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In the digital era, cybersecurity is critical for businesses of any size. As more business processes and operations are carried out virtually with the help of software tools, making company systems more secure is a top priority.
Working with a remote team significantly increases a company’s cybersecurity risks. With various people accessing internal servers from different locations, making sure that systems are protected at all times can be a real challenge.
Read on as we dive deep into the complexities of remote work security. After reading this blog post, you will know:
How remote working increases cybersecurity risks,
What the main cybersecurity risks are when working remotely, and
How to prevent remote work cybersecurity risks.
Cybersecurity encompasses all the actions taken by an organization to protect its data and systems against external criminal attacks that are carried out by a third party using the internet. In the digital era, cybercrime is growing exponentially. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that the global annual cost of cybercrime will reach $8 trillion USD in 2023.
All digital processes and systems are potential targets for hacker attacks, meaning that remote work increases cybersecurity risks for organizations. There are three main reasons for this. First, remote workers access systems and tools from different locations and devices, which increases the number of entry points hackers can use for attacks.
Second, security gaps widen the minute remote workers don’t adhere to company policies and start using personal devices for accessing databases and systems. Third, home networks often aren’t properly secured to keep hackers out.
In order to enhance remote work security, businesses first need to understand what the potential risks are. Remote-first organizations face numerous cybersecurity risks that can trigger different consequences on a reputational, financial and legal level.
The biggest security risk when working remotely is that hackers could access sensitive data and proprietary information. Whether it’s payroll data, customer details, or information regarding a new product, when data gets into the wrong hands, the consequences for the business can be severe.
Proprietary information and business ideas could be leaked to competitors, which could lead to serious financial losses. Leaked payroll and customer data, on the other hand, can lead to compliance issues and fines because data breaches represent severe infringements of data protection regulations, such as GDPR.
Also, if employee information is leaked, it can adversely affect employee trust and increase turnover costs in the organization. In addition, businesses that fall victim to a cyberattack face major financial losses due to system downtime, loss of productivity, and more.
Another cybersecurity issue that often receives media attention is when confidential emails or messages are leaked. When internal emails are leaked that contain derogatory remarks about customers, business partners, or employees, it can cause serious reputational damage.
Remote work cyber security risks and their consequences at a glance:
Leaked sensitive data can damage employee and customer trust.
Data breaches can trigger fines for non-compliance with data protection regulations.
Email leaks can lead to confidential proprietary information falling into the hands of competitors.
System outages can lead to significant financial losses.
Internal emails that become public can damage the business’s reputation.
Remote work security concerns both employees and employers. While it’s up to the employer to develop cybersecurity frameworks and strengthen security measures surrounding IT systems and databases, employees are responsible for adhering to company policies and following recommended best practices.
Here is a list of remote work cybersecurity tips to implement in your organization:
Developing a remote work cybersecurity framework: Secure remote working requires clear rules and guidelines that outline how to keep systems and networks safe. All these rules and guidelines should be summarized in a detailed remote work security framework.
Providing regular training on cybersecurity: Employees are the biggest threat when it comes to cybersecurity in an organization. That’s why organizing regular training sessions that focus on remote work cybersecurity best practices is crucial. Workers need to be aware of emerging cybersecurity risks to know how to protect themselves and the company they work for.
Using a VPN: A virtual private network (short: VPN) provides an additional layer of security in remote teams. When employees use a VPN connection for accessing company systems, the VPN masks their IP address along with other information about the internet connection that hackers could steal and use. The use of a VPN is also crucial when connecting to public wifi networks, e. g. when working remotely in a café while on workation.
Enabling encryption: Whether it’s a list with contact details from potential clients or information on payroll changes, all data exchanges between company systems and employee devices should be encrypted end-to-end.
Creating strong passwords: Weak passwords open the door for hackers to access systems and steal confidential information and sensitive data. Passwords should be unique and impossible to guess. They should be long and contain different types of characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Implementing two-factor authentication across all systems: Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security when it comes to accessing company systems and data. The electronic authentication method requires users to provide two different pieces of authentication when trying to log in to the system.
Providing employees with technical devices: One of the biggest remote work cybersecurity risks is when employees use their personal devices to connect to company servers and tools. In order to mitigate this risk, businesses should provide all their employees with laptops that are equipped with advanced security features. Regularly deploying automated security updates on all company devices ensures that systems stay up to date with the latest security features.
Installing security software: A strong security software is essential when it comes to protecting devices, systems, and networks from viruses, malware, phishing, and other potential cybersecurity threats. The software should be pre-installed on any device provided by the company. If employees use personal devices, employers should share software licenses with their employees and establish mechanisms for ensuring updates are carried out regularly.
Securing home networks: Very few employees have secured home networks. A secure internet connection is crucial for preventing criminals from hacking into the connection to steal confidential information. There are several steps employees need to take in order to make their home networks more secure, including setting a unique router password, updating the router to the latest version of the firmware, and enabling network encryption.
Strengthening security for different subsystems and tools: Remote work security encompasses two different layers. Businesses not only need to make sure that their entire ecosystem of tools, databases and applications is secured as a whole, but they also need to strengthen the security of each subsystem. This includes improving payroll security, checking the security measures taken by external service providers, and more.
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Cybersecurity in remote teams is difficult to manage because remote work increases the number of access points to company systems and databases that need to be secured, hence offering cybercriminals a larger attack surface. The use of unsecured home networks and employee personal devices are further risk factors to consider.
Businesses therefore have no choice but to strengthen their internal security measures to keep their data and systems secure. Taking these steps helps them avoid compliance issues as well as financial and reputational damage. The first step is to develop a detailed remote work security framework.
A remote work security framework should outline the different cybersecurity risks of remote working. It should also describe what behaviors employees need to adopt and what measures are taken by the company to ensure security on all levels.
Remote work security best practices not only include the use of VPNs, security software, strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and firewalls, but also cybersecurity workshops for employees to train them on potential security risks. Providing the necessary support to secure home networks and keep software and tools up to date is equally important.
With the necessary precautions, businesses can ensure cybersecurity for their systems even in a remote set-up. In order to get there, raising awareness of the different risks among employees should be as high a priority as strengthening the security standards of IT systems.
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