Remote working and hybrid work environments continue after the move towards these scenarios was accelerated by the onset of the pandemic in 2020. However, some challenges remain.
According to research, organizations using remote or hybrid working face cyber attacks and vulnerabilities. In fact, a study by Tenable found that 74% of organizations say that recent cyber attacks affecting them are specifically due to remote working. Forrester made the report. Learn more about cybersecurity for remote work below.
Cloud services, apps, remote access tools, and personal devices have made the traditional security perimeter unnecessary. IT managers struggle to keep pace, but it is a fast-paced, changing and increasingly complex environment.
It is estimated that 80% of business leaders say they are more exposed to risks because of working remotely. Three factors are potentially at the root of this. There is a lack of visibility into remote employee home networks, software supply chain expansion, and cloud migration.
Many employees use their own devices. This leads to the risk of unmanaged devices, which means that no update or patch management is in progress. When employees are left on their own to update underlying software or operating systems, your organization faces regulatory and security risks.
With all of these considerations in mind, the following are the essential elements of an effective cybersecurity plan for remote and hybrid workers.
Understand the risks
Before you can start building a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for your remote workforce, you need to understand the risks. Of course, the specifics may vary depending on your industry and your employees, but some of the things to look out for include:
Â· Phishing: This is not a threat exclusive to remote workers, but phishing attacks have increased significantly since March of last year. Phishing scams work remarkably well, and they have become increasingly difficult to distinguish from legitimate emails and requests. All teleworkers should be carefully trained on the risks of phishing. This should be part of the integration and also of the continuing education. You must use at least two-factor authentication for your employees to be able to access any networks or digital assets.
Human error: When your employees work from home, they are more likely to be distracted and less likely to follow the cybersecurity protocols they would use in the office. This leaves your entire organization at risk. Awareness and training of employees are two of the best ways to combat this. If you don’t have one yet, you need a well-defined cybersecurity policy for remote working.
Avoid updates: We covered this topic above and will get to it in more detail below, but your employees might not install updates and use patches as they should. Your IT administrators no longer have centralized control unless you specifically set it up so that they can monitor and manage remote devices.
Below, we’ll cover some of the more specific things to do to secure a remote workforce in terms of cybersecurity threats.
Zero trust architecture
Remote and hybrid working completely challenges everything we know about cybersecurity.
In the past, the idea was to protect the perimeter.
Essentially, the goal of IT teams and cybersecurity professionals was to make sure everything within their network was protected. Once someone was in this network, they could roam freely. This makes reasonable sense in a conventional on-site environment. You still have great control and centralized visibility with this approach, as long as everyone is working on-site on your devices.
And when they are not?
Then, perimeter-based cybersecurity starts to look somewhat outdated. You have to consider the fact that your perimeter is gone, at least in the traditional sense.
Your employees work from anywhere and often on their own devices. You simultaneously lose control and visibility unless you find a solution to combat the loss.
More and more, it looks like the Zero-Trust Architecture could be the way to do it.
Things to know about the zero-trust architecture include:
Â· Do not trust; just check is the currency. With perimeter-based security, currency could be described as trust but verification. Now that won’t work based on the realities of a modern IT infrastructure. You have to take the approach that you don’t trust anyone or anything. No device or application is inherently reliable.
Â· How do you facilitate this? Zero-Trust is based on comprehensive identity, access and device management. These are governed by policies based on adaptive authentication.
Â· IT administrators can secure access for their remote workers, but they need multi-factor authentication (MFA) and specific policies to do so.
Learn more about Zero-Trust
Â· Least privileged access is a core element of Zero-Trust. In order to implement the least privileged access, you will probably need to check who currently has access to what. From there, every user needs the lowest level of access possible, just like every device.
Â· There is a term relevant to Zero-Trust called Adaptive Authentication. This means that not only are the right credentials presented, but they are coming from the right person. This is often where the AMF is critical. Passwords are the weakest part of your security chain, so you need to move away from the concept of ‘what you know’ and instead incorporate the second factor of ‘something you own’ or ‘something. that you are “.
Â· With Zero-Trust, you regain monitoring capacity that you would otherwise lose when switching to remote work. You get instant visibility into access attempts and overall network activity with real-time monitoring. When issues and threats are quickly identified, you can limit the scope of the attack and reduce the lockdown period. It is also possible when an IT administrator receives an alert to isolate the behavior and prevent lateral movement to other systems.
Â· When a user attempts to log in and Zero-Trust is in place, there is rule-based control for conditional authentication. This means that there are individual conditions that must be met before a device is allowed to access.
In addition to protecting the identity through multiple factors and strong passwords, you will also need to protect the device using endpoint protection and monitoring, which again, should be part of your larger Zero-Trust strategy.
General goals that you should remember when creating a Zero-Trust implementation plan include multiple layers of security, enterprise-level security, and simple deployment. Also prioritize scalability, improve your network performance, and lower your operating overheads.
Using multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication is such an important part of secure work for remote teams that it is worth talking about on its own, even outside of its role in a zero-trust framework.
You want your employees to have access to what they need, wherever they are, but security must be maintained.
The growing number of devices and apps that employees use to make their jobs easier simultaneously reduces visibility and increases risk. Multi-factor authentication not only takes security into account, but it also reduces employee friction. It’s easy for employees to use MFA because it takes advantage of something they already have.
Remote device management systems
We briefly touched on the importance of remote device management systems. Many organizations manage a variety of operating systems on employee devices, making device management increasingly difficult.
IT administrators need to implement a modern device management system that will give them a view of the applications and software installed on remote devices. They also need to control, monitor, manage and update devices without disruption to users.
IT teams need to be able to ensure that certain software is not installed on company machines, correct software and update operating systems when new versions are available. Along with cybersecurity, these are essential goals for compliance.
The capabilities that a modern device management system should have, in addition to being cloud-based, include:
Operating system management
Management of software versions
Full view of the operating system version installed on all devices and software
Capabilities for administrator to remove, manage, install or update software on any device
When IT admins have a holistic view of devices, they can make strategic decisions about when to apply updates, fixes, and changes in a way that won’t hamper productivity.
Training and compliance
Finally, none of the above steps will be as effective as they could be without the proper training and understanding of employees. You should also keep compliance in mind. You should regularly train your employees on the basics like avoiding phishing emails and more complex concepts like working safely in a remote environment. Your employees need to fully understand their role in cybersecurity and how they can protect their work from vulnerabilities they might encounter when working remotely.
In addition to being a general good practice, training your employees on these concepts can be a legal defense in terms of compliance. For example, if you encounter an incident that results in data loss, the courts will increasingly assess the steps you have proactively taken to prevent it, including employee training.
If you are faced with a dispute, you will be assessed against industry best practice standards.