The COVID-19 pandemic may or may not be waning; its status seems to change daily, even a year after its start. However, many of the changes to daily life that came about as a response to the pandemic seem to be here to stay. Perhaps the biggest one is the tremendous shift for many organizations to a remote working or hybrid workforce model.
With vaccinations on the rise and positive cases dropping in some areas, many employers are embracing a hybrid workforce or one where employees spend part of their time at their remote locations and part in the office. And while there are cybersecurity challenges no matter where your workforce is based, the hybrid model introduces some unique concerns. The following best practices can help keep your organization’s data more secure in a hybrid working environment.
Implement VPN Connections:
Whether working from home or in the physical office, your employees need to remain connected, and they need to access many digital resources to conduct their tasks. A VPN creates a secure tunnel from a home office to the digital resources of the company. In the absence of a VPN, secure data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and company-owned data, can be intercepted and leaked.
Privileged Access Management (PAM):
Many modern companies have advanced infrastructure architecture that can include resources located on-premise, in a data center or office building, or on a public or private cloud. Additionally, some resources may be provided by Software as a Service (SaaS). Privileged access management ensures that no matter where the date or resource is located, it is secured and only accessible by those who need should be allowed. It allows access above and beyond a standard user – but only when necessary for business operations. It can incorporate multi-factor authentication to further increase security.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):
MFA is truly one of the best, easiest, and least-expensive cybersecurity measures you can implement. It takes the standard password requirement for log-in and combines it with a secondary requirement for identification, often biometric data, additional knowledge, or the use of a known device, such as a smartphone or tablet. MFA ensures that nobody will be able to access protected data, networks, and platforms even in the event of a password breach. Many companies are adopting this as a standard log-in protocol for employees regardless of where they may be working on any given day.
Home Security Measures:
When employees work from home or another remote location, they must be maintaining security best practices, even if they are only there part of the time. Professional devices should only be used for working purposes. Headphones and a microphone are also essential if anyone may be able to listen in on sensitive conversations.
The home internet router introduces a major vulnerability, too. Its password should be long and strong as this device is crucial for working from home. If a hacker is able to breach the home network, they will be able to access personal and professional devices – and steal valuable data.
In addition to a strong password, you can create best practices for employees to shore up their home network’s security. Default router administrator credentials are often common knowledge, so changing these is a great first step in preventing an attack. Savvy users may also want to create a different subnet for work to be conducted, providing another layer of safety from any nefarious access or malware that hits the network.
Conduct Routine Digital Security Training:
It’s common knowledge that most data breaches originate from employee activities. Up to 66% of cyber breaches are caused by employee negligence or malfeasance. Whether intentional or inadvertently, there are many opportunities for employees to provide sensitive data to hackers. Usually, these attacks can be prevented when employees have sufficient training to recognize a potential attack’s warning signs. Training that is specific to both working environments in a hybrid workforce is crucial.
While some types of attacks – such as phishing – look the same regardless of location, employees should be educated on unique threats when working from home or traveling. This type of training can serve as a crucial reminder of how to store devices and limit access, further preventing the risk that data or access can be compromised. When training leads to changed employee behavior, the risk of a cybersecurity breach can be reduced by 45% to 70%. Having employees recognize the signs of phishing, malware, or ransomware attack is the first step in stopping these attacks in their tracks.
In addition to the stepped-up measures listed below, it’s still always a great idea to utilize existing network resources, such as encryption, firewalls, and antivirus software. Encryption ensures that any intercepted data will remain secure since only the intended recipient should have the decryption key. This way, if a hacker does get a message containing sensitive files, it will be useless to them and won’t compromise your organization’s data.
Antivirus software can detect, isolate, and delete malicious files, which keeps your computer and network safe from many attacks that you don’t even see. While antivirus software is an effective way to thwart many of these attacks, it can go out of date easily. When employees work from home, it may take more effort to keep this resource updated, but it is worth it in the long run since it will continue to protect your network and data from evolving and emerging threats.
Firewalls can allow wanted connections to be established while blocking all other connections. When the ports are closed, it can prevent unauthorized connections and contribute to your network’s safety.
Evolving as Needed
While hybrid working environments present a host of new challenges for cybersecurity teams (who have been forced to evolve rapidly already), it’s a crucial aspect of maintaining a safe and secure data ecosystem amid the fluctuating circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Without proper security measures, your company may be vulnerable to a costly cyberattack or data breach. Since proper cybersecurity in a hybrid environment contains so many variables, it may be a great idea to consult with the a managed IT service provider at Sagacent Technologies to learn more about keeping your data and network safe.
Sagacent Technologies offers technology management and support, including proactive/preventative maintenance, onsite and offsite data back-ups, network and security audits, mobility solutions, disaster planning, and emergency business resumption services. The company serves clients of 10 to 150 employees within the Silicon Valley region.