Cybersecurity tips to stay secure through months of remote work

Cybersecurity tips to stay secure through months of remote work

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled many Orlando organizations to swiftly adopt cloud solutions and enable employees to work from home to curb the spread of the virus.

Several months into what was dubbed the world's largest work from home experiment, it seems like remote work (or at least a hybrid work environment) is, and will long continue to be, the new normal.

The problem is, there’s a host of security issues with working remotely. Because home or public Wi-Fi networks aren’t as well-protected as their enterprise-grade counterparts, businesses must double up on security to keep their data and systems safe. Many organizations are successfully reducing the risk of security breaches by adopting the following key strategies.

Assessing risks before using new tools

The sudden shift to remote work was uncharted territory for a lot of businesses, so many were eager to use accessible online tools to support their remote workforces. Zoom, in particular, became the video conferencing service of choice. The number of users on the platform surged from 10 million in December 2019 to over 200 million within the first few months of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Businesses favored Zoom for its free service, quick setup, and high-quality video streaming capabilities that make it easy to coordinate distributed teams. However, the platform’s rise in popularity came with a wave of scrutiny. Zoom was strongly criticized for its security issues and vulnerabilities, including its intrusive data collection and sharing practices as well as lack of advanced end-to-end encryption.

While Zoom has since addressed these problems, businesses that jumped the gun and used the service without first vetting it exposed themselves to unnecessary risks.

In contrast, organizations that exercised caution were able to steer clear of these risks by looking into secure alternative platforms, particularly Microsoft Teams. Taking cues from Zoom's security blunders, Teams underscored its advanced threat protection, end-to-end encryption, secure guest access, and other features that prevent data loss and protect information. This eventually led to an 894% growth in Teams usage.

This is why it’s important to assess risks prior to implementing new technology. It pays to be prudent, and it’s well worth consulting with an expert about the potential implications of a particular solution or service to your organization before using it.

Securing home networks with multilayered defenses

The pandemic forced millions of people to work from home so suddenly that businesses had little time to adjust to the new work environment. This also meant that employees were very likely to log in to their work accounts and access company systems using unsecured home networks and personal devices. And because they’re busy juggling life and work at home, they’re not as vigilant to potential threats.

To address these challenges, businesses invested in various defense measures to protect home offices and vital company systems. First of all, they started using virtual private networks (VPNs) to establish secure connections to corporate networks and make sure their employees’ online activities are virtually untraceable.

Many are also now implementing unified endpoint management (UEM) solutions, which allow businesses to centrally manage all endpoint devices connected to their company network. Essentially, this security solution detects and investigates suspicious activities within a network and enables quick response to threats, such as denying access to compromised devices and wiping lost or stolen devices. With a UEM solution, organizations are also able to manage privacy configurations and remotely implement patches company-wide.

In addition to VPNs and UEM, businesses are securing home offices by deploying secure web gateways composed of firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and advanced email filtering software.

Implementing zero trust security

Many organizations found that a simple yet highly effective way to protect critical business assets is to adopt a zero-trust security framework. This approach hinges on the idea that threat actors can and do bypass the perimeter defenses of your network. No one can be presumed to be trustworthy just because they gained entry into your network. This means that you have to be more cautious about granting users and devices access to your business resources.

There are three key security elements that comprise an effective zero trust framework, namely endpoint management, multifactor authentication (MFA), and micro-segmentation.

MFA requires users to prove their identity by using a combination of at least two different login credentials. These can be:

  • Knowledge factors (e.g., a password or PIN)
  • Possession factors (e.g., a unique code sent to a mobile phone)
  • Inherence factors (e.g., a fingerprint or retina scan)
  • Location factors (e.g., an IP or a MAC address)
  • Behavior factors (e.g., a recreation of a specific pattern or picture password)

Microsegmentation, on the other hand, involves partitioning networks and cloud environments into smaller zones and defining each one’s security and access controls. For example, businesses can restrict non-accounting employees from accessing confidential financial records and accounting software and resources.

Businesses that implement zero-trust security have greater control over who has access to their data. By limiting access privileges to the bare minimum permissions that employees need to perform their work, these businesses are boosting their security and significantly reducing the risk of data breaches.

Understanding that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility

Organizations that have managed to stay secure through the past several months recognize that while technical security solutions are important for remote work, everyone must actively guard against remote work-related threats.

However, simply being more conscious of the security implications of working from home isn’t enough — employees must also develop good security habits. This is why many businesses are now investing in cybersecurity training. This entails teaching employees responsible use of company devices and applications and other cybersecurity best practices.

Holding regular security awareness training and testing programs can ensure that everyone in your organization effectively identifies and protects against the growing threat landscape.

To help your business overcome the cybersecurity risks of remote work, partner with Data Cube Systems. Call us today to learn more about how we can help protect your network and your remote employees from increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats.