Remote work has become increasingly common, with at least 70% of the global workforce working remotely at least once a week.
Organizations that have remote workers face different cybersecurity threats than on-site employees. In a recent study, Open VPN reported that 90% of IT professionals believe remote workers are not secure. And with this increase in remote work, inevitably, it makes it more challenging for businesses to secure it’s growing network, posing added risks to the already complex challenge of cybersecurity. These risks include public WiFi, lost/stolen devices, and malware.
One of the biggest risks associated with remote workers is the risk of employees connecting to untrusted, public WiFi networks. Working from coffee shops, airports, etc. is extremely common, making them a target of cybercriminals.
On public WiFi, employees suffer from a range of cyber threats. Since WiFi traffic is broadcast using wireless signals, anyone who intercepts these signals (and has the WiFi password) can see the traffic. While HTTPS traffic may be encrypted, attackers can glean a great deal of useful information by observing unencrypted traffic like DNS requests. Cybercriminals can also take advantage of their location on the same network as remote workers to scan for vulnerabilities and spread malware.
In addition to public WiFi, when remote employees work from home, they connect to their “secured” network. While it may not be public Wifi, it typically does not have the same protections as the network used in the office.
To help protect against these threats, organizations should mandate the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) for remote employees. VPNs encrypt a user’s traffic between their machine and the company network, protecting it from eavesdropping and ensuring that all traffic goes through the organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure before reaching the public Internet.
Recently, it has become increasingly common for criminals to “snatch and grab” laptops and other devices as people work in coffee shops or other public places. These thefts can put valuable and sensitive company data stored on the device at risk of exposure.
While most companies mandate the use of a lock screen on mobile devices and a password on laptops, the protection that these provide is limited. Almost every mobile device has some vulnerability that enables the lock screen to be bypassed, and tools for accomplishing this are for sale online. For computers, the protection that the password provides is limited since many people use weak/guessable passwords, and the lock screen is bypassable if the computer is booted from a flash drive (assuming that the computer does not have secure boot).
Protecting against these threats requires a combination a strong password policy for company-owned devices or personal devices that are used for business purposes.
Remote workers are also at an increased risk of malware infection compared to those working on-premises. The reason for this is that most organizations have strong cybersecurity defenses deployed at the network perimeter, including anti-malware and intrusion detection/prevention systems. As a result, all inbound and outbound traffic is inspected for threats before being allowed to pass the network boundary.
Unless they are using a VPN, a remote worker is connected directly to the public Internet, meaning that they do not benefit from these protections. As a result, it is vital that these systems have a strong, updated antivirus installed and that an organization has remote administration capabilities to ensure that company devices are regularly updated and patched against newly-discovered vulnerabilities.
As remote work becomes more common, organizations need to deploy the cyber defenses necessary to secure their off-site employees. In addition to ensuring use of VPN, and implementing a strong password policy, hackers are consistently changing their tactics, finding new ways to get around these obstacles that we try to put in place with technology. That is why one of the most crucial ways to have a secure remote workforce is through managed endpoint solutions.
The growing number of remote employees also comes with an increase of endpoints. When companies have multiple locations and operate around the clock, monitoring and managing activity on these endpoints is a difficult task.
Having a full-service managed endpoint solution can help monitor an organization’s endpoints and allow you to prevent next-gen malware, data leakage, respond quickly to threats, and automatically manage software deployment and patching. When partnering with an MSSP that provides EDR/EPP solutions, all endpoints are then monitored 24x7x365 with remediation assistance from a full-team of security experts if a threat ever passes through your VPN and strong password.
As businesses continue to innovate and compete with other organizations that implement BYOD and remote work policies, it’s important that you understand the security risks that come with them and take the proper steps to ensure that all your endpoints are covered and data is secured. Of course, the first step is being aware. For more information and to get a deeper dive on the cybersecurity risks businesses face today, download our cybersecurity awareness guide here.