Last Updated on August 9, 2021 by Calvin C.
Remote working allows professionals to work outside the office and this eliminates the need to commute daily to work. In this article, I look at 7 security challenges of remote working and ways to mitigate them.
Trends of remote working
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the resulting lockdown, the demand for remote work increased exponentially .
Companies adjusted their systems to accommodate more remote jobs and cut costs in the process.
However, remote working comes with its security risks since it involves work that is mainly done over the internet.
Examples of jobs that are done remotely are:
- Customer services
- Computer programming
- Data entry, transcription and translation
- Graphics & web designing
There are definitely far more remote jobs than those on the list.
Security challenges of remote working
For some companies, big or small, remote working is now the new normal.
This means as with any new system, the employer has to anticipate new challenges and be in a position to tackle them.
The greatest threat occurs when remote work heavily relies on the internet.
1. Home network is usually less secure
The security of a company network is usually stronger than an employee’s home network.
At home, one may have a computer running an outdated operating system with a weak antivirus software.
In some cases, the home devices are not updated, from the WiFi router to the software running on the computer.
This creates security vulnerabilities that are easily capitalized by cybercriminals.
If there is a breach of an employee’s home network, the attacker can gain access to sensitive company data or even mount a remote attack on the company servers.
Another challenge is difference in the reliability of internet connection at home and performance of the employee’s computer.
If work requires a fast network, the overall performance of the employee is limited by the reliability of the systems at home.
A slow computer or internet connection means turnaround times are adversely affected.
Companies usually have top-spec machines on site and this is not always the case at home.
2. More targets to attack
The more the number of workers who work remotely, the more the targets for cybercriminals.
If a company doesn’t set-up a secure network connection with the employees, this is certainly a recipe for disaster.
A cybercriminal can easily gain access to the company servers via one of the remote terminals.
Since multiple computers are connected in the network, the attack easily spreads to all remote workers via the network.
3. Limited on-site IT support
Employees live in different locations, some near and some far from the workplace.
With measures like lockdown restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s difficult for IT guys to offer on-site support.
This means if a remote employee faces an IT challenge, it’s not fixed on time.
The situation gets worse if the issue poses a threat to security of the company network, e.g. a malware attack.
In the end, productivity of the employee declines as there is no immediate assistance, unlike on the job site.
4. Strained security
Doing remote work for a large organization means you are exposed to more attacks from cybercriminals.
If your home computer has consumer-grade security features, it may not be able to handle all the attacks that take place.
Hackers who want the company data find it easier to mount repeated attacks on a small home computer with less security than on a large company server.
Once they are in, they can use your credentials to authenticate access to the larger, more protected company servers.
According to Dataprot, antivirus software detects only about 25% of malware and the latter is winning the battle, and that is worrisome.
5. Email scams
Use of emails for communication is common practice in companies and this proliferates with remote working.
Email security is crucial because a lot of sensitive company data is exchanged in emails.
The wider network available is a perfect breeding ground for email attacks like phishing emails.
Attackers can masquerade as genuine work colleagues and send links to unsuspecting victims.
Once opened, malware is installed and can spread across the whole network.
Not all employees have the company goals at heart.
Some take the opportunity to work remotely to sabotage the company without being noticed.
At a workplace there may be cameras or a supervisor keeping an eye on any suspicious activity.
This is in contrast to an employee working at home where one can misuse the company’s resources without being detected.
Virtual meetings are convenient since they can be done from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.
However, hackers can invade the meetings and wreak havoc and this is called zoom bombing.
Although video-conferencing platforms have updated security features to make the services safer, cybercriminals always find a way in.
It is important that passwords are strong and changed frequently.
How to minimize security risks of remote working
For every problem there is a solution and the above challenges can be addressed by implementing the following measures:
These measures help prevent cyberattacks and also minimize damage should there be an attack.
1. Cloud computing
By using cloud computing it’s easier for supervisors to access reports in real time.
A copy of a document is available on the cloud so that if a home computer crashes, no data is lost.
The storage capacity on the cloud is unlimited and this means resources on one’s computer are not strained.
The service is available round-the-clock and strong security is used to secure data that is stored in the cloud.
2. Password manager
A password manager, like NordPass, is able to generate complex passwords of more than 15 characters automatically.
This prevents hackers from successfully mounting brute-force attacks on the employee’s computer and gain access to company data.
Strong encryption is used to secure the password, which is stored on the cloud.
You can easily start using NordPass and for companies I recommend the full featured paid plan.
Features you get are:
- Password storage
- Password generator
- Desktop apps
- Secure notes storage
3. Two-factor authentication
This is one way to minimize unauthorized access to the company system.
The more the number of layers for authentication, the stronger the security.
- Caution should be taken not to use SMS-based authentication because of the risk of sim-card fraud. Learn more.
Applications like Google authenticator are excellent in providing random passcodes for authentication.
4. Use a VPN
A VPN encrypts your traffic when it is exchanged over the internet and this prevents hackers from viewing sensitive data.
There are numerous VPNs on the market but I recommend premium VPNs because they have a proven track record.
At a glance, these are the best VPN services to secure your traffic:
5. Email encryption
This has been discussed in one section and you can read about end-to-end encryption of emails.
Don’t send sensitive company information using unsecured emails.
Avoid opening unsolicited emails as they may deliver malware to your computer.
Phishing emails are also used by attackers to lure you to malicious sites and to trick you into giving up sensitive information.
Use secure services like Protonmail to encrypt your email.
6. Secure zoom meetings
There are security settings that have been added to Zoom platform to prevent zoom bombing and other cyberattacks.
Make sure you keep the app up-to-date and enable features like:
- Waiting area
- Locking the meeting
- Only hosts should share screen
A VPN also helps keep hackers out of the network.
7. Secure devices
As an employer, you have to ensure employees have taken the recommended steps to protect company data.
Keep all software up-to-date and provide the hardware, if possible.
Educate employees on best security practices like avoiding public WiFi when carrying out company work.
It is important for employers to take security for remote working seriously because there are genuine risks it presents.
Using a VPN is one way to address most of the security concerns because only authorized personnel have access to the VPN traffic.
Are you doing some work remotely? What challenges are you facing?
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