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Cybersecurity Risks for Remote Teams and How to Avoid Them

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It’s been almost two years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic — and multiple aspects of our professional and personal lives have evolved during this time. While many companies sent their employees home as a temporary measure, others have reaped the rewards of remote work, therefore,  turning it into a permanent fixture. Many businesses have realized the benefits of working from home, and all evidence points to remote work becoming the norm in the post-pandemic world.

These benefits include reducing the commuting burden, cutting office space expenses, and a better work-life balance. However, a recent study revealed that 43 percent of employees made mistakes resulting in cybersecurity repercussions for themselves or their company while working from home. This means that remote companies must be more vigilant than ever and look out for cybersecurity threats, like phishing scams, to protect their assets.

What are the common remote work security risks?

In order to prevent a cyberattack, we must first question why hackers are attacking now more than ever before. The number of cyberattacks has risen significantly since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak — and there are several factors that make remote working especially susceptible to security risks.

As governments around the world declared national health emergencies, companies had to rapidly shift to remote work. This lack of preparation meant that many companies had to improvise and barely had time to test new software. For example, several companies relied on free conference calling programs for team meetings but didn’t have time to evaluate the system’s security. Hackers take advantage of backdoor access and vulnerable new software to infiltrate corporate systems.

Average cost of all cyber attacks and largest single cyber attack to European firms in 2019, by country

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But not all factors are technological. The effects of the pandemic on mental health and stress are also responsible for the increase in cyberattacks. A survey conducted by Forcepoint revealed that 55 percent of people under 30 admitted to making more mistakes when working from home, such as forwarding emails to the wrong people — these innocent mistakes increase vulnerability to cyberattacks.

Evaluate your cybersecurity risk profile

If your company is planning to switch to a remote model, it’s crucial to evaluate and monitor your cybersecurity risk profiles. This can help protect your company and avoid financial loss.  The UK National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reported losses of GBP 34.5 million, or just over USD 46 million, due to coronavirus-related cybercrime.

Companies should watch out for entry points for cyberattacks. Any new software or digital accessories should be carefully tested before using. It’s also risky for employees to take important phone calls on their personal phones. This is why installing secure phone systems for enterprises is a smart option.

Another common point of entry is via email. Employees should avoid using personal email accounts to communicate sensitive customer information. Phishing has been a critical issue during the pandemic. In 2021, Google reported more than 18 million daily email scams related to Covid-19. See the image below for an example of this type of email scam.

COVID-19: Screenshots of Phishing Emails

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It’s critical that companies create a robust policy that stipulates proper email practices. Take the time to draft a comprehensive document to ensure that all employees act accordingly. Pay close attention to how employees deal with spam and fraudulent emails to prevent any possible security breaches.

How to reduce cyberattacks and secure your company

Now that you understand the cybersecurity risks your company faces and the points of entry you must defend, it’s time to implement secure systems and make sure employees know how to respond in the event of a cyberattack. These three steps will help reduce your company’s risk of cyberattacks:

1. Secure your employees’ network

The biggest mistake people make when they start working from home is to use unsecured Wi-Fi. Employees often assume it’s safe to connect their laptops to public Wi-Fi in a café or hotel. A much safer alternative is to connect to a personal network secured with a strong password.

To create a strong password, use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, some numbers, and at least one special character, such as a dollar sign or asterisk. The longer your password is, the more difficult it will be to guess. Use a unique password for each website. That way, if someone figures out the password for your Instagram account, they can’t use the same password to get into your online bank account.

 

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If an employee needs access to a company’s internal network, they should use a virtual private network (VPN). This provides additional security as logins and passwords are needed to access sensitive company information. Access to the internal network should be restricted to company employees only.

2. Limit the use of personal devices for work

Saving a document that contains sensitive client information to a personal laptop or sending important files via personal email can be very dangerous. This can lead to security risks — relying on your employees to update their antivirus software and secure their passwords can be a gateway for data theft.

Ensure that automatic security updates and phone call monitoring are enabled. You can also schedule specific time blocks in employees’ calendars for regular security and software updates.

3. Implement authorization and authentication measures

The Covid-19 outbreak has surged the rate of cybercrime. The FBI’s Cyber Division currently receives between 3,000 and 4,000 cybersecurity complaints each day — a huge increase from the pre-pandemic volume of 1,000 complaints. This means that companies should enforce every measure to make the digital workplace safer.

Office 365 Multi-Factor Authentication

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Securing remote connections is more than simply choosing the right technology — it’s important to use multifactor authentication to log in to your internal network. For example, you can have a code sent to a company-provided app. Asking employees to regularly change their passwords is also an effective way to track network access.

If an employee is leaving the company and you need to limit their access to any critical systems, you can use a bots app. This technology makes it easier and quicker to manage permissions.

How companies can train employees for a cyberattack

If your employees received a fraudulent email, would they be able to identify it? Do they know who to inform if they think they’ve received a phishing attempt? Password security pioneers, Specops, found that 42 percent of employees across 11 business sectors hadn’t received new security-focused training since shifting to remote work.

You can protect your company by providing training focused on common phishing scams and cybersecurity attacks. You should make these educational sessions as engaging as possible, including tests, interactive presentations, and simulations. Offering resources where employees can read about different methods, tips, and recommendations are also simple ways to reduce your company’s cybersecurity risk.

If you don’t help your employees differentiate a legitimate email from a fraudulent one, you could be facilitating future attacks. You should also clarify what your employees’ role is in detecting and responding to a cyberattack — they should know who to contact and what the procedure is in the event of a cyberattack.

Survey reveals the UK business sectors most lacking in cyber security training

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Protect your remote company from hackers

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, shifting to remote work permanently seemed nearly impossible, but most companies have managed to switch to a completely digital workplace. However, with this transition comes a greater need to protect your company from cyberattacks.

The good news is we now have the tools to make long-term remote working safe by updating outdated systems and training your employees.

Protect your company so you can focus on growing your company and making thosCybersecuritye SaaS metrics shine.

Globalization Partnersglobal employment platform helps you build and scale an international team compliantly with minimum cybersecurity risk. Our AI-driven platform streamlines and automates onboarding, payroll, and hiring — all while taking the necessary measures to keep digital communications open and secure.  Learn more about our platform and request a proposal today.


About the author:
Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad.
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform and cloud-based phone service that turns conversations into opportunities. Day is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts for both company and client campaigns.

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