What started as a temporary change in 2020, soon became a remote working revolution. Despite a hastened exit from offices, businesses adapted quickly and made remote work models a fundamental part of workplace culture.
In the light of the remote revolution, remote working has taken on even greater importance, enabling the modern workforce to change their lives, develop a healthier work/life balance, improve productivity and retention, save time while commuting, and, most importantly, work from anywhere, wherever that might be. At the same time, employers are enjoying cost savings not having to pay for physical office space and better flexibility by tapping into a diverse talent pool when hiring new talents.
Although working remotely provides numerous benefits, it also creates several risks and challenges that businesses have yet to overcome. A few examples of IT security risks include data breaches, ransomware, phishing scams, spoofing attacks, fake alerts, and handling sensitive data.
In this new work environment, businesses have to approach their cybersecurity model differently and uniquely.
The challenge now is not only to keep remote workers productive and engaged but to provide a secure work environment through establishing tested and proven security practices.
Establishing tested and proven security practices, educating your remote talents about all dangers, keeping your remote workforce safe and secure, are just a few of the things you should keep in mind when you implement data security in the remote work environment.
This post aims to instruct freelance workers and entrepreneurs about the security risks and best practices and offers tips on how to secure remote access while working from home.
Top Remote Working Security Risks
First and foremost, remote work can be your biggest threat to your network’s security.
When the team is working remotely at scale, it presents new challenges to cybersecurity with an increased risk of malware incidents, data breaches, and even coordinated phishing attacks. This makes security everyone’s responsibility.
To get a clear understanding of the possible security solutions, we need to first outline the risks of allowing employees to work from home.
The most common remote work security issues companies should be aware of are the following:
Unsecured Personal Devices & Networks
Everyone from freelancers to full-time remote employees uses unsecured devices, operating systems, and networks for both work and non-work purposes. As a result, they’re more vulnerable to threats that are less common in the office environment. Other aspects of working remotely such as personal laptops or Wi-Fi setup can also put sensitive data at risk.
For cybercriminals, remote working means more opportunities. The growing number of inexperienced users working from home has caused a huge expansion of phishing attacks. Another issue is that people working remotely are less likely to follow corporate procedures like cybersecurity measures.
Rather than cracking sophisticated corporate-owned software, cybercriminals will try to exploit inexperienced users who safeguard their accounts with weak passwords to access sensitive company information.
Repeat passwords are another risky practice that hackers exploit. Once an account is cracked, they will try to access other accounts that use the same password.
To prevent that, businesses have to create a system of regular, forced password changes for their remote workers.
The top cyber threat is email phishing scams. In 2019, individuals and businesses lost more than $3.5 billion from phishing schemes. Cybercriminals who specialize in phishing trick a victim into providing sensitive information, including personal login credentials, banking and credit card information, which can be used to hack into accounts, steal more sensitive data, carry out identity theft, etc.
Another common insecure practice is Zoombombing, in which hackers use hijacking threats to spread malicious content.
Weak Recovery Systems
Having a reliable backup system and a team of cybersecurity experts can save your business. The best defense is a good offense.
8 Best Security Practices for Remote Working
Is your team currently remote? Are you looking to make the transition to remote working in the future? Here are some tactics you can take to protect your company’s data and secure your team no matter the location.
- Have a Clear Cybersecurity Policy & Offer Training
If your team works remotely, you must implement new strategies to ensure your company data is always secure. This is why having a cybersecurity policy at the workplace is a must.
First, make sure any device that remote employees use is equipped with firewalls, antivirus software, and spam filtering tools. You might even consider investing in a management platform so that you can easily (and remotely) wipe them of any sensitive data if the device is lost or stolen.
Cybersecurity training is the next step as it will help remote employees be aware of the threats. Without a proper strategy and training, your remote workforce can easily become an easy target for cybercriminals to hijack your business’s network.
To prevent this from happening, consider having quarterly training sessions to keep your employees informed on threats and their responsibilities during working remotely. Draft a policy document that will set clear rules and security protocols you expect from your employees to comply with:
- Whether employees are allowed to use personal devices during remote work
- Whether employees are allowed to install non-work related software on corporate-owned devices
- How employees should report suspected attacks
- Opt for Strong VPN Connections
Virtual public networks (VPNs) are similar to firewalls and provide three main benefits:
- Allow employees to access resources remotely
- Provide encrypting connections
- Enable access control for corporate networks
Simply put, VPNs are security tools for remote employees that create secure connections over the internet by encrypting data.
- Embrace Cloud-Based Solutions
More so now than anytime in history, cloud-based solutions are available to small and mid-sized businesses and not only to large, enterprise organizations. A large array of service platforms like Office 365 and QuickBooks Online offer 24/7 access and easy-to-use business solutions with updated security features that are compliant with industry best practices and regulations.
- Use Data Encryption for Digital Security
Data encryption, in cybersecurity, is an essential privacy safeguard where a company’s sensitive data is encoded and can only be accessed by a user who has the correct encryption key.
Simply put, encryption is the process of converting data into code or ciphertext. Only those who possess the cipher can access, decrypt and use the data. By using data encryption you will not only be able to protect your company’s data confidentiality but also add a layer of security for your remote working team.
- Use Passwords Managers
According to a survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Center, the most common passwords are “123456”, “111111”, “qwerty”, and even “password”. So it’s important that you require employees to use unique passwords as this can help you ensure sensitive data safety.
Weak and reused passwords are a major risk to your remote business model.
The only way to keep track of everything is to use password managers.
Popular password managers include:
- Apply Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a remarkably effective practice in preventing security breaches.
Using two requirements for login instead of one (e.g. using credentials like username and password in combination with either a secret question or pin code) will make it hard for malicious hackers to access your company’s security networks and systems.
It’s like adding an added layer of login security protection.
- Help Employees Secure All Devices
Speaking of the remote work model, many companies have a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy. While this method is great for many reasons, it also may cause security risks.
For true security, require your remote team to use employer-provided devices. Plus, give employees the tools they need to secure their network, assess vulnerabilities, and monitor attacks. Some common monitoring and management services include:
- Make Sure Internet Connections Are Secure
That doesn’t mean your employees can’t work from their homes or neighborhood coffee shops. Instead, make it clear to your remote talents that working in public spaces will require the use of your company VPNs to secure connections.
Businesses have learned many lessons since the remote revolution took its course. Remote working might be the next big thing for their company and teams, but there are risks.
When working remotely, being secure and staying professional go hand-in-hand. That’s why it’s essential to bring remote work security to a whole new level and make it an integral part of your workers’ training and workplace culture.