Last couple of years have been challenging, especially for businesses and organizations from large to small, which had to transform their operations to support remote work due to lockdown restrictions.
By and large, they managed to run successful operations, but not without some critical challenges relating to cyber security risks.
In this blog, you will learn about the potential threats remote employees can pose due to distributed work environments such as data breaches, identity fraud, ransomware, and a host of other negative consequences.
What is an Information and Cyber Security Risk?
You may not need a definition to understand cybersecurity risks and the amount of damage each of them brings to your organization.
Increasing reliance on computers, global connectivity, cloud services, and networks is making your data more vulnerable to cyberattacks – resulting in massive negative business impact.
Being continuously exposed to these risks and not implementing necessary security controls or threat intelligence tools may increase the probability of loss or harm related to data and technical infrastructure.
To understand your company’s cyber risk profile, security risks, and controls, you need to improve IT security and remote accessibility. Moreover, it is necessary to determine what information would be valuable that, if stolen or lost, may cause financial or reputational damage to your organization.
Top 6 Information Security Risks Associated with Working from Home
We all know that the Covid-19 crisis affected the entire world badly. Most industries shut their doors, and thousands of people around the globe lost their jobs.
This forced organizations to adopt the transition to the work-from-home (WFH) model.
Due to lockdown restrictions and a zero-attendance policy in offices, the WFH model was enforced as a mandatory measure. Most operations were being run remotely.
Many companies saw it as a beneficial strategy as it saved on the costs of many things, including the workers’ compensation, office maintenance, electricity costs, and more.
However, they were unaware that they were exposed to new and expanded risks due to this strategy. Remote working made them vulnerable to cyber-attacks and created massive security challenges that put their data at risk.
This was when they realized they needed a strong and effective security program that could work as a long-term solution and deal with cyber security risks while protecting their valuable data.
If you had also implemented the WFH model, you might have realized by now that your remote employees may be unknowingly posing cyber security risks to your organization. In that case, it is time you should learn about new security threats and how the tips to control them from damaging your company’s data. CSECSYS, a professional cyber security consulting service, can also help you ensure your organization’s information systems are risk-free and secure.
Here, we will discuss the most common security challenges that remained a great headache for companies in 2020-21 and practical risk mitigation tips.
1. Insecure Internet/ Wi-Fi Connection
Your employees are connected with a protected network when they are working in the office – giving you the satisfaction that everything is being monitored and in control of your IT department.
On the other hand, you would have no idea about the network remote employees connect to while working at their homes. You don’t know whether their home internet is secure, or it’s exposed to the risk and lacks necessary security measures.
Another thing that could make home connections less secure is the non-availability of antivirus programs and firewalls – making it an easier target for malware and malicious attacks.
Moreover, your employees are home at all times, with no one keeping an eye on them or asking for the work report. It may encourage them to compromise on the recommended security measures set by the company.
When you implement the WFH model, it is your responsibility to ensure each of your workers has additional security while using home internet or Wi-Fi. It requires the minimum budget to provide a firewall to better secure their public internet connection from hackers.
2. Phishing Scams
Over the years, cybercriminals have built robust hacking systems to intensify their phishing campaigns to target your company’s networks and steal your personal information.
These cyberattacks are best at grabbing every opportunity that could lead them to sensitive data. They knew that most organizations were working remotely due to Covid restrictions. They saw it as a great chance to scam businesses with their coronavirus-themes phishing attacks.
In most cases, hackers use your email addresses and send you emails, asking you to update your personal information using a link they post in the email.
Remember, this trick works mainly on home workers who think they should change their passwords or update any other information to save their systems from potential attacks.
As soon as you click on the link attached to the email that just arrived in your inbox, it guides you to a fake website. However, without knowing that it’s not a legitimate domain, you may proceed further and enter your personal login credentials.
For example, you may find a web address similar to the URL of your bank in the email. You don’t pay close attention to whether it’s the actual website or its altered version and click on it. The layout may look authentic, making you sure that you are on the correct domain. You start following the instructions.
That’s it! The information immediately reaches the database of those cyber attackers. They later use it to hack into accounts and carry out identity fraud and other fraudulent activities.
You should always be cautious and look for these 6 details that reveal a phishing scam.
- Check the URL of the website
- Check the senders’ email address
- Send a copy of the mail to the bank or credit card company that allegedly sent it
- Look for poor grammar
- Do not reply to the phishing email
- Do not open attachments
3. Weak Online Privacy
While working from home, you may be using a network that is connected to a public network – with the same internet protocol or IP connecting other users at the network.
This is a jackpot for cybercriminals as they can easily hack into your network and steal your information.
Wondering if there are any security tips to secure your system on the shared IP? Luckily, some escape routes may save you from being exposed to cyber-attackers – with VPN or Virtual Private Network being top of them.
When you use a VPN, it creates a private network from a public internet connection and masks your IP – giving you online privacy and anonymity so your online actions are virtually untraceable.
Keep in mind that you will find hundreds of VPN services online. However, some of them require premium subscriptions to secure your connection. Freeware software or extensions may not be effective in establishing secure and encrypted protocols to provide greater privacy.
You don’t have to worry about purchasing premium bundles, as the obligation to provide VPN is on the employer’s side. So, if your company is adopting a remote working culture, it should give you access to the subscription.
4. Sharing Sensitive Data
Workers share dozens of files containing sensitive data on a daily basis. These files may include company documents, account and client information, and other details that your company can’t afford to lose.
That is why most companies use additional online security such as secured Wi-Fi hotspots and VPN to ensure that any existing security gaps are quickly patched before a hacker can exploit them.
Most of the employees may not consider encrypting data before sharing – being unaware of any threats such as identity fraud, ransomware attack, data theft, etc., using third-party email servers.
How to deal with this problem?
Employee training is necessary to ensure foolproof security of your data when it’s in transit from one location to another. Ask your staff to make sure they encrypt every file when it’s sent over email or phone using the public internet.
There are some data encryption tools that can lead to secure file/ information sharing:
- Email Encryption Platforms such as Outlook have features that can convert plain text emails to scrambled ciphertext so that only the recipient with the key can decrypt the message.
- Voicemail data encryption
- Secure file-sharing platforms such as Dropbox and OneDrive
All these platforms ensure secure end-to-end encryption while sharing the most sensitive information.
5. Easy-to-guess Passwords
According to a survey, most internet users set the most common and easy-to-guess passwords when creating their emails or other online accounts.
More than 20 million users have set ‘123456’ as their password – making themselves an easy victim of cybercrimes. Some other ‘amazingly surprising passwords’ are:
Can you just imagine having most of your employees using these passwords for their email IDs? Isn’t it enough to give hackers an easy access to your systems even if you have strong firewalls, VPNs, or any other cybersecurity measures?
Weak passwords can turn into the worst nightmares. Hackers benefit from this common human error while using a variety of measures to crack passwords.
Remember, once they crack a single password, they may try to use it for other company accounts to get access.
What should you do?
You should let the IT department set a master password that controls all other passwords. This will run a check on weak passwords and notify the user to change them at their earliest.
You can also ask your employees to create more elaborate passwords using alphanumeric characters and symbols.
Strictly ask your employees to NOT use their birthdays or special dates as their passwords as they can easily be guessed.
6. Unattended Devices
Corporate sectors took necessary measures for cybersecurity during Covid-19 before applying the WFH model. However, there are also some ‘physical risks’ on workers’ side that should be taken care of to restrict information theft.
Employees working from a remote location are more likely to be a target of data theft if they leave their personal devices unattended.
Being at a place with other people around can create an opportunity for someone to gain access to your smartphone or computer. Once they have access to the system, they can copy your sensitive data to a USB or delete it.
Moreover, leaving your devices unattended can be dangerous as they can be stolen, and you may lose access to everything in the world.
The Solution to Your Problem
It is among the best practices to lock your device before leaving it for any reason. Whether you need a coffee or use the restroom, just don’t forget to press ‘Windows + L’ on your laptop or the power button if you are using a smartphone.
Do not forget to make it a habit to lock your devices anywhere you are. Most of you may avoid it while being at home. DO NOT DO THAT. You will be more likely to make a habit out of it.
13 Data Security Tips for Companies During Work from Home Situation
Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 70% of businesses have moved to the WFH model to avoid the suspension of their operations. However, this goes without saying that remote working has affected cybersecurity and developed risks in terms of protecting data.
Full-time physical attendance of employees in the office was considered the most secure mode of running operations. It is because everything, from the internet connection to email and colocation servers and data sharing, was safe and controlled by a number of qualified IT professionals.
However, the implementation of this WFH model introduced cybersecurity risks that compromised the safety of confidential information. And these threats may not even be inside an organization.
A company makes all-out efforts to protect sensitive data from hackers. Therefore, chances are meager that someone may launch an attack on its servers due to additional security measures.
Third-party servers and internet service providers are also among the biggest risks introduced by remote working. Many employees use public data or Wi-Fi connections – unaware of the risks it brings to the confidentiality of information.
Here, we would like to share some valuable and effective data security tips to guide organizations and their staff about the potential risks and help them stay secure from cyberattacks while maintaining the security of their systems and servers.
Data Security Tips for Businesses with Remote Workforce:
1. Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Every organization invests in the training and development of its employees. This includes many phases, ranging from awareness sessions to risk assessments, policies, and procedures.
However, most employers forget about ‘Cybersecurity Awareness Training‘, one of the most crucial trainings that is essential to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the company’s sensitive information.
Teaching cybersecurity may help your employees to:
- Recognize malicious emails, links, and attachment-based scams
- Identify phishing scams and spear phishing
- Identify domain hijacking
- Avoid typosquatting
- Secure their social media handles/ public profiles to restrict data breaching and cyberattacks
- Identify and install well-established and up-to-date Software-as-a-Application (SaaS)
- Avoid unknown or tricky browser plug-ins from unidentified sources
2. Monitor Third-Party Service Providers
Another addition to the cybersecurity risk management checklist is assessing your outsourced service provider. Many third-party vendors have their employees working remotely and running the operations without any disruption.
However, you might not have any idea whether this WFH model by your service provider is still a beneficial and secure investment or not. Moreover, you should also check if the remote operations build a safe link between you and your service provider.
3. Implement Email Security Protocols
Emails are an easy way for hackers to seek your attraction towards their tricky measures regarding the data breach.
Cyber-attackers use your email address to send malicious emails in order to spread ransomware, spyware, worms, and social engineering attacks. These phishing campaigns help them get easy access to your sensitive information such as account details, company data, and more.
Therefore, it is necessary to implement adequate security measures to secure your email and its content from phishing attacks, spear phishing, and email spoofing.
4. Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
Data breaches or leaks sometimes happen due to the mismanagement of assigned roles to your employees.
An organization must set a specified access control policy and assign permissions to end-users based on their designations. This is known as Role-based Access Control or RBAC that follows the principle of least privilege.
5. Establish Cyber Hygiene
You might be hearing this word for the first time in your life. Cyber hygiene in cybersecurity is viewed in the same manner as personal hygiene.
It determines an organization’s online health, including:
- IT infrastructure
- Cybersecurity awareness training
- Employee’s systems and devices
6. Implement HSTS for Web Applications
Ensuring cybersecurity for remote workers needs various protocols to protect an organization’s outsourced data from hackers. HTTP Strict Transport Security or HSTS is among those effective protocols that restrict unauthorized and insecure connections to access websites.
In short, HSTS is a web security policy mechanism that allows website accessibility only through secure connections – preventing cookie hijacking attacks and protocol downgrade. Learn more here about securing your website from vulnerabilities.
7. Enforce Strong Passwords on Company Devices
Weak passwords are an easy gateway for hackers to enter the online premises of your organization. Hackers use different tactics to crack your passwords and steal your confidential information.
Therefore, it is necessary to enforce a ‘strong passwords only’ policy throughout the company to ensure maximum security of devices and transmission of sensitive data from one account to another.
8. Invest in Password Management Tools
A good organization believes in effective management and takes good care of its employees’ needs. Most of your workers may be unaware of the risks that may emerge due to weak passwords, and they may ignore your password change policy.
Therefore, it is your corporate responsibility to invest in password managers to ensure that employees don’t reuse passwords.
Password managers help your employees create, use, and remember strong passwords for system logins, email accounts, and social media handles. LastPass and 1Password are some of great tools to go with.
9. Encrypt Your Devices
Most organizations use end-to-end encryption and encode sensitive information before sharing it with other users. This process enables only authorized parties to access the information – preventing malicious attacks and data theft.
Ensure that all company devices are encrypted.
10. Use Antivirus and Firewalls
An organization must have the first line of defense for data protection. A firewall is an effective network security protocol that refines web traffic based on a defined set of rules – blocking malicious programs from entering your devices or network.
11. Always Keep a Backup of Your Data
Now that you know the cybersecurity risks that can cost your organization in terms of data, financial, and infrastructural losses, it is necessary to backup your data to prevent colossal damage in the future.
Remote working, cyberattacks, human errors, and other elements happen unannounced yet cause a massive and irreparable loss. Therefore, it is safer to keep a backup of everything in a secure cloud platform or colocation servers to get it back in case of any mishap.
12. Monitor Your Cybersecurity Performance
Here’s another security tip to help you with the WFH situation. You can use security metrics or cybersecurity metrics to monitor your company’s performance.
These metrics help you:
- Determine the amount of success your organization has achieved in cybersecurity risk reduction goals
- Demonstrate how well you are meeting your security standards and information security management requirements
- Monitor how well your staff are adhering to your information security policies while working from home
13. Take Effective Cybersecurity Measures
Now that you know enough about cybersecurity risks, threats, security measures, performance, ratings, and guide to reduce risk reduction, you should adopt effective practices to secure your organization’s data and privacy.
It is also necessary for you to introduce remote working policies and guidelines to help your employees recognize the risks and possible security incidents and how to handle these situations. Take the first step today to secure your tomorrow!
Information Security Risk Assessment for Work from Home
From everything described above, you may have got an idea about cybersecurity, how it works, what are the benefits and risks, and how to deal with the threats.
This information may have enabled you to evaluate the risks and controls related to your organization, people, processes, and technology.
However, an effective cybersecurity risk assessment is still necessary to mitigate the risks of working remotely without compromising information security.
This assessment reviews both the corporate environment as well as home network requirements and can include:
|Home User Network Review||Corporate Network Review|
How CSECSYS Services Can Help?
Cybersecurity risks introduce dozens of problems for the corporate sector, such as data breaches and other fraudulent activities that may have a massive and negative business impact – compromising an organization’s integrity, confidentiality, and critical infrastructure.
At CSECSYS, we believe in the complete protection of your data from unwanted cyberattacks. Our professional and highly qualified staff has the ability to secure your sensitive information from breaches and identify all of your data leaks.
Contact us today to discuss the risks you have feared for a long time. We will provide you with the best solution!