21 Jul Security risks that come with Remote Work
The benefits and conveniences that come with remote working are undeniable, but your team might be putting your business at risk without their knowing. There are so many factors that, if left unnoticed, can make it more trouble than its worth! Let’s look at some of the most common security risks that you need to look out for.
What is remote work?
Remote work is, by its strictest definition, an arrangement made with an employer where the employee can work anywhere outside of an office. They can do it from any geographical location that suits them. It goes by many names, ie work-from-home, telework, and remote job.
Opening your team up to remote work gives them the authority to work wherever it suits them. Though with people opting to work from home would be the most ideal situation, there are occasions when they might venture to a nearby coffee shop for a change of scenario. This leaves you little control over the networks they end up using; and if they do use a public network like what most coffee shops have, this might leave their computers (and your databases) open to possible security threats.
Kaspersky, one of the oldest cybersecurity companies in the industry, found that about business accrue an average of $1.5 billion in damages every year. This is a staggering number that is only likely to increase the more businesses transition to remote workspaces, which is a 25% growth in 2023 according to this study conducted by Forbes.
Common Security Threats and How to Address Them
Let’s look at some of the most likely cyber security threats and some best practices I personally use to avoid getting hacked.
With a remote setup, your team will likely be communicating a lot of integral information over the internet, more specifically through email. Email Phishing is when hackers attempt to obtain your personal information and user credentials using fishy emails with a web link to an external link. Upon clicking said link, they can then access your database and install malware and ransomware to put your business in jeopardy.
So how do you avoid getting phished? In this case, proper training goes a long way. Teaching your team how to detect sketchy emails and reminding them not to be trigger happy with external links are just a few simple steps that can potentially save you a lot of money. Here’s a more thorough guide regarding email phishing you can use.
Unsecure calls / call hacking
Most people working from home are likely to be teleconferencing on a daily basis. This means that transactions usually made on a secure IP phone that’s set up in a physical office space are now being conducted over computer software. If you’re not careful, you and your team might be opening yourselves up to possible data theft and call hackers. This leaves sensitive data like credit cards, account numbers, and other examples open for the taking.
The hardest thing about spyware is that they are invisible. This makes them hard to avoid and even harder to detect if and when you have them. It is another example of malicious software (aka malware) that can be found in suspicious links and websites, so teaching your team to be wary about clicking on them is the first step towards avoidance. The most common signs of having spyware lies in the performance of your computers, so being wary of slowdowns, lags, and an abundance of pop-ups helps you know if you’ve been attacked. Isolate infected hardware immediately and install verified spyware removal tools as needed.
Arming your team with powerful spyware prevention tools like Avast, for example, is a great way towards protecting your team and your business from potential spyware attacks.
Unsafe internet networks
When your team inevitably finds themselves bored and distracted while working from home, they will find themselves venturing out to coffee shops to work there. And that right there is the beauty of remote work! I myself find much pleasure and an increased level of productivity when I’m in the middle of a busy coffee shop, slaving away at my 7-year old Macbook Air and soaking in the hustle and bustle of a public work space.
Doing so, however, requires workers like me to share internet connectivity with all the other people in that space. Though shared private networks oftentimes require a password to access, that does little to deter a determined hacker. Unsafe networks can open you up to potential viruses and unwanted data thieves.
Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Verify the network you are connecting to. Some hackers may pose as public networks, and linking to them is similar to handing them the keys to your own house! If at a coffee shop, ask the baristas what their free access point is and connect to that one accordingly.
- Only use HTTPS addresses. Encrypted sites offer some level of protection from hackers and makes sure that any data you submit to these sites are encrypted.
- Keep your firewall up. A very basic step towards internet protection, a firewall protects your computer from hackers and contacting malware. Firewalls are also important if your team is constantly downloading software from the internet.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is probably the best option for remote workers. A VPN offers a secure option for workers to connect to the internet when logged on to a public network. It basically encrypts your data and offers a level of protection while you pass data to and from your computer. There are a lot of VPN providers out there, and some of them provide better value than others. Check out this link for a more thorough review of your options.
- Install an antivirus software. Most computers offer some version of an antivirus software, some of which is on a limited trial plan. Investing in a paid version of an antivirus software goes a really long way in preventing unwanted cyber attacks. They protect you from viruses, malware, and some even come bundled with a VPN plan!
- Use secure calling software. With people working from home, that means a lot of important business calls taking place using possibly-unsafe calling software. Do not risk any security breaches and check that the software you’re using to make conference calls is Transport Layer Security (TLS) ready. This is an internet protocol that makes sure that your communications take place over a secure network over the internet. Companies like Zoom and our very own Nautilus is designed to offer secure internet calling by maintaining peer-to-peer VOIP (voice over internet protocol) over a TLS network.
Keeping your company safe is top priority
The further businesses adapt remote working as a valid work model, the more they open themselves up to an ever-expanding list of security risks. Evolving with the times is key, and being proactive with internet protection is a must.
The best way for a business to succeed is to have everybody on board; to have a shared sense of responsibility with regards to the overall health of the business. Having a well-defined security policy is essential for every company.
You can do this by ensuring everyone has proper training regarding potential security risks, setting up multi-factor authentication for logging in, and making sure that everyone has the essential antivirus software installed on their computers. These steps, when done together and sustained at all times, can help protect your business from unwanted cyber security attacks.