The benefits of a distributed, remote workforce are plentiful for organizations. From low costs to improved employee wellbeing, it’s easy to see why many companies are planning to let their employees work remotely even after the pandemic ends.
However, remote working also presents unique cybersecurity challenges. As employees communicate and collaborate across different cities, states and even continents, they share sensitive data across a myriad of devices and applications – many of which might not be secured adequately. This creates an environment that is ripe for data leakage and theft which, in turn, can lead to compliance fines and reputational damage.
The security cost of working remotely
To help you understand more about the issue, below are the top 4 security risks of remote working.
- Exposure to phishing and social engineering tactics: Phishing emails are a tactic used by cyber criminals. They send a fraudulent message intended to trick the receiver into handing over sensitive information, or ask them to click on a link that deploys malicious software. These attacks aren’t new, but they’ve risen in prominence over the last year, as cyber criminals took advantage of new ways of working.
- Potential loss or theft of devices: Working from home can also mean working from a coffee shop, the local library or even on the train. As well as the risk of connecting to unsecured WiFi networks, there’s also the possibility that an employee could lose their laptop or phone – and all the sensitive data on it.
- Poor password practices: Many employees today still prefer the ease of using a simple password for multiple platforms. While this may be convenient, it also leaves sensitive data at risk. If just one password is exposed in a data breach, or a cyber criminal is able to guess it, then all of the files and data the employee has access to could be stolen.
- Rise in shadow IT usage: Outside of the office, employees communicate, collaborate and work completely in the digital realm. They are sharing vast amounts of data every day – some of which is highly sensitive – via tools like Slack, Teams, email and more. For the IT team, it can be difficult to keep track of this continuous movement of data, and it’s even more difficult to secure it.
Remote Work IT Threats Are on the Rise
Plugging the gap: how to secure remote teams from data leaks
With compliance fines, reputational damage and loss of business all at risk from a data breach, it’s imperative that companies get a handle on remote working security. Here’s how to do it:
- Improve password practices: Password policies can encourage employees to take responsibility for cyber security. You should implement pass-phrases as a rule and include a clause that prevents employees from using personal information in their passwords.
- Educate your people: It’s important to drill in security best practices by delivering ongoing, digestible cybersecurity training to your employees. Ideally, you should look for a solution that integrates training into the daily workflow, as opposed to a one-off, annual course. This will improve the likelihood of employees changing their behaviors.
- Use VPNs to connect remote workers to the network: Think of VPNs like an access tunnel between your employees and the corporate network. They encrypt data and prevent malicious actors from accessing sensitive information.
- Deploy data loss prevention (DLP) tools to secure sensitive data: DLP is a common tool used to ensure data security. In highly regulated industries, it is required to meet compliance standards. DLP works by analyzing, inspecting and encrypting data both at rest and in motion – be it sent or received in messaging applications, end user devices or the cloud.
Overall, if your company plans to continue remote working as life returns to normal, it is imperative that you review your remote working practices and implement the right technical solutions. By being proactive about cybersecurity, you can ensure that your data stays secure – no matter where your employees are.