Cyber Security for Remote Workers
Given the advances in cloud, remote access, and communications technology, remote working has reached a level where it can be just as if not more productive than the typical office work environment. Working remotely has many great benefits, but it can also leave you and your company vulnerable to cyber security threats.
Whether you’re a small business with remote employees or an individual employee who works from home, understanding the risks associated with working remotely is essential to keeping your data secure.
In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the most common cyber security pitfalls that many companies and their workers fall into when working from home—and how to avoid them.
Working remotely has become a popular work arrangement nowadays, particularly during the unprecedented situation brought by the pandemic. The necessities of working during the pandemic have shown many companies that their users can be equally effective remote as they are in the office.
While working remotely serves as an excellent solution in to provide workers with greater flexibility and to allow companies to draw from a greater pool of talent than what is available locally, it is essential to prioritize cybersecurity to avoid inevitable risks.
For a set of standards on how to best deal with the cyber security threat involved with Remote Workers we highly recommend that everyone reference the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
NIST as a body has worked with a number of governmental organizations, companies, and research organizations to develop numerous standards and best practices for cybersecurity. In the area of remote work, we’ve chosen to highlight parts of the NIST guidelines that place a spotlight on the importance of observing best practices in working remotely to secure both the employers’ and employees' confidential data.
By following the best cybersecurity practices, remote workers can be assured of a secure work environment while working remotely. Following guidelines established by security organizations such as NIST, can assure your remote workers are not placing your company at greater risk to cybersecurity threats.
When dealing with remote workers and other people accessing your companies resources, a key concern that is faced is access control. In traditional office settings, access controls ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive information and systems. However, in a remote work scenario, it becomes even more challenging to ensure that access controls are enforced consistently.
Remote work technologies enable remote workers to access corporate data and applications from any location, which might lead to a breach of security. To mitigate this concern, organizations must implement effective access control policies that take into account remote access and the inability to secure IT assets both physically and electronically while offsite.
The threats that need to be considered when dealing with remote work can be divided into four main categories.
- The remote network, this is the network where the remote user connects from either their home, a coffee shop, or a hotel while on the road.
- Local device security, making sure the remote devices are properly updated and secured is vital to overall security.
- Company Network Configuration, the first step in preparing for remote work is making sure the company’s IT resources are properly configured for remote connectivity.
- User Training, the user needs to be trained in how to properly access resources remotely and the additional security concerns that come with working remotely.
Remote and Home networks have become an essential part of our daily lives. Most homes are already filled with a variety of network connected devices such as personal computers, gaming systems, tablets, phones of family members, smart home devices, and security cameras. With all the devices on a home network it’s important that the necessary steps are taken to keep the home network secure.
The first step in securing a home network is controlling which devices have access to connect to the network. The process of controlling who can and cannot connect to your network is called access control. It is an essential aspect of securing our home networks. By limiting who can connect to our network, we reduce the risk of unauthorized access. One way to do this is by using strong passwords and regularly changing them.
Equally important is enabling network encryption, such as WPA2 or WPA3. Without these measures, malicious actors can easily gain access to your network. Additionally, we can set up a guest network for visitors to limit their access to our primary network.
Using a guest network for devices that just need internet access is a great way to limit the total number of devices on your network and the attack area that you must defend. If possible, it is recommended to set up a work and a home network. This will provide a high level of separation between your work devices and your home devices.
Controlling access alone is not enough to secure our home networks fully. We also need to monitor our devices and network for any abnormalities. One way to do this is by regularly checking our router's settings to ensure it is up to date and configured correctly.
It is also important to make sure all the devices on the network are properly updated and have up to date security software where possible. By being in monitoring our networks and devices, we can prevent security breaches from occurring.
In conclusion, securing our home networks is crucial to protect our personal information and prevent liability. We need to control access to our networks through strong passwords, encryption, and guest networks. Additionally, we need to monitor our network and devices by regularly checking our router's settings and using anti-malware software. By taking measures to secure our home networks, we can protect ourselves from cyber threats.
Local Device Security
The devices you use to connect to your remote network are some of the most critical points to include in your security planning. From your computer to your smartphone these devices will be accessing important and sensitive company data and need to be kept secure.
Keeping your devices local devices secure comes in through two main means via a secure configuration and from security software.
From our smartphones to laptops, we are urged to update our devices frequently. Although these updates can be time-consuming, they play a crucial role in maintaining device security and performance. One of the primary reasons why software updates are essential is because they fix security vulnerabilities present in the previous version.
Hackers or cybercriminals can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to a device's system, resulting in data theft or other malicious activities. By keeping software up-to-date, users can ensure that their devices have the latest security patches to prevent such attacks. Software updates can also provide bug fixes, improve device speed, and introduce new features, making them an essential part of maintaining device performance.
Another significant benefit of software updates is that they keep the devices compatible with other hardware and software. As new technologies emerge, hardware and software manufacturers need to update their systems to ensure compatibility with each other. If a user fails to update their device, they may encounter compatibility issues, making it difficult to run some applications or hardware. Moreover, failing to update can also result in the device becoming outdated quickly, forcing users to replace the device sooner than expected. Staying up to date with software updates ensures that devices can continue to work with other hardware and software technologies, prolonging the device's lifetime.
Software updates might seem bothersome at times, but their importance cannot be understated. By keeping our devices up to date, we can maintain their security, performance and longevity, ensuring that we get the most out of our devices.
Security software such as Windows Defender, Webroot Secure Anywhere provides security for your devices against threats both known and unknown. There are a wide range of threats that are constantly spreading and changing across the internet. From viruses, worms, ransomware, and key-loggers there are various bad actors that are looking to install malicious software on your computer.
The motives of these people range from ransoming your data for profit to digital vandalism. They typically do not target specific people or companies but use software to push their malicious code autonomously to as many computers as possible.
One of the best defenses against malicious software is security software that is designed to detect these threats by recognizing the software itself as malicious or by seeing patterns in the behaviors of the software that trigger a defensive response. A properly managed and maintained security software suite is vital to every organization’s remote work strategy.
Company Network Configuration
A Secure company network configuration is an essential aspect of cybersecurity that cannot be overlooked. In many ways it is the most important aspect. It involves the implementation of security controls and policies to ensure that network resources are accessed only by authorized individuals. With the increasing number of cyber-attacks and data breaches, it's crucial to have a robust network configuration that can withstand such threats.
A secure network configuration starts with the establishment of strong passwords and user account management. It ensures that only authorized users can access the network and prevents unauthorized individuals from gaining access to critical resources.
You also need to ensure that once connected to the network that your users only have access to the resources they need to accomplish their job functions. Limiting where and what a person has access to in your network greatly reduces the avenues that a potential attacker has access to.
Regular maintenance is critical to a secure company network. Much like we discussed for home networks and user devices a company device has a wide array of maintenance that needs to be done to keep it secure and running properly. These systems regular updates and patches to firewalls, routers, and other network devices are necessary to keep them protected from the latest security vulnerabilities.
Another critical aspect of secure network configuration is the use of encryption for data that is in transit across the internet. This can be done by making sure all your company sites and cloud services are using TLS for encrypted communications. TLS (Transport Layer Security) is a cryptographic protocol used to secure internet communications. It provides privacy and data integrity between two communicating applications, typically a web server and a web browser, by encrypting the data transmitted between them. TLS is used to protect sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and personal data, from eavesdropping and tampering by malicious third parties.
For internal company systems such as remote server access protection behind a VPN is a must. VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that creates a secure and encrypted connection between two or more devices over the internet. It allows users to access private networks securely and resources that are typically only available within a specific physical location. VPNs are often used by remote workers, travelers, and people who want to browse the internet anonymously, as they can mask the user's IP address and location, making it difficult for hackers or other malicious actors to intercept or monitor their online activity. By placing these systems behind a VPN, you are making sure they are not open to the internet without a secure and encrypted connection between your systems and employees.
The use of firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) is also essential to secure network configuration. Firewalls help to control network traffic, prevent unauthorized access to networks, and detect suspicious activities in the network. IDPS, on the other hand, is designed to detect and stop malicious traffic and attacks. They work in real-time to identify anomalies in the network, block malicious traffic, and send alerts to the network administrator for further analysis.
Lastly, regular network security assessments and audits are required to ensure that all network devices and software are up-to-date and follow the latest cybersecurity standards. The assessments should focus on identifying potential vulnerabilities, testing the overall effectiveness of security controls, and ensuring compliance with security policies and regulations. With the proper implementation of secure network configuration measures, organizations can avoid devastating data breaches and maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their sensitive data.
IT security training is a must for all remote workers, regardless of their job role or the nature of their work. Security threats are evolving and can strike from a variety of sources, including malicious websites, phishing emails, and malware attacks. Without proper security protocols in place, your data could be compromised, leaving it vulnerable to theft or misuse.
That's why it's essential that your remote workforce is adequately trained in IT security and the latest security solutions. Training should go beyond basic instruction—it should also include practical exercises to help them develop an understanding of how their day-to-day work could be impacted by a cybersecurity incident.
For example, your remote team should know the steps to take if they are unsure of a suspicious website or email. They should also be familiar with data encryption technology and how it can protect sensitive information. In addition, they should understand the importance of creating strong passwords and regularly updating them for maximum security.
Finally, reminders about how to use public WiFi connections securely and how to spot potential malware are also essential components of successful IT security training for remote workers. Properly educating your employees on these topics will help protect your business from costly data breaches and other cyber threats.
Ultimately, providing your remote staff with the right IT security training will give them the knowledge and skills to stay safe.
If you are looking to implement a remote work situation or are wanting to ensure your current remote work setup is as secure as it could be Prytania can help. At Prytania we’ve helped companies in numerous industries, from insurance to healthcare, implement various remote work setups while still maintaining their industry compliance needs.
Prytania has also worked with clients to become more productive by providing systems that allow their employees to move into remote work situations that enabled them to better interact with their customers creating better relationships.
Contact us to discuss how we can help make sure you are getting the most from your IT investments and level up your company.