Ted Schlein, a leading investor in cybersecurity and enterprise technology, once said, “There are only two different types of companies in the world: those that have been breached and know it and those that have been breached and don’t know it.”
Over 16% of all companies are 100% remote, and 62% of all workers claim to work remotely occasionally. Regardless of how it came about, the workplace environment has gone through a transformative digital restructuring over the past few years.
The benefits are plentiful, and the climbing statistics show that working from home is the ‘new normal.’ But at what cost? Well, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that employers can save over $11,000 per year per employee. But it’s not always blue cloud-based skies, and the security risks associated with remote work can cost organizations more than they bargained for.
Information security and security compliance are paramount in running a successful business, whether you’re in-office or remote. But certain areas may increase the risk of data security breaches for remote employees.
To ensure you’re implementing the necessary safeguards to protect your business, here’s everything you need to know about remote cyber threats (and how to stop them from happening).
The 6 most common cyber security threats when working from home
Any good defense strategy starts with knowing who the enemy is. According to IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, organizations with more than 50% of their workforce working remotely took 58 days longer to identify and contain breaches.
So, before we can truly get into security best practices, we must understand what businesses should protect themselves against.
Common cyber security threats may seem obvious, but they aren’t always easy to spot. Feel like something’s phishy? Here’s what remote workers need to look out for.
1. Unsecure networks
Working remote requires two key elements, a device, and an internet connection. But how trustworthy is that internet connection? Accessing company data on an unsecured network allows cybercriminals to access confidential information and steal sensitive data effortlessly.
2. Malicious malware
Malware has one purpose, to gain unauthorized access to your computer system. It includes any software that disrupts your internal processes or information. It wears many disguises but usually comes from a harmful link or attachment. Once a user clicks on the link, the installation process begins, and malicious software makes its way into your system.
Once the malware installs, it has a few core goals. It can block access to vital network components, install additional viruses, obtain information from the hard drive, and make the entire system inoperable.
3. Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks occur when a user interacts with the ‘bait,’ which usually comes shaped as an email or other forms of communication. If the user interacts with any prompts or instructions received from the phishing communication, the threat proceeds to steal sensitive data and financial information or install malware.
4. Cloud misconfiguration
If you’re working remotely, the word ‘cloud’ is part of your daily vocabulary. Alongside ‘please grant access.’ The cloud is an essential part of technology to enable the efficient and productive flow of work and information between colleagues. However, organizations can easily become cyber targets without the right security and access controls.
Misconfigurations include any gaps within the cloud that could expose your organization to cyber threats such as hackers, ransomware, malware, or security breaches. Misconfigurations and mismanaged access controls have caused 65-70% of all security issues in the cloud.
5. Unencrypted files
Although many companies implement security through encryption, there is still a margin for error when files transfer between people. If an organization shares unencrypted files between team members, there is still a chance that cybercriminals can access private information and use it to extort an individual. File encryption ensures that in the unfortunate event of a device being compromised or stolen, the files are still inaccessible without the correct authorization.
A MITM attack refers to when hackers enter a two-party transaction. They do this by interrupting traffic and then continuing to steal critical data. These attacks commonly occur due to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Attackers can insert themselves between the user and the network and function as the “middle man” to achieve their objectives.
The cyber-security risks are vast, and organizations don’t necessarily have the time or resources to constantly micro-manage their remote employees. So, how can an organization ensure that they are implementing the proper safeguards and controls to ensure security compliance when working from home? Here are our top 12 tips.
12 ways to safeguard your data when working remotely
The most effective strategy is cultivating a security-conscious culture amongst all remote employees. However, to help create a data security mindset, there are a few practical measures you can implement as an organization.
Implement a security policy
An intentional and proactive security policy is one of the most effective ways to ensure a security-conscious workforce. Safety standards and controls are too critical to be left up to interpretation, which is why each organization should create its own security policy that employees, whether in the office or remote, must follow to implement information security best practices consistently. These policies form the framework for smooth processes for managing day-to-day tasks, specific safeguards tailored per the job description, and the required protocol in the event of a security breach.
5G is the new VPN
Virtual public networks (VPNs) work very similarly to firewalls. They mitigate any risk associated with connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and are commonly recommended as the security safeguard of choice. However, even VPNs are not as stable as once believed to be. Although they still remain effective, they have numerous risks if the network is configured poorly.
5G ensures more effective connectivity and security, specifically for remote workers. This is due to many contributing factors, the most significant being that 5G has built-in encryption through internal anti-tracking and security features.
Request multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires a user to go a step beyond simply providing a single password. This includes time-based one-time passwords to add a layer of security to your information data.
Update your programs and systems
Remote work is made possible by a few trusted tools and sidekicks. For example, various task-management platforms help teams manage their day-to-day tasks such as collaboration, time-tracking, project management, and communication.
But this software is also not foolproof. Even the most reliable software, if not frequently updated, can have viruses or bugs. This opens the door for hackers to steal critical data or enter a system unauthorized. Program updates include updated security features and additional security measures to improve overall software reliability.
Invest in security training
Ultimately, your team is your first line of defense regarding data and information security. Without the required security awareness training, negligence and human error will always prove more potent than even the most robust security system. Therefore, security frameworks consider frequent security training pivotal in understanding and implementing the correct safeguards and protocols.
Multi-device security software
Remote workers are fluent in the art of flexible work and task management. However, this often requires multiple devices to access workplace tools and systems. To ensure overall security, implement up-to-date firewalls, anti-malware, or anti-virus software on all devices, including mobile.
The Least Privilege Principle
Large organizations implement what’s known as ‘least privilege access.’ This follows a need-to-know approach and ensures that each account only has access to the files and information they need to fulfill their role. This significantly reduces the risk of security breaches and adds an extra layer of security to the most critical information.
Beware of video conferencing
Popular video conferencing software has addressed security concerns regarding cybersecurity attacks known as “video-bombing.” This refers to unauthorized and uninvited persons accessing company video calls. This can potentially leak sensitive information or a hacker’s unwarranted presence on personal calls. In response to these threats, the FBI released a list of security controls to implement to ensure safe video conferencing. This includes:
- Using the paid version of the software for more advanced security features
- Requiring a password entry
- Controlling guest access from a waiting room
- Ensuring all meetings are private
Keep devices separate
Many organizations allow remote workers to work from personal devices. However, these are often both work and personal devices, increasing the risk of information threats. It’s best practice to separate personal from work devices to ensure that employees don’t jeopardize any company data in their free time. This also includes limiting access to employees and not allowing family members or friends to access a work device.
Enable automatic locking
Remote workers are masters of multitasking. But the issue is that devices are often left unattended while working from home, in coffee shops, or in other locations.
Automatic locking ensures that whenever the device is not active, it’s still protected. Most devices have default auto-locking features, although it’s helpful to double-check and tailor it to fit your schedule and environment.
Invest in a password manager
Although it might not be easy to admit, most people use the same trusted password for multiple devices, accounts, and tools. Unfortunately, this poses a huge risk, as in the event of one security breach, multiple accounts are compromised. A password manager ensures that you create, implement, track and securely share passwords that are unique for each platform.
Consider a security framework
A security framework such as ISO 27001, SOC 2, or HIPAA ensures that an organization complies with the highest security standards. This allows peace of mind and reassurance that there are little to no security gaps or risks within the organization. Security compliance also bolsters an organization’s reputation around security. It shows that they are taking a conscious, proactive, and intentional approach to information security as opposed to frequent damage control.
Which frameworks are best for your organization’s security compliance?
Knowing the right security framework for your business is the first step to ensuring that your business implements the correct security controls and safeguards to protect and benefit your company best. However, understanding the different security frameworks can be challenging due to an abundance of tech jargon, intricate requirements, and the changing regulations of each. To help you get started, here are three important security frameworks and a brief overview of each:
SOC reports stand for Service Organizations Controls. A SOC 2 report specifically, gives a detailed assessment of an organization’s security controls, processes, and their correct implementation and operating effectiveness. It’s guided by the Five Trust Principles and allows businesses to showcase their exemplary security systems, increasing trust and loyalty amongst other businesses and clients.
Download our SOC 2 Bible for everything you need to know about SOC 2 compliance.
ISO 27001 is an international security standard that dictates managing critical information security. The framework specifies how to create, manage and implement a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS) within an organization.
For more on ISO 27001, download The ISO 27001 Bible here.
HIPAA compliance is a federal law that requires specific entities to comply with rules and regulations on how they safeguard, share and obtain protected health information (PHI).
Confidently compliant with Scytale
Although InfoSec compliance is critical, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Through convenient automation, we ensure that every security standard and safeguard is intentionally implemented to secure industry-specific compliance. Take a look at what some of our customers have to say about getting compliant through our automation tool.