Working remotely has become a popular model for many businesses since the coronavirus pandemic. Fully remote or hybrid working can be a useful way to save money and boost productivity. However, the reliance on our devices and technology when working from home can come with inherent risks and vulnerabilities businesses should be aware of. In this guide, we’ll be exploring the security risks of remote working as well as key tips to help ensure secure communication solutions between workers.
What are the security risks of remote working?
Without the secure infrastructure of a working office environment in place, employees can unknowingly leave the business exposed to potential attacks and other problems through poor cyber security practices. Let’s discuss some of the biggest risks of remote working below.
Increased risk of phishing attacks
One of the biggest risks for businesses when working remotely is phishing attacks. Hackers that use phishing techniques to extract information out of people by posing as a legitimate source have become more advanced over the years. This makes it harder for employees to differentiate them from real work requests and potentially send sensitive information to the hacker. When they have this information they can break into accounts, steal more private data, carry out identity fraud, and more.
There is always a risk that this can happen in a workplace, but the risk is heightened when working from home. This is because there is a stronger reliance on email communication and the employees are alone. It’s not as straightforward as asking a colleague or employer in the office whether they sent that email or message. The best way to mitigate this risk is to make sure employees have a good understanding of how to spot a phishing attempt and anti-phishing solutions.
Unsecured home devices
In many cases when employees are working from home, they are using a personal device, not a corporate provided one. This can lead to serious vulnerabilities and risks as personal laptops and computers are often not as secure as business ones.
Businesses with good cyber security practices in place will likely use virtual private networks (VPNs) and single sign-on solutions. Therefore, it is easier to keep everything protected, no matter what device is accessing the corporate network. However, when working from home, and employee probably won’t think to encrypt their phone or use a VPN when going on the internet, especially if they’re just completing a quick task.
If you’re making the transition from working in an office to full or hybrid remote working, it’s easy to take the security features you’re used to for granted and forget to effectively implement them in your home setup. It’s not just laptops and phones that present risks either, modern Wi-Fi printers have become an avenue for hackers to exploit. Additionally, when remote workers print business documents on their personal printers, they might not have access to a shredder, which can be a physical risk of sensitive data being exposed.
One of the simplest, yet often underestimated ways for employees to protect themselves when working remotely is to make sure they use strong passwords across all their devices. Human error is one of the biggest risks to remote working and offer an easy way for cyber criminals to breach accounts and access private business data. Hackers can crack weak passwords in different ways.
For example, they will compile a list of frequently used passwords that employees might use and try different variations until they login successfully.
In addition to weak passwords, repeat passwords also present a significant security vulnerability when working from home.
If a cybercriminal has managed to crack a weak password and access one account, they will likely try the same password for others. Employees who repeat their passwords, especially if they do so across their business and personal accounts, face a much higher risk of being the victim of a cyberattack.
GDPR and data protection measures
When workers are remote, the employer has less control over data security and ensuring GDPR is always being upheld. Businesses are obligated to protect any personal data they handle and have suitable security measures in place to minimise the risk of data breaches.
This is especially challenging to achieve when your employees are working remotely. A good way to overcome this risk is to have a robust remote work policy in place which details which employees can access corporate servers, what data they should use, and how to use it.
Webcam and video hacking
Video meetings via Zoom, Teams, or other similar platforms are often a big part of remote work to help employees stay connected with each other and communicate regularly. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are very aware of this and can find ways to hack webcams and disrupt online meetings. You might not even know that they are there as they can go undetected to gather any sensitive information that might be discussed during the meeting and use it for another attack.
A cyber security consultant like our team at CyberWhite can provide professional advice to help businesses that work remotely to ensure they have the right security measures in place to work safely and effectively.
Top tips for secure remote working
- Use password managers – a password manager can help remote employees keep track of different passwords they need for various accounts and make sure they are using strong passwords.
- Implement multi-factor authentication – having an extra layer of security for your accounts will help to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack when working from home.
- Encourage employees to use a VPN – VPNs are quickly becoming a popular tool for remote workers because they are useful for protecting laptop data whilst online. This means they can keep the same security, functionality, and appearance as they would if they were within a company network.
- Create a remote working policy – this will help remote workers to understand what is expected from them when working from home, including guidelines, best practices, and responsibilities when they are away from the physical office. The policy should include the key aspects of online security to minimise the risks mentioned above as much as possible.
Remote working can be a useful model for many businesses, as long as you have a clear structure in place for everyone to understand their role, and their personal responsibility for reducing security risks. If you need support with cyber security in your business, our cyber security advisory services are here to help. Contact CyberWhite today to discuss your requirements and find a tailored solution that will keep your business completely secure whether you’re working in the office or not.