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Remote Workers Increase Challenges in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Gets More Complicated with Remote Workers

Remote work has become a consistent trend over the last few years with the number of freelancers and employees working (at least part-time) from home increasing quickly. According to predictions from 2017 research, 58 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing at least some of the time by 2027.

This rapid increase in flexible work is exciting, but comes with some unique cyber security challenges. Many businesses, especially those with few employees, don’t fully understand the cybersecurity threats they face with their remote employees. Unfortunately, this exposes them to higher threat risk.

“Remote workers are a known weak link in almost every organization’s security profile, which is why threat actors target them,”says Justin Dolly, CISO of Malwarebytes. “The farther away from the typical corporate network you get, the less security there is protecting the users. There has always been a challenge managing endpoints, especially with the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) some years ago.”

With remote workers popping up all over the globe, targeted attacks are growing more sophisticated and frequent.

Common Cybersecurity Threats

All business owners should strive to understand the most common threats, particularly those targeting remote work. Here are some key findings for remote workers and their cybersecurity risks.

Unsecured Connections

Remote workers typically log onto an enterprise server with their own internet, or worse—with public Wi-Fi. Hackers often use public Wi-Fi and unsecured home connections to gain access to sensitive work information.

Even if you require your employees to use a virtual private network (VPN), it’s difficult to enforce this practice. There’s also the risk that hackers will gain access to the VPN through a single employee and consequently access information on the entire network.

Weak Passwords

Weak passwords are one of the most common entry points for hackers targeting remote workers. Many employees use the same password for everything, or they keep a file or paper record of all their passwords. Once that code is cracked, hackers can gain entry to the company networks.

Ignorance to Threats

People often don’t realize the threats facing enterprises, especially when they’re located far from the hub. Millennials are particularly ignorant to these threats.

"Millennials in the workplace have a different perspective on the sensitivity of information, information-sharing and the ramifications of personal data being shared within a corporate environment," Morey Haber, a vice president of technology a cybersecurity companytold Society for Human Resource Management. It’s the ignorance of these employees and others that enable third-party hacking success.

Mitigating Cybersecurity Threats

Understanding the threats facing your remote workers is only the beginning. If you wish to survive an attack, knowing how to mitigate your risk is vital.

Evolve With the Technology

Technology is evolving to match the threats that come our way, but we have to adopt prevention tech if we wish to protect our organizations.

“The most critical data is moving to the cloud,”suggests an article from Cato Networks, an SD-WAN company dedicated to increasing security among enterprises. “Optimized, secure access to the Internet and cloud from your places of business is a must, but you also need to take into consideration employees accessing the cloud at home or in public places. Tools such as firewalls, data encryption, two-factor authentication, and a VPN can help, while consistent employee training on best practices for secure remote working is also key.”

Research top technology offerings for cybersecurity, and invest in what will offer robust protection to your organization.

Train Employees

Since most of the threats facing remote workers involve employee ignorance, simple training measures could be all you need to mitigate risk. Webinars, cybersecurity training courses, company memos, and more can be utilized to keep employees in the loop.

Also, create a group of policies and procedures that employees should follow to prevent an attack. Everyone hopes that these instances will never happen, but you’ll be glad you were prepared if it does.

Write an Action Plan

Companies that survive an attack do so because they had a clear set of policies and proceduresoutlined in an action plan beforehand. Each organization, whether fully or partially online, should have such a strategy ready for action when an attack hits.

Distribute a copy of the plan to each member of your team, both in-house and remotely. Cover key aspects in your regular trainings, and encourage employees to ask questions and further research cybersecurity measures. Their engagement in your cybersecurity action plan will be key to promoting a safer business.

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Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.