Cyber Security Best Practices for Remote Workers
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Although steadily growing for years, remote work, work from home, and hybrid work schedules are now more prevalent than ever. Unfortunately, remote working and cyber security risks are common. This dramatic shift in the workforce has left organizations and their employees at risk for security breaches and cyber security attacks.
It is not that many organizations haven't had remote or off-site workers in the past. Some have had the majority of their workforces off-site. Others have had a mixed or hybrid workforce, while some are working from home. Working from home is not the issue; it's the rush to do so in the past year that has increased threats to network security.
Why Is Network Security Important?
In the past, workplaces did not have secure remote work and neglected the need to do so. But with the sudden and unexpected move to work from home, many had to. Network security is just as important for workers at home as when they are in the office.
Remote workers are using their home routers to access business systems and information.
Since their devices aren't on a secure company WiFi network, their computers may be vulnerable to viruses and issues related to outdated software. And their personal devices may not have strong anti-virus software, customized firewalls, and automatic online backup tools. This can increase the risk of malware finding its way onto their devices, leading to leaked personal and work-related information.
Cyber Security Best Practices Every Employee Should Know
No matter whether an employee is working from home, in the office, or on a hybrid schedule, following cyber security best practices is key to your network security. In many instances, your employees are your first line of defense when it comes to network security.
Use a Strong Password and Good Password Hygiene
All a hacker needs to get into your network is one compromised password. Yet, password management and hygiene are often overlooked when guarding against cyber security risks. A little over half of the people, 53% to be exact, admit that they use the same password for more than one account, whether for work or a personal account.
When a password is leaked following a data breach, your company is at risk. Working remotely is not an excuse to abandon password best practices. A solid password policy helps your employees develop good password hygiene, even if they are working remotely.
Remote workers should not leave their passwords written down near their computers where anyone could use them to connect to their company accounts. Employees can use a password manager to help generate strong passwords and make sure passwords are not being re-used. This way, employees don't have to remember numerous passwords or write them down.
Setup Two-factor Authentication
Having a solid password is just the beginning of remote work security. It can reduce risks drastically; you need more to protect your company from cyber security risks. For instance, your remote workers' credentials may not be properly encrypted when moving through your company's systems. In addition, a hacker may be able to guess passwords using advanced tools that use machine learning and large dictionaries.
To avoid this eventuality, set up two-factor authentication. This offers an extra layer of protection by validating the employee's identity with very little room for error. The extra step could be in the form of a text message, an email, or a randomly generated PIN that only the employee would know. Although this is not 100% hacker-proof, it offers an extra layer of protection from unauthorized intrusion into company systems and accounts.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can protect your traffic — information going to and from your site — from being intercepted by hackers. It creates a virtual internet tunnel that encrypts all internet traffic to make sure that the data shared by a company's internal technologies and networks are safe from attackers.
Strong Anti-virus Software
Ensure your remote workers have installed robust anti-virus software on their devices if they are using their own, and make sure all company devices are equally protected. They should regularly perform scans to identify any malware lurking on their devices. They should also ensure the built-in firewall on their home routers is activated, which helps to reinforce all entry points against hackers that target remote workers.
Be on the Lookout for Phishing Scams
Hackers using the mass shift to work from home to their advantage sometimes use mass distributing phishing emails. Phishing attacks increased by 350% during the COVID-19 quarantine. They are now targeting workers returning to the office. Malware intends to capture sensitive information or encrypt access to any device on the network and demand a ransom.
Warn employees to check email addresses closely for spelling errors constantly. Review the subject line and body of the email for poor grammar and whether or not the email message makes sense. For example, if they get a message from the CEO or other coworker that seems unusual, it may be a phishing email.
They can verify this by checking with the CEO or alleged sender, either by phone or by sending a separate email. They should never respond to the email or click on any links in it unless they are sure that it is legit. They can hover over any links to see the URL, and don't click unless you are 100% sure who the sender is.
Install Updates Regularly
Installing updates annoys everyone. They often cause delays and downtime. However, they are crucial since they are often released to patch security vulnerabilities uncovered or to meet evolving threats since the software was released. Update installation is more critical now than ever since so many employees use personal computers to connect to their company's accounts and systems.
Keep Work Data on Work Computers
Personal computers are generally less secure and can be compromised more easily. If possible, employees should curtail their use of personal devices for work and avoid downloading sensitive information. Those files could be compromised by a malicious file that made its way to an employee's computer without them realizing it.
Secure Your Personal Network
Home routers are usually left with the default passwords that came with their installation. Default credentials for every type of device are known by cybercriminals and are usually the first thing they try when hacking into networks.
Changing the router's password is a simple but vital step to protect networks and prevent malicious attacks on any connected devices, such as the computer used for remote work. Also, make sure the router's firmware is up to date. Hackers are aware of the vulnerabilities of outdated technology.
Why Are Remote Workers at Risk
Although remote work enhances work-life balance and productivity, it has a downside. There are elevated threats with remote work that can put your company's data at risk. These days, almost every business has remote employees.
Remote employees regularly access company accounts, often through unsecured, public WiFi, which puts all their devices, and your company accounts at risk. They often make their work computer the "everything" computer, since they usually don't have both a work and a personal computer. This also means they are probably doing online shopping and other activities, which can increases risk.
If you are looking for secure remote worker solutions for your business, contact Flagler Technologies to see how we can help.