Cybersecurity Risks for Remote Teams and How to Avoid Them

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations asked their employees to work remotely as a temporary measure. It’s been two years since, but the trends for remote work continue to rise. According to an IWG study, more than 75% of people globally work remotely at least once a week. 

There’s no denying that working from home comes with several benefits–eliminating commute, a better work-life balance, and reducing office space costs. Still, it also makes organizations more vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. Studies show that about 43% of remote employees make mistakes resulting in cybersecurity consequences to themselves or the company. 

Organizations with a remote workforce must be more vigilant than ever and watch out for cybercrimes like malware, ransomware, phishing, and other social engineering attacks to protect their assets.

Read this article to discover cybersecurity risks for remote teams and how to avoid them. 

Where Do Cybersecurity Risks Come From?

Today, most companies have employees working from home or people for business. We can’t dispute that monitoring their network for attacks will be daunting. To prevent the cybersecurity risks of working from home, it’s vital to first understand where the threats are coming from. This allows you to strengthen the cybersecurity for your remote workers.

Below are common attack vectors that hackers can compromise to execute their malicious activities.

Use of Personal Devices

Employees who work remotely don’t bring home office technologies like desk phones and printers. For that reason, remote workers often resort to using a home router, personal mobile devices, and printers to perform their daily work activities. 

Working with your device brings freedom, privacy, and flexibility, but often results in more remote working cyber attacks. Most people don’t secure their devices, which isn’t advisable, even if it’s only for personal use. If a company’s information is compromised, the damage can be devastating.

When using a personal device for work, ensure it’s encrypted to protect sensitive data like business contacts and emails from hackers. 

Unsecure Connections

Employees working from home need a seamless network connection to perform their tasks diligently. This can tempt workers to connect to insecure public connections, posing significant risks to company information security. 

Statistics show that almost half of U.S. workers trust public WiFi. However, that’s not the case as hackers often prey on users to steal confidential data like bank details and Personal Identifiable Information. 

Workers may update their devices but neglect their home router software. Devices that aren’t updated will have security loopholes that hackers can compromise to gain access to company assets. 

Cloud Storage

Organizations with a remote workforce rely on cloud storage to manage their files, assets, and activities. This offers an added advantage by reducing the cost of implementing custom infrastructure to handle vital services.

However, cloud computing comes with its cybersecurity remote working risks. Firstly, clouds are usually out of your control, as their security is managed by a third party. Secondly, hacking a password to access cloud storage can be as easy as 1, 2, 3, especially if your employees don’t practice good password hygiene.

Bad Cybersecurity Habits

There’s no denying that humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. Bad security habits from remote workers can result in sensitive information exposed to malicious actors. These bad habits could include poor password hygiene, storing passwords in unsecured locations, password stuffing, clicking on malicious links, and using insecure internet connections.

How to Secure Your Remote Teams?

Now that you understand the risks of remote working and attack vectors, you need to defend your IT structure. Implement robust security measures to ensure your remote teams know how to respond to cybersecurity risks. Below are some cybersecurity remote working security defense tips to ensure safety from cyberthreats. 

Use Antivirus, VPN, and Internet Security Software

A common mistake of remote workers is using an unsecured network connection. The best way to mitigate this risk is to implement standard security tools to protect your devices from viruses and other malware infections. These should include firewalls, antivirus software, a VPN, and internet security software. A good security suite will offer security against the risks of remote working.

Keep Family Away From Work Devices

Your employee might be a technological expert that can manage security threats and keep safe online. However, they aren’t the only variable in the equation. They have families, especially young children, that might gain access to their company computer. 

For this reason, it’s vital to develop a policy that reminds remote employees to keep the company’s gadgets away from their family members. In addition, they should implement best security practices to keep their devices safe. These include:

  • Locking the device
  • Not sharing work computer passwords
  • Using a strong password

Secure Your Home Wi-Fi

One of the most effective ways to keep safe as a remote worker is to strengthen your home Wi-Fi security. You can achieve this in many ways, some of which we’ve listed below:

  • Use a unique, strong password instead of your router’s default password. Type the IP address 192.168.1.1 to access your home router settings and change the password. Remember to use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters  encompassing eight or more characters. 
  • Enable network encryption under the security settings on your router configuration page. Security encryption standards to choose from include WPA, WEB, and WPA2.
  • You can also limit network access to authorized Media Access Control (MAC) addresses to control who can connect to your network.
  • Check the version of your router firmware and ensure it’s up-to-date. If not, run an update to address potential security issues. 

Control Access to Online Meetings and Cloud Files

Working from home means attending online meetings and seminars via videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet. This can create serious security issues and expose a company’s data to cybercriminals. A good example are the Zoom phishing attacks that happened plenty during the pandemic.

Since Zoom can be evaded, other videoconferencing platforms aren’t exempt. When your online meeting is compromised, hackers can access sensitive information about your business. The issue is so widespread that even FBI touched on the Zoom Bombing attacks by giving some security tips to ensure user safety.

Don’t Fall For Email Scams

Email communication is essential to every business. Organizations send emails to their clients, remote workers, partners, and vendors. However, these emails are easy to compromise and must be protected. You can implement the best business email security measures to keep email communications between you and your remote workers safe and protected. 

  • Remote workers should only access emails via the company’s VPN to create a secure network connection. This verifies all users and encrypts data in transit. 
  • Remote workers should password-protect their devices and encode data at reset if they lose them or if they’re stolen. 
  • Organizations and remote employees should be vigilant regarding phishing and other email-borne attacks.

Work From Home Cyber Security Checklist

Both organizations and their remote workers should ensure they meet this work-from-home cyber security checklist to secure their sensitive data.

For Companies

Companies with a remote workforce should go through the following checklist before allowing their employees to work from home:

  • Do you have a Bring Your Device (BYOD) policy?
  • Do you carry out constant security awareness training for your employees?
  • Do you train your employees on how to detect and prevent phishing attacks?
  • Do you have a policy ensuring that your remote employees use VPN when accessing the company network?
  • Are company gadgets secured with the latest security antivirus software?
  • Do you guarantee that remote staff uses corporate email solutions to store personal data instead of their email accounts? 

For Employees

Employees working from home should also check their security level using the following checklist. 

  • Are you using antivirus, VPN, and internet security software at home?
  • Are you keeping your devices away from your family members?
  • Is your operating system up to date?
  • Is your home Wi-Fi secure?
  • Are you using strong and unique passwords on your devices?
  • Did you enable Multi-Factor Authentication?

Final Thoughts

Organizations that want to thrive and compete in this current business world need to allow their players to work from home. However, working from home can pose severe threats to your network resources, and you need to address these cybersecurity risks before allowing any staff to work from home. 

While working from home can enhance talent retention and increase productivity, you need to ensure your workers can respond well to remote working cyber attacks before seizing this opportunity.

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