With the recent significant increase in remote work, security issues are now more important than ever. Remote work can open up businesses and organizations to new and complicated data exposure.
Nexus IT outlined an overview of key remote work statistics in the past several months. For example, they found that a Gartner CFO survey from April 2020 states that 74% of those surveyed intend to move at least some employees to work from home or other locations because of COVID-19. Many employees prefer it, as well. As many as 76% of those surveyed prefer to work at home without any face time at the office, and roughly the same amount report that they believe that they are more productive at home.
As remote work increases, so do the cybersecurity challenges. Alex Pirkhalo with Infiniwiz points out the double-edged sword of working outside the office: “Technology allows humans to work remotely and make the world safer during the pandemic. There is a flip side, however — it can also be exploited by bad actors to steal data. But, in the end, our current technology is advanced enough to protect business networks, even if they are smaller companies.”
Ilan Sredni of Palindrome Consulting shares Pirkahlo’s concerns, stating: “One of the largest vulnerabilities exist in the nature of the remote workforce not being monitored. Normally, they are using a personal workstation on a shared network. Assuming that you determine that data is centrally located, you don’t have to determine what protocols the remote user working from home will need to implement in order to access that data.” There are also serious concerns about giving employees access to work resources in a way that will not share those resources with the rest of the world. Using personal devices opens up more problems, but employees want to use their own personal devices out of sheer convenience.
Pirkhalo also notes: “Another challenge is that a work-issued computer can get used in ways it was not intended. An employee may allow other family members to use the same computer. Kids, for example, may end up using it to play games or browse, which creates bigger exposure to threats or accidental loss of data.” Security outside of the work network is a problem across the board, as well.
How can these problem areas be addressed? Jon Fausz of 4BIS.COM, INC. suggests: “One of the biggest vulnerability issues is using computers outside of the corporate firewall. Every cooperate network should have a good next-generation firewall.” Fausz notes that having a cloud-based firewall and multifactor authentication (MFA) can be an effective way to combat many of the attacks outside of the workplace. Nexus IT emphasizes creating “more permanent, secure file-sharing and collaboration” solutions and utilizing the correct forms of hardware, even at home.
Sredni suggests segmenting the network at home so that only the employee has access to the secure network “to avoid contamination from another workstation at home.” Using a VPN may also be a workable solution as well. Pirkhalo agrees with implementing a VPN, but he also suggests taking an additional step regarding hardware — “Employers have to issue company-owned computers. This way, they can be set up in any way necessary to protect the data.” Being able to lock company-owned computers is also important should they fall into the wrong hands or get lost.
Limiting access to employee programs to only certain employee-owned devices can help cut down or eliminate personal device use as well.
While cybersecurity can be difficult to tackle, a good IT provider can help employers resolve these issues as they continue to make changes toward remote work.