The rapid spread of coronavirus has undoubtedly changed the way many businesses in Kansas City and all over the United States operate. To observe social distancing guidelines, businesses have had to quickly implement work from home policies to ensure the safety of their workers.
What's great about flexible working arrangements is employees have the freedom to work where they feel most comfortable, reduce travel costs, and collaborate with coworkers easily, thanks to cloud technology.
But working remotely does leave companies vulnerable to cyberthreats. When devices are used outside the office, they’re no longer protected by the corporate network that is often equipped with advanced firewalls and threat prevention systems. There’s also no telling how your remote workers will behave when they encounter a potential cyberthreat.
If remote work is going to be a long-term strategy for your business, you should watch out for the following cybersecurity hazards.
1. Phishing scams
Phishing is a deceptive cyberattack that commonly uses fraudulent emails to steal data and/or spread malicious programs to unwitting victims. These fake emails may appear harmless to the untrained eye. But they often have distinguishable features such as messages that instill a sense of urgency and suspicious email attachments and links.
Opening attachments can set malware loose into systems, while clicking links can lead users into dangerous websites that collect personal and financial information.
To establish trust with victims, cybercriminals often masquerade as an IT professional, a bank teller, a CEO, or even a friend. They’ll even spoof the email addresses of legitimate companies to lull your employees into a false sense of security.
In fact, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the panic caused by COVID-19 to send fraudulent email alerts impersonating the World Health Organization (WHO) and government agencies.
What’s worse is that phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated by the minute. While emails are a popular way to defraud people, text messages are also being used by cybercriminals to scam victims. Smishing follows the same principles as phishing but uses spoofed phone numbers and shortened links to fool users into visiting dangerous websites.
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Preparation is key to avoiding phishing scams. Installing anti-phishing filters and updating firewalls are good initial steps, but regular security training will teach remote workers to be critical of every SMS, email, and website. They must learn to watch for misspelled domain names, emails riddled with grammatical errors, and unsolicited attachments.
Remote employees should also know that legitimate companies will never ask for sensitive information via email, text, or phone call. If an email or SMS appears to come from a legitimate company, employees should still contact and verify the message with the company directly via the company’s official website.
Simulated phishing scams are a great way to assess your employees’ security awareness for these threats. You should also inform employees about the latest scams so they’re always prepared for any attack.
2. Weak passwords
Passwords protect your devices, accounts, and data from unauthorized access, but they can be the most vulnerable point of your cybersecurity framework. According to security reports, 80% of data breaches involve weak and compromised passwords.
The most commonly used passwords are “123456” and “password,” which are incredibly easy to guess. Additionally, users have a tendency to recycle and share passwords, increasing the risk of hackers gaining access to other company accounts if they’ve already stolen one set of user credentials.
That’s why it’s so important to promote good password hygiene to a remote workforce. This means passwords should be at least 16 characters long with a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols. They should also be unique to each account.
However, no matter how closely your remote workers follow password best practices, it shouldn’t be your only line of defense. Implementing multifactor authentication strengthens security by requesting for additional user credentials like a one-time SMS passcode or a fingerprint scan. This way, hackers won’t be able to compromise company accounts even if they manage to crack your remote workers’ passwords.
3. Vulnerable home networks
Compared to business networks, employees’ home networks are considerably weaker. Your remote staff may lack access to advanced firewalls and enterprise-grade encryption. There’s also no guarantee that employees are updating their router firmware. If left unprotected, the router can allow hackers to easily gain access to all devices connected to home networks and, by extension, your data.
The best way to address these risks is by making sure home networks are not accessible to the public. For starters, provide employees with proven firewall solutions and ensure their wireless routers are equipped with WPA2 encryption protocols.
Set monthly email alerts that remind staff to update their router firmware. And make it mandatory for employees to change the default name and password of their home Wi-Fi network and disable network name broadcasting to prevent unauthorized access.
More importantly, employees must use company-approved virtual private networks. These create an encrypted connection to the internet, preventing hackers from intercepting data transmitted through a network and monitoring online activities.
4. Unsafe employee devices
One of the biggest challenges with remote work is managing and monitoring the personal devices used to access company apps and data. For all you know, employee devices may have outdated operating systems and weak security measures.
And if your staff install unreliable apps, access unsecured networks, misuse sensitive data, or lose company devices, your business is at major risk of a security breach.
Endpoint management solutions like Microsoft Intune allow you to keep employee devices safe. It features a centralized console where you can monitor company-registered devices and deploy the latest security patches all at once.
The program also lets you set access restrictions based on job roles, locations, and the overall security of someone’s device. For example, Intune can deny access to company systems if employees are using jailbroken devices or are connected to unsecured public networks.
Intune even identifies high-risk devices and provides detailed steps to secure them, like recommending trusted anti-malware programs. And if devices are lost or stolen, Intune allows you to wipe devices and revoke access privileges remotely so data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
All in all, there’s a lot that goes into securing a remote work environment, but you don’t have to do it alone. Summit Advisors IT offers robust cybersecurity services for businesses in Wichita, Kansas City, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. From endpoint management and security training, we can ensure your remote workers and digital assets are safe from harm. Sign up for a free consultation today!