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The Critical Role of Cybersecurity in Protecting Remote Workers and Business Assets

December 17, 2021 No Comments

Featured article by Jeff Broth

tattoo 300x199 The Critical Role of Cybersecurity in Protecting Remote Workers and Business Assets

During the early days of the pandemic, the business community scrambled to find ways to prevent closing their offices. Finally, after some time, they settled for a work-from-home scheme to allow most of their employees to continue working and keep their businesses alive.

As organizations quickly adapt to the remote working situation, cyber actors likewise adapt their strategies rapidly.

The pandemic forced most IT administrators of various organizations to expose apps for internal use to the public internet. They had to do this so that remote workers could access these apps. While it is necessary, the situation opened new courses of vulnerability to an increase of cyberattacks.

The current state of cyberattacks

While the pandemic continues, cybercriminals are escalating their attack activities on web apps. However, according to some tech experts, some attacks are not institutional hacking but caused by people with too much time on their hands and knowledge to install and use basic tools for hacking.

Considering the increased attack surface brought about by remote working, it is incumbent upon businesses and IT managers to utilize tools and implement strategies that will mitigate the risks of cyberattacks.

This can include providing adequate training, so that users will be educated enough not to fall victim to social engineering attacks such as phishing, spoofing, and the like. It can also include deploying a WAF or web application firewall, which can provide additional access controls and protection for a company’s digital assets like business applications and company data. One other strategy is to tighten the controls in terms of which devices can access business data, instead of allowing employees to utilize their personal devices.

Perils of remote access by work from home employees

Working remotely became the new normal as it is the most convenient method to keep on working and continuing business operations. Most employees are now used to the setup. What became a big concern is that remote workers unintentionally put their organization’s data and networks at risk.

There are so many devices and tools vulnerable to hackers, including unsecured Wi-Fi connections. In addition, employees can leave their computers unattended. You cannot discount the fact that many employees will most likely not have adequate technical skills. This combination exposes the company and the employees to various cybersecurity risks.

Companies and organizations thought that the pandemic would reduce the number of cyberattacks. But the opposite happened, as cybercriminals used the health crisis to explore vulnerabilities in network security.

According to Interpol, the most common attacks are malicious domains that include the terms covid 19, covid19, corona-virus, and coronavirus. These domains are legitimate and registered, and the criminals are creating thousands of similar sites each day to increase their campaigns to spread malware, phishing, and spam campaigns. Another type of attack they use is spreading malware, Trojans, and spyware to mask their hacking activities, which Interpol said were embedded in interactive coronavirus websites and maps. Spam emails became rampant, too.

Employers must use all the security measures to protect their networks and the apps that remote workers access. Because the situation requires online access, it is vital to have web application firewalls deployed to beef up cybersecurity.

Cybercrime is already a profitable and thriving industry. Cybersecurity Ventures reports that cybercrime will have a 15 percent growth each year, and by 2025, it can reach US$10.5 trillion. A security app firm states that during the start of the pandemic, cyberattacks increased by 500 percent. The average ransom payment in 2020 is around $200,000.

Protecting work-from-home employees.

Understanding the threats to remote workers means IT administrators will have tools to protect them and their companies effectively. Cybersecurity is critical. With the current health crisis and the new work setup, it is essential to extend cybersecurity to remote workers and their devices.

Even if they opt for the more recent hybrid work arrangement, meaning they divide their workweek between home and office, they will still bring their personal devices to work, increasing security risks.

Since the work-from-home systems are likely to stay, it means that companies have to face the threats head-on to ensure that they can protect their confidential information. There are several options businesses can take to help them prevent cyberattacks in hybrid work environments.

Opt for company devices

The devices you have at work, such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops, have an additional layer of security because they are issued by the company and assured by your IT department. The vulnerability comes from the personal devices that remote workers use, since most do not have protection. Another source of vulnerability is connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. You can protect your network and your employees by getting them to use company-issued devices.

Control access permissions

Easy to miss are the permissions given to numerous employees to access the resources, applications, and systems. With the advent of remote working arrangements, you should check the employees granted access and have a more definitive access and user management, including limiting access to fewer staff members, preferably those in higher positions.

Provide cyber awareness training

Although employee training is often recommended, cyber awareness training is often overlooked. Employees may boast of their tech skills, but most of them are not aware of security threats, as they believe it is the department of IT staff. You should have clear policies regarding the use of different types of networks and devices and conduct frequent cybersecurity awareness training to keep their knowledge up to date, preferably monthly or quarterly. In addition, your staff should understand the current types of cyber threats, learn how to identify them, and what they should do in case of an attack.

Avoid sharing critical information through email.

Make it mandatory for employees to avoid sharing information over emails because they are not encrypted. Likewise, institute policies to limit the use of instant messaging, emails, and chat messages to share vital information that can adversely affect your data security.

Continuous review of data logs

Employees working from home must frequently access corporate data storage. Therefore, you should periodically review access lists and data logs to immediately check for unauthorized access, allowing for the timely reporting of attacks.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi

Another thing that you should make mandatory is preventing work from home employees from using public Wi-Fi networks, since they will be accessing work-related emails and logging in to official accounts to access company information. In addition, public networks are not secure, and cybercriminals are quick to deploy various methods to access employee information from an unsecured internet connection.

Conclusion

The work-from-home ecosystem is more vulnerable, according to security experts, because cybercriminals can find more access points. Ensure that you establish stricter security protocols and regularly educate your employees about common errors they can commit so they can help reduce the number of security breaches. Equip your employees with the right tools so that they can be your company’s frontline defense against cyber actors.

 

 

DATA and ANALYTICS , DATA SECURITY, SOCIAL BUSINESS

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