Remote, and now hybrid, work environments have proven to be not only beneficial for businesses, but also preferable for employees. As teams look toward the future with an increased focus on remote working options, many will also have to consider security for their essential systems. From remote work policies to virtual private networks (VPNs) and basic human error, there are several risk points to examine and shore up.
Remote work security risks
Many companies have adopted ongoing remote or hybrid work environments. In fact, according to a recent report, 4.7 million people in the U.S. work remotely at least half the time. Although the benefits are prominent for both employee and employer, there are security risks to consider with regard to remote work.
Some of the top security risks include:
- Access to company data via unsecured wireless networks
- Weak passwords
- Usage of personal devices for business use without proper security
- Unprotected file sharing
- Phishing or other social engineering attempts
To address security risks associated with remote work environments, companies should consider adopting or reinforcing zero-trust policies and multifactor authentication (MFA) — both have proven to be successful in preventing security breaches. Zero-trust policies effectively treat every interaction, regardless of its source, as untrustworthy. As such, additional authentication measures, such as MFA, can validate users and content.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are meant to protect the company network from being accessed by unauthorized users through Wi-Fi connections. Unsurprisingly, VPN usage increased dramatically during the pandemic as more businesses went remote. Today, many of those businesses have either maintained a remote work environment or transitioned to a hybrid one, which allows for continued remote options.
VPNs are intended to create a safe space for activities, protected from individuals with malicious intent. Unfortunately, they are not perfect and can fall victim to common cybersecurity threats such as ransomware, phishing, and more. According to a recent report on VPN security, “Nearly half of all IT professionals surveyed witnessed an increase in exploits targeting their VPNs since adopting remote work.”
For IT teams who are tasked with securing a company’s VPN, it’s important to ensure the system is maintained and updated with the latest security patches. Zero-trust policies and multifactor authentication also can shore up vulnerabilities, creating barriers to cyberattacks. Other interventions may include:
- Antivirus software and intrusion detection
- Permission settings
- User access audits
Naturally, humans are flawed, imperfect beings. This is the reason why, despite decades of cybersecurity training and warnings, phishing attacks still happen and cause immense damage. People can’t be monitored at all times — so how do you maintain security in a world where a significant risk point is the people interacting with the system?
Regrettably, there’s no perfect solution. Employee training can be a tremendous help, and virtual desktops and cloud security can bolster compliance. Cybersecurity threats continue to increase in sophistication and frequency. Unfortunately, that means there’s a greater likelihood that one or more individuals will fall victim to a clever phishing email or other tactic. The good news is, you can significantly mitigate these risks through education for employees and increased security policies and protocols.