Maintaining Online Security as Remote Work Scales Up

8 July 2020

That an increasing number of companies are going remote is not a surprise. According to a 2019 report by Owls Lab, at least 16% of US companies are fully remote as of December last year. An additional 40% were hybrid, with a few tasks done at the office and the remaining work completed at home. 

Cheerful young female in casual outfit and glasses having video conversation with colleagues and sharing business ideas while sitting on couch in modern workplace

There are endless reasons for this migration. Remote work, for one, increases worker productivity. According to a March 2020 report in the Business News Daily, remote employees work 1.4 more days per month compared to their office counterparts.

The Cyber Security Challenges

Unfortunately, remote work also comes with additional and graver cybersecurity risks. The following are just a few challenges employers face;

  • Network risks 

Employees working from home either use wired or wireless private or public networks to connect to the office. And these networks can be secured or unsecured. A public, unsecured network exposes the office to multiple security risks. From hackers looking to break into the company to snipers hoping to snoop on some information, it becomes a rat race trying to keep these criminals away.

  • Asset management 

No matter the industry, the overall productivity and efficiency of any business depend considerably on asset management’s success. How well can the company manage business devices, data, software, and other pertinent resources? Unfortunately, remote work makes the management of these assets extremely challenging.

  • Data backup and recovery 

In the physical office, if there’s data loss or a hacking, management can step in quickly and deploy the company’s backup and recovery system to reverse the situation. But, what happens when everyone’s working from home? Many remote employees don’t have the resources to backup and restore lost data. In the worst case scenario, it may result in permanent loss of data.

  • Security training & sensitization 

Finally, unlike the office employee who’s routinely sensitized and trained in security protocols and regulations, such as the GDPR, remote workers rarely get any training. Office workers, for example, are regularly supplied with security patches and reminded to use strong passwords, something remote workers never get. It makes the remote worker an easier target for cybercriminals.

5 Tips to Boost Remote Work Cyber Security

You can improve the security of your businesses by taking steps to secure your remote workers, their devices, and their work. Here are a few things to do;

  • Invest in cybersecurity awareness 

The first thing you must do is sit your remote employees down and discuss cybersecurity in detail. You want to make sure that they know the warning signs, such as phishing emails, and how to treat such emails.

Make sure to warn the workers about the dangers of clicking unfamiliar links and opening attachments from unknown sources.

Another vital factor is network security. Always remind the staff about the need to connect to a secure network. For instance, help them understand why using a public network is bad and why Wi-Fi may not be safe either. Above all, make sure that these cybersecurity awareness trainings are an ongoing effort.

  • Assessing Cybersecurity Risks

One effective method of managing cybersecurity risks is through the use of Security Questionnaires. These questionnaires allow organizations to evaluate their current security measures and identify potential vulnerabilities.

By regularly conducting security questionnaires, businesses can stay proactive in addressing cybersecurity threats and ensure that their systems are adequately protected.

In addition to utilizing questionnaires, businesses should also implement a comprehensive risk management strategy. This includes regularly assessing and updating security protocols, investing in robust cybersecurity tools and technologies, and staying informed about emerging threats and best practices.

  • Secure the endpoints 

Endpoints are the points through which the user connects to the internet – points through which they receive or release data/information to the internet. The term, therefore, includes emails, apps, the cloud, and so forth.

Endpoint security is considered the last line of defense in cybersecurity and can take many forms ranging from software updates to using firewalls and antivirus programs.

Why is it vital to secure the endpoints? Well, according to The 2018 State of Endpoint Security Report, it takes 102 days to patch a security loophole in the operating system fully. It means that without securing the endpoints proactively, you risk exposing the remote employee’s devices and, by extension, your system to attacks for nearly four months when the existing loophole is eventually exploited.

  • Encourage VPN use

You’re probably wondering how a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can improve cybersecurity among remote workers. It’s easy. VPNs, at their most basic, ensure a secure tunnel between two communicating points. For a worker connecting to an office, the VPN tool would secure the connection such that no one from outside can see or interfere with the communication.

Security primarily comes from the fact that VPN connections are encrypted. It means that hackers and other cybercriminals cannot sniff the data traveling between the two communicating parties.

VPNs can especially prove valuable in situations where the employee has to use a public network or Wi-Fi.

  • Password and MFA management

For remote workers to work safely without putting themselves and the company in harm’s way, it’s also vital that they use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.

For passwords, some of the practices you want to stress include changing the password often. The recommended frequency is once every 60 days. Also, encourage the workers to have different passwords for different accounts.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) means requiring two or more levels of authentication to access an account. For instance, employees should enable MFA, such as a password and fingerprint scan, for their emails and social media accounts.

  • Issue company-controlled devices 

Finally, to beat cybercriminals, employers must also strongly consider providing employees with business-controlled devices and resources. For example, it would be a lot safer if your employees are provided with company-controlled laptops and business-issued apps and software programs.

There are two main reasons why. First, it shifts the bulk of cybersecurity responsibilities to the company, which is a much safer position than hoping for the employee to observe all the security measures passed to them. The company takes control.  

Additionally, it eliminates the risk that an employee acquires a faulty (easy-target) device or downloads and installs a compromised software/app. Above all, it eliminates the problem of mixing personal and work activities. The company-issued laptops and software can be restricted to work-only use.

Need Help?

NIX Solutions is a trusted provider of technology solutions for small businesses. We specialize in emerging tech solutions to help businesses increase efficiency and growth. Contact us today for additional advice and support on remote work and related security solutions.