Published on September 29th, 2021 | by Bibhuranjan


Minimising Cyber Security Risks When Remote Working

Remote working is here to stay, in some form or another. While there are a multitude of reasons why businesses might want their employees back in the office, the employees themselves have come to realise that remote work isn’t such a bad deal. They can get rid of the daily commute, spend more time with their family, and be more flexible in how and when they work. Little wonder, then, that a survey of 2,000 workers found that a majority want to continue working remotely at least two days per week.

Employees should let them, too. Study after study has highlighted that productivity goes up, not down, when staff are working remotely. Better employee morale means a lower turnover, meaning that businesses need to deal with the disruption of replacing and training new employees less frequently. And when employees are working remotely, businesses can source talent from all over the world, giving them access to skills and capabilities that weren’t available in the local area.

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There is a dark side to remote work, however: security. A study last year shows that remote working caused a security breach in 20 per cent of organisations. To work remotely employees need to tap into their company’s network, which is always a risk, and that’s compounded by the relative lack of monitoring from the security team when they’re outside of the office. Often, too, they’re connecting using less-than-secure networks and, sometimes, even public networks, unaware of the risks that those pose.

Businesses that want to allow remote work long term are going to need to find ways to close the gaps in their organisation’s defences.

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Security best practices to mitigate cyber risks

Organisations can often greatly reduce their risks with remote work without needing to make expensive technology purchases. Indeed, there are six best practices that are often overlooked by businesses that, once implemented, will make the network very hard to break into.

  • Educate your team – Offer cyber security awareness training

The first security best practice is to simply have a good education system in place that teaches everyone within the organisation how to work safely online. Studies show that a massive 95 per cent security breaches occur as a direct result of human error. Once the cyber criminals have any point of access, they can go on to do a great deal of harm. Implementing an ongoing and regular best practice training regimen is the best solution for minimising the potential for human error to cause a breach.

  • Introduce two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication isn’t perfect, but it will stop casual attempts by cyber criminals to access a network. Two-factor authentication is simple technology; it simply requires that a user input both their password and a code sent via SMS to their mobile phone or similar device before they can log in to their account. To circumvent that, a cyber criminal is going to need to get access to the person’s phone system.

  • Establish a VPN

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is an essential tool in protecting the identity and security of your people online. Essentially VPNs act to “pretend” that your data is coming into and exiting a different source to your ISP – a server, located either on-shore or off-shore, acts as your “location” online.

What does this mean for security? It’s quite simple; data sent and received while using a VPN is encrypted, making it difficult to intercept en route. VPNs are incredibly effective in “masking” data sent to and from the enterprise network, and most IT managers will insist on them before moving critical pieces of data online.

  • Make best practices easily accessible

Going back to the lack of awareness in the first bullet point, organisations should also make all the best practices readily available to the user via an online library. It’s essential that employees are able to quickly and easily understand how to set up two-factor authentication, how to properly connect to the VPN, and so on. If this information isn’t accessible, the chances are that the employee isn’t going to follow best practices.

  • Be conscious of phishing

Phishing accounts for around 43 per cent of all cyber breaches. It is a simple cyber-attack – simply dress a malware-infected email up as though it came from the boss, or other important source, and convince the person to download and run a file attached to the email.

Not only should you teach your staff how to spot a phishing email, but you should encourage the organisation to share notes when a phishing email comes through, so the entire organisation knows to watch out for similar efforts sent to their email.

  • Implement anti-virus software

Finally, it’s important to install anti-virus software on every PC, and make it a policy to run regular scans. Enterprise anti-virus software often allows for this to be handled remotely, so the IT team can continue to monitor the entire suite of end-point devices from their own remote working arrangements.

These solutions are available to businesses of all sizes, and with all kinds of IT budgets. Taken together they minimise the need for dedicated security personnel and will allow even the smallest business to protect its most critical data assets.

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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