During the months-long coronavirus outbreak, organizations enabled employees to work remotely to keep them safe. Now, it seems like remote work, or at least a hybrid work environment, is going to be the new norm for businesses in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the rest of the United States.
The problem is that extended work from home policies expose businesses to considerable security risks since they’re not within the confines of enterprise-grade perimeter security. In spite of all this, many businesses are actually keeping the risk of security breaches low by adopting four key strategies.
Understanding risks before using new tools
When COVID-19 forced people to stay home, companies were eager to use cloud solutions that would enable employees to work remotely. Video conferencing app Zoom, in particular, saw extraordinary growth of 10 million to over 200 million daily users within the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak. What drew businesses in was Zoom’s free service and video streaming capabilities that make it easy to coordinate teams even if they’re miles apart.
However, the app’s popularity among businesses was short-lived. At the time, Zoom faced heavy criticism for its intrusive data collection practices, lack of advanced end-to-end encryption, and “zoom bombing” — a practice in which unauthorized guests crash team conferences. While the developers at Zoom eventually addressed these issues, businesses exposed themselves to unnecessary risks by diving head first into an unvetted cloud solution.
More prudent businesses, on the other hand, were able to avoid a security breach by taking a wait-and-see approach. They researched alternative platforms like Microsoft Teams, which already has powerful security features like end-to-end encryption, advanced threat protection, and secure guest access to team calls. In fact, because of Zoom’s security blunders, Microsoft Teams usage grew by 894%.
The takeaway here is that you should always assess risks and vulnerabilities before implementing new technology. It’s wise to be cautious and ask a technology consultant about the potential implications of a solution or technology trend to your business.
Related reading: 4 Remote work cybersecurity hazards you must prepare for
Fortifying home offices with multilayered defenses
The sudden shift to remote work meant that companies couldn’t take their time to embrace the new environment and adapt to the inherent security challenges. Business leaders needed everyone to work from home immediately, but that involved employees connecting to company systems through potentially vulnerable home networks and personal devices.
To respond to these challenges, businesses invested in several defense measures to protect home offices. For starters, they used virtual private networks (VPN) to create a secure connection between devices and company networks, encrypting sensitive data and hiding online activities. In fact, demand for VPNs during the early stages of coronavirus surged by 44%.
More businesses are also using Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) software, according to a recent Gartner report. This gives administrators a centralized console of all devices, providing alerts of any security events. From there, companies can deny access to compromised devices, distribute patches company-wide, manage privacy configurations, and wipe lost or stolen devices.
Another way companies are defending home office environments is through the use of secure web gateways composed of firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and advanced email filtering software.
Adopting a zero-trust approach
In a recent CNBC report, Facebook’s team said that secure permanent remote work arrangements are possible for them because they operate in a zero-trust network environment.
This is a unique security framework centered on the idea that the company should not trust anything inside or outside its systems by default. Instead, companies must have measures that fully verify every user and device attempting to gain access to resources on a private network.
Multifactor authentication is a key part of zero-trust environment, since it requires users to prove who they are with more than one set of login credentials. These credentials can be classified into three categories:
- Something they know like a password or PIN code
- Something they have like a USB security key or one-time SMS passcode sent to their phones
- Something they have like fingerprint scans and facial ID
In addition to MFA, zero-trust involves setting stringent access restrictions based on an employee’s role within the company, their device, and their location. For instance, you can have a sales representative access human resources data, let alone have them access sensitive information through unvalidated devices or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Generally, access privileges should be limited to the bare minimum permissions that employees need to do their work.
Making security everyone’s responsibility
While technical security measures are important for remote work, companies that managed to stay secure through months of remote work understand that everyone must play an active role in protecting the business. A survey of over 13,000 remote workers revealed that 72% are aware of the cybersecurity risks of working from home.
However, simply being more conscious of security issues isn’t enough, they need to develop good security habits. That’s why more and more companies are investing in cybersecurity training. This involves teaching employees how to spot phishing scams, the importance of good password hygiene, responsible use of company devices and applications, and never sharing sensitive information with unauthorized parties.
Making people aware of the threats and educating them on safe remote working practices is important. This human approach to security is critical for businesses to thrive in a world where remote work becomes the norm.
Cybersecurity is going to be a constant source of stress for business leaders moving forward, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of your long-term goals. Summit Advisors is a first-rate managed IT services provider that offers everything you need to keep a wide array of threats at bay.
We conduct vulnerability assessments and implement cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions like multifactor authentication, endpoint protection, security training, and so much more. Consult with our experts now to fortify your remote work security.