The recent global pandemic forever changed the way people work. These days, more and more people are working remotely, but much of that remote access technology is exposed to external threats.
The move to online working has provided tons of new opportunities for cybercriminals looking to exploit unsecured technology systems.
This, in turn, has resulted in an increased need for integrating security technologies into remote workspaces to secure communications and transfer of private employee, business or consumer data.
If you have remote workers, then you need to pay extra attention to securing the technology your workers are using.
With that in mind, here are 10 ways you can maintain cybersecurity for your remote workforce.
1. Set Up and Communicate Remote Work Security Policies
Whether or not remote work is a new practice for your company, you need to set standards, processes and expectations for your staff.
Your first step is to set up and communicate remote work policies with all your employees.
There’s no point in having robust remote work security plans if no one in your organization knows how to follow or enforce them.
Remember, many employees don’t work in security, and many others have never worked remotely before which means that without the proper guidance, they will not have the necessary knowledge to appropriately respond to a security incident or unethical data breach.
So, review information security policies to see if there are already established security guidelines in place for remote work in your organization.
If there aren’t any relevant plans or policies in place, you can then set about creating basic guidelines to address remote access to the information systems in your company.
You can also include things such as employee use of personal devices for company business and various other topics that are discussed in this article. This will help to prepare your workers in case of a cyberattack.
Make sure your remote work security policies flow down to all workers. Make all documents and resources easily accessible and update them as necessary.
2. Use Encrypted Company Emails
Your second step toward securing your company’s communications and transfer of data is to use encrypted company email accounts, such as ProtonMail, instead of services like Gmail.
Encryption is a tool that is used to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of your data on any company or personal device.
The process mitigates all risks posed by stolen or lost devices, which means that even if criminals gain physical access to any of your remote employees’ devices, the data will still be protected from unauthorized access.
Your company needs more robust endpoint security rules, particularly if you allow employees to access email via their personal devices.
Whenever possible, furnish employees with licenses for the same email solutions used on company-owned devices to ensure continual security in company communications, regardless of which device they use.
As an additional measure, you can also encrypt sensitive information including personnel, financial or medical records that are stored or sent on remote devices.
When using email marketing software to communicate with remote team members, clients, partners or other stakeholders, make sure the software is properly encrypted for secure communications between you and the email recipient.
3. Secure Collaboration Channels
This is one of the most basic areas to address when securing your remote workspace. Secure your collaboration channels to ensure that your information remains within the company and not out there in the wild where it could potentially be used for nefarious reasons.
With so many workers using cloud-based and SaaS apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. for collaboration, it’s important for organizations to secure these platforms through identity and access control, as well as the encryption of data.
Hackers view these platforms as an opportunity to infiltrate the networks of enterprises in order to gain access to company data.
After all, many of these collaboration platforms were not built with enterprise-level security in mind, which means you’ll have to take additional steps to ensure the safety of your communications in transit, as well as the safety of your data on users’ devices and in your network.
4. Create Company-Wide Guidelines for Social Media Use
Social media is another area you should focus on to help you shore up your remote work cybersecurity posture.
These days, hackers can target you via social media ads. This means that while social media can be a fun tool for your employees to unwind and collaborate, engage with customers and share your company values as trusted nano-influencers, it also poses a threat to your organization.
Fortunately, you can educate your employees on how to use social media safely to help protect them and your company data.
Here are a few tips to assist you in that regard.
Train Your Employees
All your workers should undergo mandatory security training each year to ensure that they are aware of the constantly changing cybersecurity risks they face while online.
Cybercrime is an ever-present threat that can impact your workers in their professional and personal lives.
Enroll them in training to help them understand the threat landscape and also encourage them to develop good cybersecurity habits that will protect them (and you) from these types of threats.
Such training may sound expensive, and it can be if all of the materials are created in-house. However, you can radically reduce variable expenses by outsourcing creation of the training material.
While you can hire a firm to do that, you can also find a wide variety of great educational material on popular online course platforms — many of which include learning management systems for business training purposes with a vast library of informational material about security technologies that are relevant for remote workspaces of all shapes and sizes.
When posting to your accounts or deciding who to allow into your network, it’s important to always use social media with caution.
For example, you may think that a tweet about when your boss will be away is an innocent one, but a determined hacker can use this information to commit CEO fraud.
Protect Your Endpoints
Endpoint security will help you protect all your devices (laptops, desktops, mobiles, tablets, etc.)
If your employees need to use social media as part of their jobs, an endpoint solution will help you prevent threats and improve your security online.
Employees should also know not to let strangers into their network, click on links or download attachments, as these things can open them up to higher risks of cyberattacks.
5. Address Authorization and Authentication
This is yet another way to prevent malicious parties from gaining control of telework employee devices to steal sensitive data or gain access to the enterprise network.
Employers should first determine which of their workers need access to the company’s entire internal network, and which ones may just need access to email, cloud-based services, etc.
While having the right access to work applications is critical for the success of remote workers, not everyone needs access to everything.
You should ensure that your company has effective identity and access management practices that will help automate remote workers’ ability to switch to the appropriate access technologies and methods.
You can implement least-privilege access, which means that you grant only the minimum necessary permission required by a user, application, system or service task to perform the assigned job.
This will help reduce the risk of your data being exploited without actually impacting the workers’ productivity.
The required use of multifactor authentication will ensure that only authorized users have access to the company’s full network or cloud-based services.
Remember to ensure that your company has a solid firewall and passcode protections in place for accessing internal systems.
6. Supply Company Devices
The number of users logging in remotely and those connecting to SaaS and cloud-based apps is on the rise.
And with that increase, the attack surface expands which means many organizations suddenly find themselves faced with exponential increases in the number of endpoints.
This situation creates the type of chaos that adversaries are eager to capitalize on.
One way to mitigate this type of risk in your company is to supply devices, such as cellphones and laptops, for work use only.
Make sure they are equipped with proper security technologies, including firewalls, encryption and restricted access to NSFW content.
With employer-provided devices, you can monitor employees’ remote work practices. And since the potential for mischief and data abuse is heightened in work-from-home environments, you’ll be able to stay on top of things to ensure that no data breaches are caused by your employees.
7. Regulate Personal Device Use
Ideally, employees should only access the organization’s internal network on employer-provided devices under the IT team’s management.
However, there are some situations where companies have no choice but to allow workers to use personal devices to get their job done.
And there is no shortage of remote work scams that your employees need to protect themselves from.
Even without BYOD practices in place, people may still use their personal devices for work.
The longer people are out of the office, the more probable it is that they’ll use their personal devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) to conduct company business.
If employees are using their personal computers and laptops for work, then it’s important to regulate the use of these devices.
Keep in mind that the use of personal technology in a work setting that involves sensitive information is one of the biggest security risks for your organization. Employees might save important documents to their smartphone, laptop, or desktop, or they might send drafts to their personal email.
If they don’t have robust password protection or up-to-date antivirus software, then there is an increased risk of being targeted by cybercriminals.
Furthermore, if the employee’s device is stolen, lost, handed down or sold to a third party, they may unintentionally expose sensitive company information which could result in huge problems for your business.
In such a case, it may be a good idea to consider limiting the employee’s ability to store, copy or download data on personal devices.
You can also set controls on the use of USB drives and other external devices.
This will ensure that sensitive company information cannot be downloaded or saved to cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox or the employee’s personal device.
8. Use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
When people are working from home, that traffic flows over public networks. That’s why it’s so important to ensure network security to keep your company’s communications and data safe.
Some workers may use unsecured public Wi-Fi when working from home. This is inadvisable when accessing the company’s internal network, and it’s something that employers should discourage.
If workers are logging into their personal Wi-Fi network, it’s important to ensure that it is set up securely and has a strong password.
It’s a good idea to use VPNs so employees can maintain and to and data encryption while working remotely. This will help to prevent man-in-the-middle cyber attacks from remote locations.
Additionally, employers should frequently patch their VPNs using the latest security fixes to maintain continuous security.
9. Educate Employees about Phishing in Malware Campaigns
Communicating with your workers about malware campaigns and phishing is yet another layer of protection you can add to keep your company safe against the ever-rising threat of cyber attacks.
Remind your employees to be suspicious of email messages that come from unknown sources. They should never click on links or open file attachments from people they don’t know.
Stress the fact that cybercriminals often capitalize on the current chaos as businesses try to transition to remote work.
That’s why remote workers should exercise extreme caution with any emails that ask for their credentials or any other sensitive work-related information.
10. Provide Vigilant IT Support
Another way to help keep cyberattacks at bay is to provide vigilant IT support for all workers.
There are many things your IT team can do to help maintain security for your company, including helping remote workers to audit their home environments and conducting IT security tests to find common vulnerabilities to be addressed.
For example, there are continual disclosures about vulnerable IoT (Internet of Things) devices and your IT team can help employees take appropriate action to secure devices with strong passwords, update software to the latest version, etc.
You can also get your tech staff to install monitoring apps to scan home networks for potential security threats, such as outdated software, weak passwords, and other vulnerabilities.
With the massive increase in the number of users who connect to a company network and access sensitive data from their home computers, it has become more important than ever before to secure your remote workspace.
An influx of workers shifting to remote work, combined with an expanded attack surface due to additional endpoints created by the shift, means that there’s a much higher likelihood of cyberattacks.