Proven Practices For Securing the WFH Environment


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Businesses have been shifting to remote work and hybrid models for a while now. In fact, by August 2023, 13% of full-time employees were fully remote, 57% were full-time on-site, and 30% were in a hybrid arrangement. Employees tend to love the flexibility and comfort of working from home, but many don't recognize the dangers that can come from unsecured network connections. As a business owner or team lead, ensuring safe practices for your remote team has never been more critical.

We're here to share some insight on how to protect valuable data and safe strategies to navigate this complex terrain. From utilizing strong encryption methods to developing a culture of cybersafety awareness, use this article as a guide to effectively protect your remote teams in an era of persistent technological advancement and ever-evolving threats


1. Reducing Security Risks When Working Remote


Working from home is a completely different world than the traditional office setup. Take a moment to realize how many employees across the country are accessing company systems. That's a lot of risk potential! Centralized workplaces provide a secure office environment, whereas many remote workers are using an unsecured connection. Having numerous access points opens the door to cyberthreats like phishing attacks, malware infiltration, and data breaches. Not to mention, using your personal devices or connecting through unsecured public Wi-Fi multiplies these risks exponentially.

Make secure connection safety a top priority by:

  • Establishing a strict remote work security policy encompassing VPN usage.
  • Requiring and monitoring device updates.
  • Educating employees about potential risks and training staff on best practices.
  • Implementing endpoint security solutions for real-time threat detection.
  • Conducting regular assessments to strengthen the shield against cyberthreats.

2. Implementing Multi-layered Authentication


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With the magnitude of cyberthreats lurking in the digital domain, it is crucial to adopt multi-layered authentication. Two-factor authentication (2FA) or biometric authentication adds an extra level of security that surpasses a generic username and password login. Let's say a hacker is able to access your username and password and attempts to log on. With the additional authentication step in place, they would be unable to access your information further without the second form of verification.

Continue to decrease the likelihood of unauthorized access by implementing the following:

  • Regular Security Audits: Audits help identify potential vulnerabilities in the authentication process. Stay ahead of evolving cyberthreats with this proactive approach.
  • Encourage Strong Password Practices: Educate your team about the importance of utilizing strong passwords. Password managers, along with enforcing a password complexity requirement, will certainly boost your security.
  • Use Time-Based One-Time Passwords (TOTP): Implement TOTP, a form of 2FA that generates temporary codes, adding a layer of security that's time-bound.
  • Employ Behavioral Biometrics: Behavioral biometrics analyze user behavior patterns (keystroke dynamics, mouse movement) for continuous authentication - a tool that should not go unused.
  • Implement Session Management Controls: Monitor session length and ensure a limited duration protocol remains.

3. Enforcing Strong Passwords


Passwords are the locks to your company's digital door. Turns out that almost a quarter (24 percent) of Americans have used some variation of the following weak passwords:

  • abc123,
  • Password,
  • 123456,
  • Iloveyou,
  • 111111,
  • Qwerty,
  • Admin,
  • Welcome,

Simple passwords are the same as you handing over the keys to your digital door lock. Instead, it's best to:

  • Encourage employees to create strong, unique passwords.
  • Set a schedule to change passwords regularly.
  • Utilize password managers to mitigate the risk of breaches due to weak credentials.

4. Defining Access Controls


Now that we have covered the basics, it's equally important to enforce the principle of least privilege (PoLP).

This refers to limiting access to sensitive information or critical systems to only those who require it for their roles. There's no need to grant unlimited access, especially to those who don't have any reason to look at the data within. Significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access by:

  • Implementing strict access controls.
  • Regularly reviewing user permissions.
  • Establishing a clear incident response plan is essential.

To touch on that last point a bit, an incident response plan should outline steps to be taken in case of a security breach. Workers should know who to contact, how to contain the breach, and procedures for notifying affected parties.

Don't forget to test this plan regularly through simulations or drills. This will ensure that your team is prepared to handle any potential security incident to the best of their ability.


5. Prioritizing Secure Communication


Since remote teams don't have the luxury of seeing their coworkers or managers in the office, they rely heavily on effective communication tools. Remote communication is often done through email or over a device, so opting for platforms that offer end-to-end encryption is best. By encrypting messages, files, and calls, you shield your sensitive company information, including your team's discussions and data, from prying eyes.

Communicate safely and securely by implementing the following:

  • Authentication protocols: Multifactor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security and requires additional verification steps beyond passwords.
  • Regular updates: Communication tools with a strong track record of timely security updates to actively address vulnerabilities are best to stay fully protected.
  • User training: Regular training sessions demonstrating proper use of communication tools, including the importance of verifying recipients and not sharing sensitive information in unencrypted channels.

6. Conducting Regular Security Training


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In 2022, 76% of organizations were targeted by a ransomware attack, out of which 64% were infected. Knowledge is power when it comes to defending yourself and your company against cyber threats.

Develop a training schedule that guides your remote workforce in identifying:

  • Phishing attempts.
  • Safe browsing habits.
  • How to handle sensitive information securely.

Test your team's knowledge by using simulated phishing exercises. These simulations provide practical, hands-on experience in recognizing and handling phishing attempts. Knowing the abilities of your team will allow you to tailor further training sessions and focus on areas where employees may need additional guidance. In addition, we highly recommend developing a bank of easily accessible resources. Having a repository of security best practices and guidelines will help serve as a reference for remote workers when navigating potential security risks independently.


7. Implementing Secure Remote Access Tools


Utilizing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and secure remote access tools securely bridges the gap from remote devices to the company's network. VPNs encrypt data transmitted over public networks, ensuring confidentiality and integrity. Regardless of location, these tools are sure to keep your company's sensitive data safe. Gain confidence in your workforce team and boost trust within your organization. Remote work doesn't have to set your teammates up for failure, but instead, for productivity and success! Implementing the tips, tools, and tricks learned here today will encourage learning and growth. Keep the focus on what matters most.

Related article: Best WordPress Schedule plugins 2023


7. Implementing Secure Remote Access Tools


Employee awareness may just be the most important factor, especially while working remotely.

Team members must be aware of security policies, potential threats, and safe practices to eliminate the risk of security breaches.

Encourage a culture of vigilance and accountability among your remote workforce by addressing these common queries. Assist in fortifying the security of your remote team, ensuring they are equipped to navigate potential threats while maintaining a secure work environment.

To secure remote devices, enforce device encryption, enable remote wiping capabilities for lost or stolen devices, and regularly update software and antivirus programs. Also, use a trusted VPN connection for secure remote access. Mobile device management (MDM) tools can also help monitor and manage device security.

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Ensure encryption is used on all devices to protect data.
  • Enable the ability to wipe lost or stolen devices remotely.
  • Utilize email filtering systems.
  • Conduct routine phishing simulation exercises.
  • Teach employees to identify and report suspicious activity.

Harbor a culture of vigilance and skepticism towards unsolicited emails and links to create an empowered workforce capable of detecting potential threats. These combined efforts significantly reduce the risk of breaches and cyberattacks.

Conclusion

Working from home is all fun and games until it isn't.

Cyberattacks happen in the blink of an eye, destroying the entire integrity of a company. Be a part of the solution, along with your remote team, to proactively learn and train on these potential threats. Empower your employees to actively contribute to the company's cybersecurity efforts. If you haven't already, begin to implement multi-layered authentication, strong password policies, secure communication channels, regular training, and secure remote access tools.

We recommend quarterly training at a minimum to keep remote employees updated on the latest cyberthreat trends and best practices. However, additional training after significant security incidents or when implementing new safety protocols is advisable, as well. The key is to be proactive, putting out fires before they start. By keeping the workforce informed and well-trained, the ability to mitigate potential risks increases and fosters a culture of security and awareness within your remote team.

The result - trust, confidence, and productivity. Sounds like a recipe for success!

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