Common Cybersecurity Risks with Remote Work and How to Mitigate the Risks

Over the last couple of years, cybersecurity has become a topic of interest among businesses and organizations of all sizes. Rapid digital transformation, characterized by organizational change and the move to the cloud, has seen many organizations fall victim to cyber attackers. Threats from employees have been intensifying since the onset of the pandemic, thanks to remote working.

Today, most organizations are more concerned about the threats from their employees than those from outside actors. And while it’s easy to blame employees for negligence or malicious intent, everyone has a role to play in containing these cybersecurity risks.

According to a 2020 Kaspersky Survey, 73% of employees working remotely during the pandemic said they had not received any specific cybersecurity awareness training or guidance from their employer. This is a clear indication that a lot has to be done regarding cybersecurity education and awareness. 

That said, we’ve rounded up a list of the common cybersecurity risks from remote employees and how you can work to minimize and even eliminate them.

Using Unprotected Wi-Fi Networks

Many employees working remotely will need internet access to connect to the company network or to receive and respond to emails. Often, using a home Wi-Fi network is the most convenient option. The problem is that, while the Wi-Fi network is private and operated by family members, it’s unsecured, and anyone with some bit of hacking skills could intercept and steal sensitive traffic data. 

A solution is to use a VPN connection when connecting to the internet. The benefit of a VPN connection is that it encrypts network data making it difficult for the hacker to access its content. It also helps mask your IP address so your identity on the internet isn’t disclosed. 

Using Personal Devices to Access Company Network

Apart from using unprotected Wi-Fi networks, research shows that 39% of employees access company data on personal devices. Most of these devices have well-documented security weaknesses. The implication is that attackers could leverage vulnerabilities such as unpatched firmware and insecure logins to gain a foothold into the device. Afterward, they will use these compromised devices to step into the company network.

If your employees use personal laptops and even smartphones to access the company network and privileged admin sites, they are simply putting your entire company at risk. Even simple mistakes such as transferring files between personal computers and work computers can introduce malware to the whole corporate system. The best solution to this problem is to equip remote employees with work devices updated with the latest security software and monitor for issues in real-time. This will help minimize cybersecurity incidents from happening behind the scenes.

Weak Passwords and Poor Security Controls

 The use of weak passwords is common, and while it may seem like a non-issue, it actually can lead to severe data breaches. Weak and apparent passwords such as birthdays, first anniversary, etc., make many employees vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 

Using the same passwords for different online accounts is also a cause for concern. This is because one successful breach could mean all your online data is at the mercy of the attacker. Here, the trick is to use a password manager that creates a unique password for each of your online accounts. 

For organizations with sensitive data that needs to be accessed by a few employees, e.g., supervisors and managers, it’s always recommended to use the principle of least privilege. This means the privileged individuals get only enough access to perform the required job. Such a system works by reducing the risk of attackers getting access to sensitive data if they manage to compromise a low-level user account.  

Other effective techniques would be to use effective firewalls to help monitor traffic and prevent unauthorized access to and from the network. Embracing encrypted file sharing, using multi factor authentication, and adopting advanced cybersecurity models such as Zero Trust will also go a long way in keeping the network extra secure.

Managing Cyber Security Risks for Employees

Your employees are your greatest assets, responsible for running the company and connecting with customers, clients, and other stakeholders. This means that cybersecurity mistakes from the employees’ side can be pretty detrimental as they can expose your company’s sensitive data from all ends. 

Every business also knows that managing cybersecurity risks should be on top of the priority list. So, to achieve this, effective employee education on matters of cybersecurity is vital. The best way to approach employee education is through workshops and awareness programs. It’s also necessary to invest in the right cybersecurity tools and technologies to protect your network from insider and outsider threats.   

That said, the market is full of software solutions designed for various cybersecurity risks and events. Even so, you can tackle all the cybersecurity risks from employees with the help of a comprehensive cybersecurity assessment and compliance tool. Here, you’ll benefit from real-time reporting, timely software updates, and the latest insights on cybersecurity news and developments.