Nowadays, with digitalization offering incredible network connectivity, working in the office is not always required. Yes, coworking spaces can be associated with productivity and community, but many people prefer to work from home. There is nothing better than attending meetings from your kitchen table via cloud calling and working from the comfort of your bed or the nearest café. The benefits of location flexibility are endless.
However, this shift in doing business has a long-term effect on security—cyber threats are skyrocketing. There’s been a 128% increase in malware activity and a 29% increase in botnet traffic in the past year. The era of social distancing created prime opportunities for hackers to exploit home devices, personal emails, texts, voice messages, and third-party applications.
These challenges will probably never go away as it’s becoming apparent that remote work is here to stay.
With new territory comes new attention to old challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge the remote work model faces is its vulnerability to cyberattacks.
As some businesses have learned the hard way in the past year, remote workers are the number-one attack vector for data breaches. To counter this, it’s best to properly inform your remote workers how to defend against the onslaught of cyberattacks.
The Best Ways to Defend Remote Workers Against Cyberattacks
The adage that the best offense is defense rings particularly true when it comes to cyberattacks.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to defend your remote workers from cyberattacks, there are two cornerstones of cyber defense we need to make clear.
Informing and educating your remote workers on how to deal with and prevent cyberattacks is crucial and should be first on the agenda for employers with staff working out of office.
Next, all disabled computers, tablets, phones, and stolen data warnings should be taken seriously and accounted for, as cyber attackers often find entry into your network through these avenues.
Now that’s clear, let’s dive into six more ways you can protect your remote workers from cyber attackers and events that could affect your whole network. If you want even more methods and best practices for stopping attacks before they happen, check out our article on cybersecurity remediation.
1. Mitigate Insider Threats
Anyone with access to your company’s confidential data is a potential threat to your cybersecurity. Employees, business partners, or contractors can be sources of attacks, or their careless behavior can open the door for outside attackers.
To combat this, create cybersecurity policies, provide security awareness training, and implement security solutions. This will equip every worker with the tools to protect sensitive files, emails, and activities. Knowing who has access to the files, and who has accessed them, is also good practice as it can prevent avoidable issues.
Don’t shy away from investigating suspicious behavior. Sometimes taking odd behavior or alerts seriously (and early) can make all the difference. Make sure your staff is trained on how to identify these threats, and have whistleblowing software in place where they can report them easily. Properly trained staff who are aware of good cyber defense practices will be able to identify threats and malicious activity early, meaning your cybersecurity applications and team members can take action.
2. Stop Connecting to Corporate Networks on Insecure Devices
Most remote workers use the same devices for personal use as well as work. If someone connects to the network with an unsecured laptop, smartphone, or tablet, it drastically increases the risk of a security breach.
Typically, personal devices are not properly protected against cyberattacks; however, numerous remote workers are using them for work.
As a result, there is risk of exposing company data, which can lead to significant damage and loss of clients’ trust. Because some workers have no choice but to use their own devices or connect to an unsecured network, the best solution is to make a list of all programs and platforms you use, treat any changes as a potential threat, and address them. Using a virtual private network (VPN) can give you added protection. For additional strategies, see our article on Business Network Security Best Practices.
3. Use a Reputable Business VPN
Unfortunately, the threat of cyberattacks doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As stated by McAfee’s Economic Impact of Cyber Crime, “The severity and frequency of cyberattacks on businesses continues to rise as techniques evolve, new technologies broaden the threat surface, and the nature of work expands into home and remote environments.”
In order for remote workers to be more protected, one of the most cost-effective things a company can do is add an extra layer of defense to their systems by installing a reputable business VPN.
Virtual private networks are the most secure connection between devices. Many people are already using gaming VPNs or using VPN services to watch the latest Netflix series, but this method can be used for work too.
VPNs require authentication, so it’s easy to see who is connecting to the public internet. The standard protocols encrypt the data and validate the users or devices. This allows you to securely connect to different public networks wherever you go. This is essential to protect company data as it’s shared among employees all over the world.
4. Use Strong Anti-Virus Software
Have you ever downloaded some files, only to open them up and be besieged with hundreds of pop-ups? If so, you need stronger antivirus software to protect you from these adware programs.
Viruses change the way computer systems operate. They spread quietly from one computer to another, especially when a worker opens a dangerous email attachment or link. These links can install malware and do vast damage if even one computer from the network is infected.
Many hackers use these malware attacks to get into their target’s device by sending malicious code into the company’s software.
Antivirus software is designed to discover these viruses before they can have a detrimental impact on your company’s devices and data. Because many antivirus applications are built around advanced machine learning software and artificial intelligence, they are extremely efficient in what they do.
These intelligent programs are the champions in your battle against cyberattacks, and here are some tips to maximize their effectiveness:
- Research different antivirus programs to decide which is best for your company.
- Set up the scheduled updates.
- Scan at regular intervals.
- If you are using a paid version, keep the subscription renewed.
- Ensure it is installed on every device.
5. Learn how the proxy server works
Proxy servers are automatic data processing systems or routers that function as a mediator between the server and the client. It is a dual-homed host with two network IP addresses available. This preventative approach can help prevent cyber attackers from successfully invading your network.
A proxy server is one of many elements of a strong firewall. Every internet request arrives first in the proxy server, where it is evaluated and then forwarded. Likewise, every response that comes back to the server is checked before being forwarded to the user.
The withdrawing address is the one the internet sees. To be even more careful, encourage your employees to use a combination of proxy and network address translations (NATs).
This way you can “mask” your IP address—and then you’re ready to do your job wherever you want. Keep in mind, there are several types of proxies, and some will be more appropriate for your needs than others. Below are some examples of proxies:
- Anonymous proxies allow the user to surf the internet while keeping their IP safe.
- Application-level and circuit-level proxies are most frequently committed to HTTP and FTP-specific content.
- Forward and reverse proxies hide every client’s detail from the servers. They can reside at the website and hide details from the client also.
6. Remain Vigilant Against Future Dangers
Defending against cyberattacks is an ongoing process. If you’ve followed the previous steps, then you are more prepared than the majority of your competitors.
But the work doesn’t stop there. Cyber attackers aren’t going to call it a day—studies forecast the worldwide security market to reach a whopping $170.4 billion by 2022.
Cyber attackers will continue to adapt and improve, so it’s imperative that your cyber defense practices follow suit.
Lastly, it’s of great importance to implement two-factor authentication and firewalls.
At Resolute, our technology and expertise can maintain a secure and efficient network for every client, and we will guide them through the process. Our network consultants and security services will make your network safe and secure. If you’re a remote worker that needs extra protection, contact us today. We will set up an introductory call and provide you with a threat intelligence framework addressing all modern threats to your company. Working with managed services providers can be an excellent solution to proactively monitor and respond to threats to your remote work force. If you want to learn what that would loo like for your business, contact us!
- This post is part of our guest post series.