How To Stay Secure While Working Remotely

Companies all over the US have their employees working from home for the foreseeable future (schools have also shut their doors).

The problem?

Most organizations have not implemented work from home plans that consider cybersecurity threats introduced in a work from home environment.

With social distancing from COVID-19, comes a greater threat to your organization’s cybersecurity.

Criminals are ramping up tactics taking advantage of those who may have inadequate security planning or policies—particularly for remote workers.

Cybercriminals have already started to focus on remote workforces, recognizing ease of attacks and greater opportunities in targeting remote workers.

Even though remote working is not a new concept, the rapid migration from in-office to at-home work likely has led to a lot of last minute policies and strategies.

Your employees are moving from working on a network that is secure to largely unsecured WiFi networks, no firewalls and multiple areas for distraction, all increasing their exposure to malicious network and phishing attacks.

COVID-19 attacks have been ramping up.

Cybersecurity experts continue to see an influx of cyberattacks related to the COVID-19 epidemic. More specifically, they are seeing and have concerns about what will happen when masses of employees begin to work from home by request of their employers.

Attackers are already leveraging coronavirus-themed attacks as panic about the pandemic continues throughout the US. These attacks include coronavirus information laced with malicious software. Some of these malicious attacks are taking screenshots of your work computer, downloading files and stealing passwords and sensitive documents.

One clear example of coronavirus-related attacks?

The World Health Organization (WHO) even released a press release recently exclaiming that attackers have been impersonating their organization in emails and with spoofed websites—the WHO emphasized to be extra cautious when evaluating requests from their organization.

In general, attackers are looking to deliver their attack. They are pushing out emails, applications and other links to sites that appease to our urgent need for updated coronavirus information.

In the chaos ensued by coronavirus—as in other times of disaster—it is easy to become forgetful when it comes to security, especially for those of us in an entirely different work environment at home than what we’re typically used to in our daily grind.

When working from home, you might get more distracted than when at work—especially if you are normally used to sitting in an office. You may get tempted to check personal email or browse the web—even on your break periods.

If you end up modifying your cyber behavior at home, you may be putting your employer and colleagues at risk. By clicking that interesting link about new coronavirus data, you may infect additional devices on your home network, but more important could be the gateway to your work network going offline.

What to think about with your remote teams?

Lack of IT resources at homes is one big concern for cybersecurity experts and strategists. When workers are sent outside of their normal perimeter—the firewall and protections typically keeping them and their data safe on the network—there are many new open challenges that might leave your organization more vulnerable to attacks.

Have they secured their home WiFi?

Are they actually using a company-issued computer?

Are they ascribing to your Acceptable Use policy when at home?

When thinking about all the questions to ask, realize that your network now includes THEIR homes! Is your security program ready for this?

If you do not normally deal with telecommuting, you might be less prepared than most.

Especially in highly regulated industries—banking and healthcare for example—you might be dealing with large masses of sensitive data that a remote worker may need access to, but by granting easy access, puts your organization at risk.

When workers requiring sensitive information continuously are put in a remote environment and are limited in how they can access that information, you need to ask whether those employees are actually productive enough to be remote.

In many industries, you may also use systems, devices, or software that are rarely updated or legacy systems that may pose a threat if accessed remotely. As you’ve hardened machines running older operating systems, security analysts question their access from outside your office doors. When dealing with critical systems that are older and harder to maintain, experts warn remote access might entirely put your network at risk—or at least segmented portions where those devices or machines are connected.

So… If you have a remote workforce in place today, what are some best practices to consider?

  1. Take a step back and make sure your workforce is prepared—the first step that an organization should do in a normal situation is go through a tabletop exercise with key decision makers as to how to audit remote work within your organization.
  2. Inventory business applications, identify mission-critical software and identify what work can reasonably be done remote, what can’t and how to address remote working across divisions of your organization.
  3. Identify what specific roles need in order to do their jobs remotely. This likely varies role to role or department to department.

 

One thing is for sure—you will likely need greater capacity VPN connectivity into your office. Before changing how things are done, you will probably want to test or validate that your VPN connectivity is good enough for remote workers (or the necessary volume to accommodate remote work within your organization).

  1. Have employees take a risk assessment of their home environments. Make sure that they each have secure WiFi (i.e., that they have found out how to secure their connection so that it is no open for everyone to connect to), have appropriate materials and are reminded of social engineering threats and distractions that put remote workers at risk of cyberattacks.
  2. Make sure to catalogue what devices are approved for remote work—especially connecting to your network and be clear with each employee as to what is expected of them and their usage of those devices when assigned to work remotely.
  3. Review what software will require employees to come into the office. Another big consideration is on-premises software that may require special licensing or applications that will not be accessible by a VPN connection.

Bottom Line: make sure your staff is comfortable and knowledgeable about working from home. From a security standpoint, make sure everyone is up-to-speed with the latest info on coronavirus—you may want to enforce a ‘No social media” policy during working hours to eliminate distractions and risks of coronavirus-content. And keep reminding your workforce that scammers are looking to take advantage of their fears and weaknesses. Remind them to stay vigilant and question links sent in emails and coronavirus-related information.

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