The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the way we work. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, many businesses were forced to quickly transition their employees to remote work. This sudden shift to remote work increased cybersecurity risks for companies.
The reasons why remote work can increase the risk of a cyberattack are not always the ones you might expect:
- Remote workers often use their own devices and networks, which may not be as secure as a company’s corporate network, to access company data.
- People working from home may be less aware of cybersecurity best practices—such as using strong, unique passwords. They may not watch out for targeted phishing attacks. or avoid clicking on suspicious links.
- Workers outside the office are often more likely to connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks and forget to use VPN software, making it easier for hackers to access their devices.
- The company’s IT team may find monitoring and managing remote workers’ activity and security configurations more challenging, making it easier for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities.
In a recent survey, 60% of businesses said they had experienced a security breach since their employees started working remotely. And the average cost of a data breach is now over $4 million.
So, how can businesses mitigate the security risks associated with remote work? Here are a few tips:
- Implement strong security measures like multi-factor authentication, data encryption, and VPNs.
- Provide employees with company-owned and secured devices with secure access to company data.
- Provide all employees with regular security training, educating them about cybersecurity best practices and the company’s cybersecurity policies and procedures.
- Provide all employees with password managers and instruct them to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication.
- Encrypt sensitive data at rest and in transit.
- Monitor and manage remote workers’ activity and security configurations continually.
- Have a plan for responding to cyberattacks.
By following these tips, businesses can help protect themselves from the increased security risks associated with remote work.
Additional Problems with Remote Work
There are many other common problems with remote work, some of which can also heighten security risks:
- Communication and collaboration challenges—It can be hard to stay connected and collaborate with colleagues when you’re not in the same physical space.
- Distractions—Remote workers may be more susceptible to distractions like household chores, children, or pets. This can interfere with productivity and also make them more likely to fall for phishing scams and socially engineered attacks.
- Isolation—Remote workers can feel isolated and disconnected from their colleagues and the company culture. This can cause them to become lax with standard company security policies and practices.
- Lack of boundaries—It can be challenging to separate work time from personal time when working from home. Consequently, workers can begin to short-cut or ignore routine security procedures.
Solutions for Mitigating the Risks
Businesses can mitigate the risks associated with remote work in some relatively straightforward ways:
- Invest in communication and collaboration tools. There are several tools available that can help remote workers stay connected, collaborate, and feel part of the team. These tools can include video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software.
- Set clear expectations and boundaries. Setting clear expectations for remote workers regarding their work hours, availability, and communication is essential. Businesses should also encourage remote workers to set boundaries between work and personal lives.
- Provide training and support. All workers require regular training on using and following the company’s policies and procedures, but remote workers especially need this. Businesses should also provide support to remote workers who are struggling with the challenges of working from home.
By taking these steps, businesses can help reduce their cyber risks and ensure that remote work is a safe and productive experience for their employees.