Remote Working & Cyber Security

COVID-19 has transformed how companies operate today. With 50 percent to 90 percent of staff working remotely, organisations are now looking at remote work as the new working style in the future. While working remotely has its benefits, one of the biggest challenges it presents is cyber security problems. 

Remote working has a lot of benefits, including increased productivity, improved employee mental health, and reduced costs in office space. But it also has its challenges. Your remote employees may be unknowingly putting your company's data at risk. Working from home can potentially lead to data breaches, identity fraud, and a host of other negative consequences. 

For many businesses, remote working has become a normal practice. Working away from the office had been on the rise for the past few years, but many organisations were pushed to begin embracing it from March 2020.Since then, businesses have solved teething issues like remote collaboration and a lack of equipment. But what about the security implications?

Remote working brings with it a new set of cyber security challenges. We already know that your employees are your weakest link when it comes to your IT security and 95% of security problems start with human error. Cyber security education is vital to ensure that your remote working policies are followed closely .Remote working can blur the lines between business and personal life. That means employees could slip into bad cyber security habits, for example, using work devices for personal tasks and vice versa.

A survey by IBM found that over half of remote workers use a personal device to carry out their work. Business data is more likely to be compromised on a personal device, especially if people external to the business are using it. Employees won’t have business-grade security solutions installed on their personal devices and, with no IT supervision, they may have unknowingly installed malware or bloatware.

This isn’t a risk only associated with home working, but it’s amplified in this setting. Phishing emails in the UK significantly increased by over 600% during the start of the Covid virus. The attacks used widespread awareness of the subject to trick users into handing over their log-ins and financial information, and/or unwittingly downloading malware to their computers.

Phishing emails have become so sophisticated that it is increasingly becoming harder for employees to detect them, especially when phishing emails make it past email filters straight to an employee's main inbox.

Cyber criminals are also taking advantage of the pandemic itself. The study found that a lot of phishing emails were Covid-themed, capitalising on widespread fears about the virus. Some scam emails are impersonating the World Health Organisation (WHO) and it has now issued fake email guidance. Education is vital to avoiding falling victim to an email-borne cyber-attack. By empowering your employees to spot the signs of a suspicious email, file, or link, you’re strengthening your first line of defence. You can educate your staff in many ways, from mandatory training courses to tools which simulate phishing attacks. 

UK workers are also reckless when it comes to software. A fifth (20 percent) don’t install updates for collaboration and video conferencing tools, such as Zoom or Webex, and a quarter (23 percent) admit they do not update software installed on devices connected to their home WiFi network. Two thirds of workers haven’t received any formal training on how to stay safe when working from home, while only a third of businesses have established cybersecurity policies for remote working.
A strong cyber security defence includes strong password policies, however, this can often be overlooked or even put aside for most employees as something ‘to do later’. Sometimes their passwords might also not be strong enough to fight against cyber hackers.

Cybersecurity is a critical component in remote working. Employees need to ensure that they are following the guidelines to work from a remote location safely. Since remote working is going to become the new normal, cybersecurity will take the frontier in configuration and setup for remote employees. Cyber security should always be a high priority for businesses, but it takes precedence for organisations with a high percentage of remote workers. Only By putting effective training and the right security measures and in place, can you improve the chances that your remote workforce won't compromise the security of your business.

WHO:     Data Center Dynamics:       DZone:    Infosecurity Magazine:    ITProPortal:   SOS Can Help:     Image: Unplash

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