remote employees. But, since most people don’t change the default passwords on their routers and neglect to change their WiFi network’s password regularly, a password-protected home router may still be an easy target for an opportunist hacker.
The easiest solution to protecting a home WiFi network is to change the default WiFi password and update it regularly. Also, anonymizing the WiFi network name is a more secure option, especially for remote workers living in urban areas where many networks are available. Don’t include personal or other identifying information in the name. That only makes it simpler for a hacker to know who it belongs to. Your IT department should also advise remote employees to enable network encryption on their WiFi routers, such as WPA and WPA2.
Additionally, if your company has the budget for it, consider providing each employee with a firewall to better secure their home’s WiFi.
Your IT department needs to add several essential and evolving protocols to keep your business network safe while employees are working at home. At deskside, we built our company around a remote workforce culture. Our founders were pioneers in enabling work from anywhere at deskside and prior. While this may be a new frontier for your business, it’s been in our DNA for over a decade. Put our security-minded approach to remote access solutions to work in helping your organization capture the many benefits of remote work. Stay competitive, all while countering risks to your network integrity.