Data Protection Remote Work Technology Security

Overcoming the Cybersecurity Challenges of Remote Work

When 83 IT security managers were asked to name the biggest vulnerabilities faced by their organization, “limited remote work security” topped the list, according to GetApp’s 2020 State of Data Security Report. Three other vulnerabilities on the list – careless employees, unauthorized applications, and limited mobile device security – contribute to the challenge of remote work security.

When the pandemic hit, companies were forced to suddenly shift to remote working with little warning and preparation. Most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) didn’t have the systems in place to secure remote perimeters and maintain compliance when employees work from home. Cybersecurity has been an afterthought as these companies have focused on simply keeping the lights on.

The sudden increase in remote work has led to disturbing cybersecurity trends.

  • The GetApp study found that more companies are allowing employees full access to all company data. More than half of all companies that reported a data breach in the past 12 months allow full access, compared to just 12.6 of companies that limit employee access to only those resources required to do their jobs.
  • The percentage of organizations that reported employees have clicked on a malicious link in a phishing email increased from 43 percent in 2019 to 58 percent in 2020. This includes more than one in four executives, who are often targeted in spear phishing attacks because they have access to the most sensitive data.
  • 28 percent of respondents suffered a ransomware attack in the past 12 months. 75 percent of victims ignored FBI guidelines and paid the ransom, but only 70 percent recovered their data. Nearly half of ransomware payments were more than $25,000.
  • A separate study from BitSight found that a home network is 3.5 times more likely to have at least one malware infection than a corporate network. In fact, 45 percent of organizations had at least one device with a malware infection connecting to the corporate network from a home network.

Remote work isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Many organizations are actually downsizing their physical office space because they’ve seen how productive employees can be when working remotely.

However, cybersecurity is still the 800-pound gorilla that needs to be addressed. Data security and compliance in remote work environments could very well emerge as a competitive differentiator in 2021 and beyond.

Here are three key steps SMBs should take to improve remote work security.

Implement a DNS Web Filtering Solution

DNS (Domain Name System) web filtering is a service that blocks malicious websites and potentially dangerous or inappropriate content. For example, if an employee clicks a malicious link in a phishing email, a DNS web filtering solution can block the request and prevent the site from loading.

By retaining a certain level of control over what websites and content employees can access through the corporate network, organizations can keep their data and applications secure.

Offer Meaningful Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Years ago, a company would typically include page or two about cybersecurity in their company manual. Perhaps a new employee would be required to watch a video as part of a company’s onboarding process. The sophistication of today’s constantly evolving threats, combined with the recent spike in remote working and personal device usage, require ongoing cybersecurity awareness training.

For example, a phishing email can be difficult to distinguish from a legitimate email. The most effective preventative tactic is training. A product like  Mimecast SAFE Phish converts real-life phishing attacks into simulations. Mimecast Target Threat Protection blocks users from malicious content so they can safely learn from actual phishing scams.

To reduce the risk of a data breach caused by human error, cybersecurity awareness training should be realistic, interactive, and based on a documented company policy. Employees must recognize that this policy needs to be followed when working remotely.

Use Penetration Testing to Assess Vulnerability

Penetration testing, also called “ethical hacking,” is the process of testing a network, application, or security policy to identify vulnerabilities, expose your entire attack surface, and predict future attacks. The insights revealed by penetration testing allow organizations to plug security holes and prioritize remediation efforts. This process can be automated but should be revisited when an organization adds new infrastructure, applications, or locations to ensure vulnerabilities are always revealed and fixed.

The Road Ahead

Securing remote workforces and remote perimeters, including home networks and employee-owned devices, must be a top priority for SMBs. The actions you take – or fail to take – will have a direct impact on your organization’s success.

By implementing DNS web filtering, cybersecurity awareness training, penetration testing, and other security measures, you will proactively decrease the risk of a data breach and disruption to your business operations. We’re here to help keep you secure, contact us to discuss your specific security needs, and our other managed IT solutions.

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