Consider these alarming statistics on cybersecurity: data breaches cost organizations an average of $3.92 million and $17,700 is lost every minute due to phishing attacks.
Meanwhile, experts warn that a new wave of cyberattacks is targeting Americans who are working remotely due to the recent stay-at-home orders enforced in many states. In fact, The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an alert on cyber vulnerabilities related to working from home.
Whether you have a distributed team by design or you’re adjusting your business structure due to recent events, you can’t afford to ignore the proper cybersecurity measures that will keep your business-critical information safe from hackers.
A data breach will not only cause the loss of business-critical data and sensitive customer information but also tarnish your reputation, erode customer trust, and lead to hefty fines if you are found to have violated industry regulations (e.g., HIPAA, PCI DSS).
Not to mention, you’d likely incur expenses associated with forensic investigations, data recovery, and credit monitoring for affected customers — which can impact your bottom line for years to come.
It is more important now than ever to make sure you have the right cybersecurity strategies in place to protect your systems and data when employees are working remotely. Here’s how:
1. Provide cybersecurity training to employees
Criminals can steal sensitive information from employees using phishing emails, voicemails (vising), text messages (smishing), and more.
Phishing scams are used by hackers to target remote workers and gain access to company accounts or internal networks. Criminals can also send malicious links or attachments via email, which can install malware or ransomware to the employee’s computer and then attack your network.
Since it only takes one employee to click on one suspicious link to let malware infiltrate your system, you need to make sure everyone is aware of the latest cybersecurity threats by providing frequent and adequate training — whether they’re working onsite or offsite.
2. Secure all digital communications
Make sure that all employee and client communications are encrypted. It’s best to provide all the tools your employees need to exchange information so you can have complete control over the security of these communications.
Email is the “usual suspect” in corporate communications but the encryption of mainstream email clients is not always straightforward. You can use specialized encrypted email providers to protect information transmitted in emails.
Also, do not overlook the increasing popularity of messaging apps, which are great tools to facilitate real-time collaboration. The good news is that most of them come with end-to-end encryption as default or as an option. Select one with built-in encryption and make sure everyone is set up with the proper security options when using the platform.
3. Use managed file transfer (MFT) software
It is easy for malicious actors to hack into your employees’ email accounts so it’s important that your staff, customers, and partners aren’t transferring sensitive data and files via email.
Instead, use an MFT solution to send and receive files in the cloud and across private networks securely. The software encrypts all your information before it’s transmitted to the recipients to protect your data from prying eyes.
In addition, an MFT software gives you a holistic view of data movement and storage processes across the organization so you can control the access and usage of your data from one centralized interface.
4. Reinforce endpoint security
Each device used by your employees is a potential entry point for hackers to infiltrate your network. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that these endpoints are protected from phishing attacks and malware.
Set up firewalls and install antiviral software in desktop and laptop computers employees use to connect to your network. If you allow employees to access the company system with their own mobile devices, you should implement a BYOD (bring your own device) policy to ensure security.
In addition, make sure that employees are locking their devices — both physically and digitally. All equipment should be password-protected so the content is encrypted until the device is unlocked with a passcode. You can also use a full-disk encryption tool, such as BitLock, to strengthen the protection.
Provide adequate IT support to all employees so they can set up their equipment and install the necessary software properly to ensure that all the devices used to access your system are protected.
5. Establish secure connections to your network
Employees should connect to your internal servers via a VPN connection, which encrypts all the data being transmitted so it’s unreadable to anyone who intercepts it.
However, keep in mind that VPN can slow down internet speeds so if your employees need to perform high bandwidth tasks such as video calls, you need to select a provider that offers fast and reliable connections.
In addition, make sure employees take the steps to secure their home routers. For example, changing the password from the default setting, installing firmware updates to patch any vulnerability, setting the encryption to WPA2 or WPA3, and switching off WPS.
6. Use strong password protocol and multi-factor authentication
Many systems are breached because hackers steal an employee’s login credentials and use them to infiltrate the entire network.
To prevent this from happening, you need to enforce a strong password policy for accessing your networks and systems. A password should contain a minimum number of characters, as well as numbers and symbols. Each employee should have a unique username/password combo, which should not be used for any other online accounts.
For an extra layer of security, you should implement multi-factor authentication wherever possible to ensure that the party requesting access to your system is an employee and not a hacker who’s using stolen information.
7. Use analytics and automation to strengthen security
Spotting suspicious activities and nipping them in the bud can help you prevent attacks or mitigate damages. However, with remote employees logging in from multiple locations simultaneously and performing a variety of tasks, it’s virtually impossible to monitor these activities manually.
Thankfully, you can use software to automate the monitoring and data protection processes so you can have better visibility into the information flowing in and out of your company.
AI-driven technologies can analyze a large amount of data in real-time and flag unusual patterns (e.g., a user logging in from two locations that are hundreds of miles apart simultaneously) so you can stop suspicious activities as soon as possible.
To support a remote workforce and ensure that they’re accessing your network securely, you should have the right cybersecurity measure in place to protect your systems and business-critical data.
Not only do you need to safeguard your files, encrypt communications, and establish secure connections to your network, but you should also make sure employees are following all cybersecurity protocols, using strong passwords, avoiding phishing attacks, and protecting their devices from hackers.
Last but not least, you need to track the execution of your cybersecurity strategy to ensure its effectiveness. This will allow you to adapt the latest best practices to your business structure and the needs of your remote workers to augment security without impacting productivity.