In mid-2021, Gartner forecast that more than half of global knowledge workers would be remote by the end of the year. While those year-end numbers aren’t in yet, if you’re in IT, you’re already dealing with this growing trend, not necessarily in a good way. A global industry study found that 74% of organizations attribute recent cyberattacks that affected their business to vulnerabilities resulting from pandemic-driven changes like the massive spike we’ve seen in remote and mobile workforces.
Meanwhile, the Work Reimagined Survey 2021 from EY Global found that 90% of employees want flexibility in where they work. Balancing remote employee cybersecurity with meeting employee expectations regarding access to apps and data adds even more challenges for IT teams. So, how can you bolster your cyber defenses while meeting those demands? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Educate your employees
Phishing, including fraudulent emails, malicious links, and infected attachments, is responsible for most social engineering breaches. Even worse, cloud-based email servers—the technologies your organization and your employees everywhere depend on most—are hackers’ targets of choice. That’s why cybersecurity awareness training is a critical component for preventing successful attacks, regardless of where your employees are working. Your employees are your first line of defense against hackers, so this kind of focused training helps them recognize and avoid cyber threats. A good cybersecurity awareness training program should include baseline testing using mock attacks so you can spot your vulnerabilities. Continuous assessment through simulated social engineering attacks is also essential because threats constantly evolve.
2. Deploy email filtering and encryption
With the vast majority of malware delivered via email, having an effective filtering and encryption solution in place is crucial to your cyber defenses. Consider adding an email security suite that helps you fight against imposter emails, phishing, malware, spam, and bulk mail. Look for a solution that works with your existing deployments, including cloud, hybrid cloud, and on-premises installations with virtual or physical machines. The right solution should let you detect and defend against threats while making it easy to set up flexible policies and create custom rules at the global, group, and user levels. And a solution that lets your users continue to send and receive emails—even when your servers aren’t available—will quickly pay for itself in employee productivity if an outage should occur.
3. Invest in employee antivirus and internet security software
One of the most effective security strategies for home workers is investing in a comprehensive antivirus (AV) and internet security software suite for you and your employees. Regardless of whether they are remote or onsite or using a company or personal device, make sure the antivirus software you choose can block all online security threats, including zero-day attacks, malware, spyware, viruses, trojans, worms, and, of course, phishing scams.
4. Secure your endpoints, secure your networks
VPNs are a typical method for remote employees to access your network, but an unsecured VPN puts your entire organization at risk. And Work from Home (WFH) means potentially unsecured devices are connecting to your network, too. Tightening endpoint security starts with ensuring your VPN servers and services are up to date and patched. You also need to configure VPN routing policies at each endpoint and focus on cybersecurity and monitoring your VPN infrastructure. One of the best ways to ramp up your network security posture is by adding endpoint protection as a service (EPaaS). EPaaS uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to monitor your endpoints for threats, identify suspicious activity, and respond quickly. That means your employees can continue to be productive and use the devices they love while avoiding becoming another victim of hackers.
5. Use zero trust to ease access without sacrificing security
While VPNs are an essential part of most IT infrastructures, there’s another way to ensure that every device that connects to your network is authenticated and behind a firewall. With cloud-based zero trust network access (ZTNA), you get a multi-level security model that falls under the secure access service edge (SASE) security model. ZTNA services are a more intelligent way to grant private application access to your users, whenever and wherever they need it. And ZTNA gives you an easy-to-manage solution that secures every endpoint in your network while giving your users frustration-free access to applications and data. You can even grant third-party access to contractors, suppliers, and partners whenever needed.
Be prepared and plan ahead
Beyond these basics for ensuring security for remote employees, you may want to consider hosting a cybersecurity discovery session to help you assess your current cybersecurity posture, identify your vulnerability gaps, and help you put solutions in place to close them. This kind of engagement should result in a list of recommended corrective actions, ranging from tech configurations to security policies, compliance requirements, and resource optimization. It’s a significant first step toward a more secure business. Find other tips for keeping your organization and remote workforce safe in this recent blog from our CEO.
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