The COVID-19 outbreak has pushed many companies to explore remote work. Despite the convenience and benefits, remote work comes with several cybersecurity challenges. Not only is the remote worker’s privacy put at risk, but remote working could also expose the company to various cybersecurity risks.
What is a Remote Team?
Remote teams (or distributed teams) are groups of people co-working across various offices, cities, or countries. These remote workers don’t share a physical office. They communicate through email, videoconferencing, and other online methods.
Remote Working Security Risks
Remote teams can be vulnerable to cyber attacks and other online threats, especially if an organization hasn’t prepared for the transition to remote work. Remote workers usually BYOD (bring your own device), and unlike in traditional offices, they can’t simply lock down their workstations or be protected by the office’s firewall.
Here are some common security issues with working remotely:
- Unsecured connection: Remote workers work from home most of the time, so they use their own Wi-Fi network. Sometimes, they may use public networks, like in a cafe, airport, or hotel. However, such public networks may not be secure, which could allow malicious users to pry and even steal information.
- Unsecured devices: Aside from using their own networks, many remote workers use their own devices. These devices may lack cybersecurity tools, like antivirus software. This increases the possibility of a malware infection or data breach.
- Social engineering: It is “the art of exploiting human psychology... to gain access to buildings, systems or data.” For example, a social engineer may pretend to be an IT staff and trick a remote worker into revealing confidential information.
- Phishing: Phishing is a very common type of social engineering attack. In phishing, an attacker typically initiates the attack by sending a harmless-looking email, which either contains a malicious attachment that downloads malware onto the victim’s computer or links to a legitimately looking but malicious site, which might ask for credentials or automatically download malware. Another form of phishing, known as whaling, uses these techniques to target senior executives.
How to Manage a Remote Team Securely
Cybersecurity Tools for Remote Teams
Here are some tools that can be used to manage the security of remote teams:
- Secure means of communication: Make sure remote workers use their company emails, not their personal ones, especially when sending confidential information. If the company or team chooses to use messaging services, go with those with end-to-end encryption (like Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram).
- VPN (Virtual Private Network): VPNs channel a user’s connection through a server that’s in another city or country. VPNs are mainly known for bypassing geo-restrictions of websites, but they’re also used for enhancing a user’s privacy. A VPN encrypts the user’s connection, which makes the traffic unreadable to prying eyes.
- Firewall: A firewall controls the traffic between a device and the Internet. It acts as the first line of defense against malware and other malicious programs.
- Antivirus: A good antivirus software complements the firewall. It can detect, block, and remove known malware and malicious programs.
- Password manager: This tool can create, store, and autofill passwords, especially if you own lots of passwords. This enables your employees to create complex, secure passwords without having to memorize them.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA): Sometimes, a strong password isn’t enough. You may need 2FA for another layer of security. 2FA requires an extra authentication step, which can be a secret answer, a token, a text with a one-time code, or a fingerprint scan. This ensures that outsiders can’t just log into an account with a password, in case that password has been compromised.
Cybersecurity Best Practices for Remote Teams
Here are more best practices and tips for keeping your remote teams secure:
- Your team members use strong, unique passwords, and never reuse the same password for accounts.
- Make sure their connections are secure. Remote workers should change the password of their home routers after installation and make sure that the router’s firmware is updated, the highest available encryption is enabled, and inbound/outbound traffic is restricted.
- Warn your remote team to be cautious about public Wi-Fi networks. They should not assume that the networks are encrypted. If they need to connect to public Wi-Fi, employees should use a VPN that’s mandated by the company.
- Locking devices should be made a habit, especially if your remote workers are working in public or staying with people whom they can’t share confidential information with.
- Software and device updates should be done as soon as they are made available to fix security vulnerabilities. If possible, make these updates automatic.
- Data needs to be backed up regularly. Hardware backups are more simple, but cloud backups are more convenient and cost-efficient. If you choose the hardware route for your remote workers, ensure that the data is encrypted, so it remains secure no matter what happens.
- Have a clear remote working security policy. The document should include provisions on access privileges and data retention, a strong password policy, a “work from home” security policy, among other things.
- Invest in cybersecurity awareness training. Humans are a vulnerability factor in any security system. That’s why training must be a part of any company’s cybersecurity program. Make sure your remote employees are aware of phishing and social engineering attempts.
- If possible, provide the devices, as allowing the use of personal devices just adds an element of risk. This is one way to ensure that the devices meet the company’s security requirements. Also, instruct remote workers to use company-provided devices only for work purposes.
Cyber Insurance as the Ultimate Safety Net
In addition to securing and training your remote employees, having cyber insurance coverage provides peace of mind. Should you experience a data breach or security incident as a result of a negligent remote employee or a malicious hacker, comprehensive cyber insurance coverage can protect you from the financial burden and help you recover with minimal impact to your business.
Cybersecurity for Remote and Distributed Teams
Remote workers aren’t protected by on-site IT security infrastructure, so they’re vulnerable to various cybersecurity threats. It’s critical that remote workers be trained and well-equipped. It’s also crucial for companies to deploy cybersecurity tools and resources to manage their remote teams securely.
Zeguro’s end-to-end cyber safety platform can help you maintain robust security while managing remote teams with tools like security awareness training and security policy management. Learn more about our Cyber Safety solution or sign up for a free trial to start protecting your remote team and your business against cyber attacks today.