How Working From Home Presents Changes In Cybersecurity

May. 29, 2020

1:00-2:00AM PST

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that currently faces most of the planet, countless companies across the globe made a rapid transition to remote work. Offices closed and employees at every level were forced to change the ways in which they operated and worked on a daily basis, trading in meetings in conference rooms for zoom calls. Prior to this new work-from-home era born out of the coronavirus, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that a mere “29% of Americans” had the capacity to work remotely. And according to Buffer’s annual report entitled State of Remote Work, “99% [of 2,500 individuals] said they would [have] like[d] to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers” back in the pre-coronavirus world of 2019. So, it seems -- although via an unorthodox route -- that Americans are getting the remote work transition that some have long yearned for. However, working from home undoubtedly poses some cybersecurity risks.

 

Without a choice, the majority of nonessentials are currently working from home. And as they do, some are facing a slew of complications. This is due to the fact that many businesses were not previously equipped with sufficient “cyber and network security system[s]”. As a result, these businesses lack knowledge regarding just how risky it can be for their employees to connect and work remotely. Companies, ranging vastly in size and scope, are now experiencing “an uptick in email-based threats, endpoint-security gaps, and other problems as a result of the sudden switch to a fully remote workforce.” 

 

In order to spot the catastrophic outcomes of cybersecurity breaches, employees working from home should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • The sudden appearance of previously uninstalled, new programs.
  • Slowed operation and function of the computer.
  • The appearance of strange, pop-up advertisements.
  • The inability to control the keyboard and/or mouse.

 

Workers who experience any of the aforementioned signs while working remotely are advised to notify their “company’s IT administrator so they can immediately mitigate risk.”

 

Unfortunately, there are several hazards and issues that come along with remote work. For one, an employee working from home will be connected to their home’s WiFi network. When at home, “IT managers can [no longer] control the security of all Wi-Fi networks,” and hackers typically are granted easier access to networks -- thanks to the weaker protocols often associated with home WiFi. Additionally, insecure passwords pose another threat to working remotely. Individuals sometimes use “simple passwords [that] are incredibly easy for hackers to crack” for personal devices and accounts. In this work-from-era, such elementary passwords may give hackers the opportunity to “gain unauthorized access to multiple accounts in a very short period of time.” Furthermore, working remotely has opened up countless individuals to phishing attacks on their personal devices, which in turn, puts their sensitive work-related data, files, etc. at risk. Through the use of easily created and seemingly legitimate, yet deceptive emails, hackers are “able to gain access to the employer’s device” through a single, innocent click of a malicious link. As disturbing as it may be, there have been several email phishing scams as of late that take the form of illegitimate COVID-19 related company policy changes.

 

Each and every business has data, files, media, etc. that are sensitive, at least at some stage. As the majority of states remain under rather strict Stay-At-Home orders, companies and their workers must adapt -- taking more advanced security measures in an effort to keep their business running as safely and as successfully as possible. Devices and data should be protected when working remotely, just as they are in the office. And although this may be a challenge, it certainly is not impossible to achieve.

 

Employees can ensure that they maintain a secure connection by regularly performing several precautionary and proactive actions. It is strongly advised that employees stay in consistent contact with their supervisors and/or employers, as well as to keep an eye out for all policy changes and updates. Amidst the ever-changing circumstances surrounding this COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to keep abreast of “new policies to help keep you, your coworkers, and the business safe.” Moreover, it is much easier for employees to keep company information secure if they utilize company-supplied tech tools when working remotely. Many companies supply laptops and mobile devices to their employees that “likely include firewall and antivirus protection, along with security features like VPN and 2-factor authentication.” Making use of these “your company’s cybersecurity tools” and their built-in security measures will aid you in protecting both company data and devices. In addition, it’s vital to stick with previously vetted collaboration tools because, unfortunately, “you can’t be sure a quick-fix tool you’ve downloaded has the same protections [of those already approved for use by your employer].” It is also immensely important to ensure that employees working from home are remaining up to date on software updates and patches. These updates not only “help patch security flaws and help protect your data,” but also “add new features to your devices and remove outdated ones.” Another helpful addition to your work-from-home routine is the consistent use of a VPN, as this “can help protect the data you send and receive while you work from home.” The adoption of a VPN can provide a secure link between employees and businesses by encrypting data, “help[ing to] protect against cybercriminals and snoops from seeing what you do online during a workday.”

 

Overall, working remotely requires businesses and their employees to make changes in their everyday routines in order to ensure that their sensitive data is not vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches. “Structuring your day to work efficiently and maintain[ing] contact with your team” may help to maintain normalcy, high productivity, and data security. Cybersecurity is a delicate and quite unstable thing to maintain, but staying diligent and utilizing the tools at your disposal will undoubtedly yield wonderful results.

Trustifi has compiled a Remote Employee Security Playbook so that all individuals working remotely, both now and in the future, may be better equipped to face the growing threat of cyber criminals. With the guidance and expertise of our team, employees across every industry can confidently and safely work from home.

References:

“Remote Employee Security Playbook.” Trustifi, trustifi.com/remote-employee-security-playbook/.

Rubinstein, Carrie. “Beware: Remote Work Involves These 3 Cyber Security Risks.” Forbes,

Forbes Magazine, 10 Apr. 2020,

www.forbes.com/sites/carrierubinstein/2020/04/10/beware-remote-work-involves-these-3-cyber-security-risks/#2b8978c961c4.

“State of Remote Work 2019.” Buffer, 2019, buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019.

Symanovich, Steve. “Working Remote Due to the Coronavirus? These 7 Tips Can Help Keep

Your Connections Secure.” Working Remote Due to the Coronavirus? These 7 Tips Can

Help Keep Your Connections Secure | NortonLifeLock, us.norton.com/internetsecurity-emerging-threats-working-from-home-due-to-coronavirus.html.

Try Trustifi Today

EMAIL SECURITY PLATFORMS
FOR BUSINESS

See if Trustifi Is Right for Your Organization