Securing Your Remote Workers

Over the last few years, we have seen a bunch of big tech companies, such as Todoist and Help Scout, to name a few, switch to a fully remote or partial remote work setup. Most of these companies spent months preparing for the switch by training their employees, setting up remote work policies and ensuring the necessary infrastructure was in place to deal with cybersecurity threats.

However as we’ve learned this past year, many companies were forced to make the switch overnight when COVID-19 hit. Very few employers got the chance to fully prepare themselves or their staff, which left them more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches. So, this is exactly what cybercriminals are capitalizing on, now.

According to the FBI, cybersecurity complaints increased from 1,000 to 4,000 PER DAY during the COVID-19 pandemic. With all the cyber risks that exist on the rise, like ransomware, malware, or phishing email campaigns, failing to totally secure your remote workforce makes your business a sitting duck for hackers and cyberattacks.

The consequences of not updating your training programs and security protocols

To start, your existing protocols and programs were created in a pre-pandemic world. However, recently things have changed drastically. Now, employees can access critical company data through connections and devices that are beyond your control, making your company more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats than ever before.

Failure to update company security protocols and training programs could lead to some of the following consequences:

Employee inaction and dip in morale: If you don't train your employees to identify or deal with new types of security threats, they may feel helpless or indecisive in the face of a potential attack. Furthermore, being in a remote environment, they may find it hard to ask for support or know the proper measures to take.

Hindering of business growth: Cyberattacks hinder your credibility and reputation in your industry and market. This can make it challenging to acquire new clients or retain existing ones because they don’t feel like they can trust you with their information any longer. This is a really unfortunate position to get stuck in and requires drastic PR measures to remediate.

Business paralysis: There has been a massive rise in DDoS attacks over the past year. This type of attack typically leads to website downtime, increased vulnerability and disruption of business operations.

Loss of crucial business information: If you fail to defend yourself, cybercriminals will end up getting away with everything they can get their hands on, from confidential client data, patents, sales information, business plans and much more that can expose your entire business and create major issues.

Financial impacts: 2020 has seen a 109% spike in ransomware attacks in just the United States alone. Paying a ransom is now illegal by the U.S. Government (we don’t negotiate with terrorists), so your business will be put in quite the pickle if your data and business gets held hostage, but you’re unable to pay to have it retrieved from those who stole it. So, what do you do? Well, most businesses wind up closing shop shortly after being the recipient of a ransomware attack.

Legal sanctions: If you fail to adequately protect yourself against cyberattacks, you could face everything from consumer lawsuits, hefty fines and sanctions, to a total business shutdown. Many industries have instilled certain rules that will leave you open to extreme liabilities if you choose not to protect your clients’ data.

So, how can you secure your remote workforce?

To protect your company against cyberattacks and data breaches, you need to start to evolve your mindset about tech currently and be diligent in staying one step ahead of cybercriminals. The moment you lower your guard, there is a very severe chance a nefarious cybercriminal will look to exploit your vulnerabilities. With most of your employees working remotely, it really won’t take much to breach your defenses. In fact, all it could take is a password shared publicly on a team chat app, like Slack, an accidental click on a phishing link, or confidential company information accessed through a public Wi-Fi connection.

Therefore you need to create a new IT Policy that can directly address remote workforce requirements. Aside from that, you really must ensure all employees receive additional security training.

Personal device security: If your company allows employees to work using their personal devices, it is your responsibility to ensure they are of a minimum security standard. You must clearly define what is permissible and what is not – this includes the type of devices, operating systems, applications and websites that can be accessed. Other than that, give your employees a list of all security, remote access, VPN and other tools they need to install before they start conducting business on their personal devices. Your employees should also be aware of the level of access/control you have over their devices, the type of technical support you can provide and the company's right to wipe/alter the devices of company information when and where needed.

Network security: Public Wi-Fi and home Wi-Fi networks are nowhere near as secure as the LAN connection in your office. That’s why you must enforce minimum-security standards to ensure employees don't put company data at risk. Define everything from Wi-Fi encryption standards, Wi-Fi password difficulty, network security software, router safety guidelines and the types of devices that can be connected to the same network.

Also, the use of public Wi-Fi must be actively discouraged. In case an employee has no other alternative, give them a list of essential safety guidelines that they need to follow -- secure connection, WPA3 compliance, websites to avoid and so on.

Cybersecurity training programs: Due to this sudden migration to a remote work setup, IT teams in most organizations are stretched beyond their limits. They have to take care of support requests and make sure data and digital assets are safe and secure. This is why you need to make sure your employees get adequate cybersecurity training and are equipped to deal with common and emerging cyberthreats.

The training program must include everything from password management, using multifactor authentication, identifying phishing and ransomware attacks, guarding personal devices against cyberattacks, operating/updating security software, configuring Wi-Fi, setting up VPNs, email usage, reporting/responding to cyberattacks and much more.

Tekie Geek has our own Employee Security Training, which we’d love to give you access to for ONE FULL MONTH. All you have to do is head to this site and sign up:

Time to strengthen your first line of defense

Cybercrime is on the rise across the world. The current global situation and ongoing economic downturn is really only going to make things worse before they get better. This is why you need to ensure everyone in your organization has their guard up, at all times.

To find out how you can secure your remote team and your company's IT infrastructure, contact us now.

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