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Securing the Remote Workforce

Created on July 6, 2021

Marketing Manager, Exterro

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed this world to degrees that were unexpected. Although many bad things have occurred because of it, believe it or not, there are actually a few silver linings. Probably the biggest impact made has been the Remote Workforce. This was a concept that many experts thought would not evolve until at least 3 to 4 years down the road. Luckily, adjustments were made early on that allowed many to keep their jobs by simply changing their work location to their homes.

We have seen this change happen in just a couple of months. There are still issues to be worked out in this regard, but the Remote Workforce is now here to stay. Since this is the new norm, it is imperative that you safeguard your employees and your assets to the greatest extent possible.

The Top Ways to Ensure Cybersecurity

Here are some key takeaways to not only make sure that your remote employees maintain good levels of Cyber Hygiene, but also that your digital assets remain safe as well:

1. Make sure that work-related matters are done on company-issued devices:

In the rush to initiate Work From Home (WFH) in late March, many businesses across Corporate America hastily gave their employees company devices that did not have all the security features installed. As a result, many people started to use their own devices (especially smartphones) in order to conduct their daily job tasks. This can be a security concern since these personal devices do not typically have the security features deployed on them as spelled out by your security policy. But now that the Remote Workforce looks to be more long-term, you can issue your employees newer devices that have all these features installed. As you send them out, be sure to remind your employees of the security risks of using their own wireless devices and the consequences for not abiding by your policy.

2. Avoid public hotspots:

Your employees can only work for so long at home before the thought of working somewhere else, especially in public, becomes appealing. Very few people enjoy the isolation of working totally from home. While you cannot prevent this from occurring, you need to remind them of the dangers of using public Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop or restaurant. These types of network connections are unencrypted, meaning that any information and data transmitted back and forth from this connection is sent over as plaintext, which can be easily intercepted. Therefore, your employees must, at all times, use a secure Wi-Fi connection, such as the hotspot on their smartphone. Should they choose to do their job in a public location, they should use a virtual private network (VPN). This is a network protocol that creates a “masked” line of network communications. This line is invisible to the outside world. Getting a robust VPN package is actually very cheap these days and can be installed fairly quickly.

3. Always make use of encryption:

Apart from making sure that the flow of communication is safe, you also need to deploy encryption tools on all the devices you issue to your Remote Workforce. That way, any information or data transmitted will be rendered into a garbled state. If that information is captured by a malicious third party, it will be useless to them. Using this kind of tool is an absolute must, from sending emails to having video conferences on Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, etc.

4. Deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA):

Typically, most organizations use two-factor authentication (2FA), in which only two authentication mechanisms are used. But this is proving to be weak, as the cyberattacker can break through this type of setup. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that you deploy MFA, in which at least three or more levels of authentication are used. This allows you to fully confirm the identity of the people that are logging into your IT and network infrastructure. Better yet, use a methodology known as the Zero Trust Framework, in which absolutely nobody is trusted implicitly. With it, each and every individual that is trying to gain access to your shared resources has to go through rigorous standards in order to prove they are who they claim to be. This Framework instills into your business multiple lines of defenses, so in case the cyberattacker is able to break through one, the statistical odds of them going in further become much lower.

5. Implement endpoint security:

This is an area that has been neglected by many businesses. The endpoints are where the lines of communication originate (such as your employee’s device) to where they terminate (like the server where the shared resources are trying to be accessed). It is important that you harden these endpoints, not only with the latest software patches and upgrades but also with the most up-to-date antivirus antimalware software packages available. Also, keep an eye out for any suspicious or anomalous behavior that might be precipitating at these endpoints. Using both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies can be a huge advantage as they can help automate this process while your IT Security Team focuses on other critical issues.

6. Make use of remote wiping:

Your remote employee could lose or have their device stolen if they are not careful with it. If this were to happen, it is quite possible that a cyberattacker could “jailbreak” into the device’s operating system and attempt to gain root access. Therefore, once you know that the device is missing, you must issue what is known as a “remote wipe.” This will ensure that all information and data that resides on the device is quickly eliminated.

Above are some of the steps that your business can take in order to make sure that remote employees maintain a good level of Cyber Hygiene. But the best route you can take at this point is to migrate all of your IT and network infrastructure into a cloud-based platform, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. Not only will these providers help safeguard your digital assets, but they also offer a very robust suite of cybersecurity tools that are quick and easy to install as well. For more information or guidance, feel free to Contact Us!