In the last two years, we all witnessed a startling adjustment which forever changed the business landscape—due to a pandemic. While business managers stepped up to work through the logistical headaches created by a burgeoning remote workforce, there was a parallel, but insidious problem brewing within the business environment that needed to be addressed. That is, this new development required remote work cybersecurity policies and practices be established in order to keep organizations safe from the explosion of cybercrime.
It is no coincidence that cybercrime followed this new normal. Cybersecurity threats posed by remote workers is a direct result of the proliferation of their endpoints. Every desktop computer, laptop, cell phone, and tablet that your employees are using for work are being targeted by cybercriminals. Simply put, the vast majority of damaging cybersecurity breaches perpetrated in recent years was launched through remote workers’ devices.
Here are seven steps you can take to fortify your remote workforce and protect your organization against cyberattack.
1. Migrate your business applications to the cloud.
You know that one of the first laws of business is to control the things that are within your power to control. This one action goes a long way toward guaranteeing true cybersecurity.
Remote workforce security is one of the best reasons for you to join the digital transformation movement by migrating all of your Information Technology infrastructure, including all of your business apps, to the cloud.
Virtually all cloud applications today include continuously updated security features, so you don’t need to spend time and money securing your data in the way you must with a physical network.
2. Conduct a thorough inventory of devices and users.
Solid inventory management has always been a good idea, and when it comes to maintaining cybersecurity with a remote or hybrid workforce, it is essential. All organizations should have measures in place for keeping track of all devices being used by employees working remotely. Please note that this should apply not only to company-owned devices, but also to personal devices that your people are using to perform their day-to-day work.
It may seem obvious, but all of this information should be kept in a secure central database accessible by your IT and security teams, including details such as serial numbers, operating systems, model years, etc., and the contact information of the remote worker attached to each device should be at their fingertips.
3. Get help ensuring that all your organization’s devices are fully patched with the latest software updates.
Patch management—the process of distributing updates to all of your organization’s software—is literally an endless process. Cybercriminals, including state-sponsored bad actors with sophisticated arsenals of cyber weapons, work full-time discovering new software vulnerabilities and exploiting them to their advantage. All of the world’s software companies work full time developing patches for these vulnerabilities.
Just six months ago, following what was called the biggest cyberattack in history, the Microsoft threat intelligence team felt compelled to issue a memo encouraging users of Microsoft Exchange to patch the vulnerability, because it wasn’t happening fast enough.
Ineffective patch management leads to what should be seen as endless threats, and it is a rampant problem. Studies show that seven out of 10 IT security professionals find patch management to be overly complex and time-consuming. That’s why more and more organizations work with technology management firms that offer Patch Management as a Service (PMaaS).
4. Train Your Employees to Be Enthusiastic about Security Practices
It’s likely that you have heard of “phishing”—it is one of the most recognizable words in the world of cybersecurity, turning up almost a billion and a half results on Google. Your employees are probably also familiar with the word, and probably know that it describes a practice in which a cybercriminal tricks someone into opening an email that contains malware which instantly infects a network.
While the phishing trick is well-known, it still works. In fact, it is still the number-one-way that cybercriminals break into networks to launch ransomware attacks. This is why we have been saying for quite some time that it is an urgent necessity for every organization to build a “human firewall” by providing their team members with cybersecurity awareness training. This will give them the tools they need to identify the kind of phishing attacks that continue to make up the bulk of cyberattacks today.
5. Set Up and Enforce Strict Password Restrictions
Most hacking breaches involve cyber criminals gaining access to a network by discovering a user’s password. Phishing is not the only way they can accomplish this. One of the oldest tricks in the book is what is known as a brute force attack, in which the malicious actor uses a computer program to try various letter, number, and symbol sequences hoping to hit the correct combination.
Strong passwords can be a crucial line of defense in protecting your business data and customer information. But many companies have weak or non-existent password policies, putting them at a heightened risk for data hacking.
Every employee has a role to play in protecting their company’s sensitive data – and that means abiding by a stringent password policy.
6. Initiate Multi-Factor Authentication
You have no doubt had an interaction with a website, perhaps a bank, or a social network, for that matter, that required more than a username and password to let you in. Most likely a six-digit verification code was sent to you via Short Message Service (SMS) text. You presented this second piece of information, which we call a “factor,” in the authentication process, and were granted entry.
Two-factor Authentication (2FA) seems simple enough, but it is a powerful deterrent. It makes it many times harder for a bad actor to breach your network successfully and is an extremely effective strategy for avoiding a cyberattack.
Despite its effectiveness, and the fact that it creates at worst a minor inconvenience, 2FA has achieved nowhere near universal adoption. If you have not already initiated 2FA protocols, I recommend that you do so now.
7. Let AI and Machine Learning Help Ensure Endpoint Protection
In response to this dangerous situation, cybersecurity experts have developed a set of tools specifically designed to safeguard all of the devices with access to your network.
Endpoint Protection as a Service (EPaaS) deploys lightweight, ultrafast artificial intelligence directly on your employees’ devices. Your entire remote network, with all of its dispersed vulnerabilities, is monitored 24/7, and the AI-driven antivirus and malware detectors respond immediately to every suspicious event at every endpoint.
Note: While EPaaS is an awesome remote work cybersecurity service, it does not negate the need for these important protections against cyberattacks on remote workers and their devices.
By taking these seven steps, you can be certain that you are steeply decreasing your remote workforce’s cybersecurity risk. I hope you found this information helpful. As always, contact us anytime about your technology needs.
Until next time,