The rapid advancement of technology has brought about many changes in the way we do things in life.  One of the major areas of such change is our work sphere. Gone are the days when jobs were meant to be carried out from a desk at an office space. The advent of modern technology has made remote work very common. Many companies are now offering remote work to its employees worldwide. However, while transitioning employees to a remote work environment, organizations need to be especially mindful about cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is critical to your business success. It is an especially important point of consideration when your organization has to transition employees to remote work during times of disruption. In other words, cybersecurity is an integral part of BCP or Business Continuity Planning.

If your organization is setting up a remote working environment for your teams, then certain concrete steps can be taken to ensure that the best cybersecurity practices are followed. In this article, we explore these steps in detail.

1. Secure Connection

One of the biggest risks incurred by remote workers is through the use of insecure, public internet systems. The usage of public Wi-Fi is perhaps one of the most common modes of cybersecurity attacks. However, despite the risks, remote workers are known to use these services in large numbers.

In fact, research shows that as much as 61% of organizations’ employees use their company-provided devices on public Wi-Fi systems like in a café or a library.  Even poorly set-up home Wi-Fi systems are also at risk, especially with a network that has multiple smart devices connected. Thus, the first pertinent step that organizations need to take while transitioning employees to remote work is to ensure that proper IT hygiene w.r.t to network connectivity is maintained.

The most effective way to ensure that is through the implementation of Virtual Private Network or VPN usage. VPN allows users to connect through a secure network, thus minimizing the cybersecurity threat considerably.

2. Other Security Measures

In addition to having a secured internet connection, other measures can be taken to prominently reduce the chances of a cybersecurity breach. These measures are as follows-

  1. Use of company-provided devices– It is crucial that remote workers use company-provided devices to minimize risks of hacking. In cases, where companies have a BYOD policy, the devices must be thoroughly checked and updated before being cleared for usage for work purposes. It is often considered prudent to not store sensitive official information on personal devices.
  2. Two-factor authentication– This is essential for remote working as it adds a layer of verification. Two-factor authentication can be provided through SMS or by using hardware tokens.
  3. Cloud for data storage– This one is already a widely adopted practice. Storing all information on the cloud allows organizations to manage all the data cohesively and secure them appropriately. The same level of security cannot be provided for information that is stored in local systems and devices.

3. Malware Prevention

Now, another aspect of remote working is the absence of face-to-face interactions. That necessitates the usage of various apps and software to enable workers to have meetings and discussions related to work. Organizations have to rely on conferencing and collaboration mechanisms from service providers like Slack, Zoom, Cisco (WebEx Teams) and Microsoft Teams.

It is crucial for organizations to carefully decide and opt for validated technologies in order to prevent the chances of malware. Enterprise versions of software services can be pricey at times, but they are the necessary investments that need to be made to prevent cyber attacks.

4. Protection of Endpoints

It is not enough to have company- provided, secure devices for your remote workers. It is also equally important to manage the security of the software applications and operating systems that run on these devices. Organizations often lose valuable time in addressing a software vulnerability by searching for a suitable patch for the issue. Cybersecurity attackers take advantage of such situations and often move laterally through a venerable system and steal away key assets. And often, breaches like these go undetected for a long time.

Hence, proactive measures must be taken to avoid such scenarios. The easiest way to manage this risk is to make sure that all software is updated and maintained in the current version. If software patches are available, then those must also be done immediately. Tools like malware scanners and firewalls are also a must for added protection.

For advanced protection, breach and attack mechanism simulation software can also be implemented to understand the existing vulnerabilities in the system and address them accordingly.

5. Training and Corporate Preparedness

Finally, all the above can be only effective if employees are made aware of the best practices and know what they need to do in times of doubt. Here are the pertinent points that address the employee training and corporate preparedness to ensure cybersecurity in a remote work environment-

  1. Employees must be trained and educated about the various ways they can face cybersecurity threats while working remotely. Security awareness training can be carried out to make employees aware of how hackers can launch phishing attacks and know how to react in order to tackle such a scenario.
  2. Employees must have access to key critical resources on best practices.
  3. Remote support must be made available to all the employees to address if they have any concerns or questions.
  4. A Business Continuity Management System and Framework must be put in place. Companies need to be appropriately insured in case a breach happens that incurs in losses.
  5. Disaster recovery processes and mechanisms must be part of corporate preparedness. These are essential in scenarios where systems shut down or become unavailable due to the loss of utilities like power.
  6. Evaluation of data management and protection strategies and contingency plans to identify any potential gaps in the system and address them in advance.

The Key Takeaway

Most businesses in today’s world need to be prepared for allowing remote work to their employees, especially during times of disruption. In general, it is always a good idea to have the required processes and systems in place to tackle cybersecurity threats. However, they become especially important when your organization is transitioning employees to a remote work environment. In those cases, following the aforementioned steps will help to considerably minimize any potential threat. These practices will also ensure that there is a specific process in place to tackle a threat, should it occur. It is also a good idea to have appropriate insurances in place in order to have the necessary protection against any cybersecurity attack.

At Harris Insurance, our experts are here to help you with your required insurance service- be it commercial or personal. Contact us today to learn more about our services and know how we can help you with your insurance needs.