In the recent past, remote work has become a common practice throughout the world. Many employees regard this as a flexible option since they get to work from places where they are most comfortable.
Although working remotely enhances the work-life balance and employee productivity, there is a downside to it. There are real cybersecurity threats with remote work, which put your organization’s data at risk.
A recent report published on Forbes indicates that remote employees pose a greater risk to your company’s IT infrastructure than onsite employees.
Almost every organization has employees who work remotely from time to time. This includes those who go on business trips and those who regularly work from home. Now, due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are seeing more and more jump to the remote work bandwagon.
Here are some common cyber risks associated with remote work and what you can do about it.
Access to Sensitive Company Data Through Unsafe Networks
When employees work remotely, chances are that they use their home wireless networks or public Wi-Fi to access their corporate accounts. It’s easier for malicious actors to spy on such connections to harvest sensitive information.For instance, if data is sent in unencrypted form as plain text, cyber criminals can easily intercept it. Therefore, your remote workforce should avoid using unknown Wi-Fi networks to access their corporate accounts. If it’s a must for them to use unsecured networks, they should consider using a VPN connection to secure their data.
The Use of Personal Devices for Work Purposes
Many remote employees admit to transferring files between personal and work computers when working from home. This is a worrying practice since personal devices are never secure. Therefore, you should be aware of the risks of allowing remote staff to use their personal gadgets for work-related projects. For instance, if a remote worker leaves the company and holds on to sensitive data stored on his/her personal device during employment, you won’t be able to erase it.Furthermore, not everyone keeps the software on their devices up-to-date. This creates vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to access corporate data stored on the devices of remote workers. Your IT team might be committed to applying software patches on company-owned devices, but the same cannot be said of personal devices that employees use when working remotely. Discourage employees from using their personal devices since you cannot control whatever happens on their endpoints.
Apart from the temptation of using personal devices when working remotely, employees can also introduce shadow IT. This is the use of unauthorized software and systems instead of those that have been approved by the IT department. Often, employees do this because they want to use apps, systems, or programs that are most convenient to them. However, this creates room for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. Employees should only use approved programs, apps, and software when working remotely to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
VPNs have become a lifeline for companies that have remote employees. Unfortunately, home networks that are infected with compromised hardware and malware put the entire company’s network at risk. Therefore, they can easily get manipulated and used to stage attacks via devices with VPN termini. Even with a strong and active VPN in place, it’s crucial to undertake endpoint integrity checking besides implementing strong authentication measures and perhaps consider alternatives to traditional VPNs.
Data Can Get Weaponized
In the past few years, cybercriminals have been increasingly taking advantage of human weaknesses to perpetrate their acts. For instance, hackers recently developed a malicious mobile app purported to be a legitimate WHO (World Health Organization) app for those looking for COVID-19 updates. Upon installation, the app downloads a banking Trojan, which it uses to steal sensitive data. Any vulnerable person, including remote workers, can easily mistake this malicious application for a legitimate WHO app.Such attacks are essentially used to weaponize information since they work with apps that provide legitimate benefits. Remote workers are more likely to succumb to such attacks compared to onsite employees. Your IT staff can easily flag such programs before onsite employees download them. Nonetheless, you may not have control over the programs and apps that employees download to their devices when working remotely.
How Can Remote Employees Work Safely?
In today’s digital landscape (and during the COVID-19 crisis), your organization will inevitably have employees who work remotely. Although remote workplaces are at more risk, you can stave off most of the threats that your employees face. Before taking measures to protect your data, it’s imperative to audit your network and the work-from-home strategy. This will give you an idea of how to handle crucial aspects of cybersecurity. Here are some simple measures that you can take to safeguard yourself from cyber threats when working remotely:
- Use strong passwords
- Set up firewalls
- Use two-factor authentication
- Secure your home router
- Use VPN software, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks
- Be on the lookout for phishing emails and websites
- Encrypt your data
Remote work is the in-thing in the corporate world. Nonetheless, organizations have little or no control over what employees do when working remotely, something that puts corporate data at risk. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to secure your organization’s network and data when employees work remotely.