Worst Data Security Threats Remote Workers Can’t Ignore

Remote workers must take the right data security measures to thwart hackers in a post-pandemic workplace.
data security when working remote
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Data security is becoming a greater concern for companies all over the world. The pandemic has contributed to these issues. A number of hackers started targeting companies for data breaches during the pandemic, partly because so many employees were working remotely.

The frequency of data breaches is not likely to subside anytime soon. Many companies are making work-from-home models permanent, which means data threats are going to be as common as ever.

When you are working from home, you need to take stringent data security precautions. If you are a business owner, you need to also take the right data-driven cybersecurity measures.

Importance of Data Security While Working from Home

There was a time when working from home was a perk. However, currently, it’s become a need for the survival of the human race, as individuals around the globe isolate themselves from the Coronavirus. A recent survey also shows that more than 51% of US-based employees were forced to work from home during COVID 19 outbreak. Yet, during these exceptional circumstances, you and your routine job may begin to be presented with new types of cyber risks that attempt to exploit you and your representatives while you work remotely.

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The biggest cybersecurity challenge for IT teams during the pandemic was ensuring remote workers have adequate access to remote workers but committing to a much higher level of data security is an excellent opportunity to improve business resilience.

That is the reason it’s highly essential than ever before that you begin to consider your remote workplace security. Remote working presents various data security challenges that the two workers and businesses ought to know about. But the good news is by following prescribed procedures for working remotely, the more significant part of these threats can be moderated without any hurdle.

Even a few decades ago, it would have been almost impossible to operate remotely for many businesses. Without the proper technology, the employee had to go to the office to do his job. The disadvantages of such technological advances were obstacles between work and home life. So maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for many workers.

The ability to balance these two lives is the key to making us feel happier and more productive at work. By saving time spent on commuters that take so long, employees can achieve a better work-life balance and add hours to their days while overhead interruption from co-workers is reduced, ultimately increasing the productivity of employees remotely. This has been one of the biggest benefits of big data in recent years.

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Remote work presents an extraordinary test for data security since remote workplaces don’t have similar protections as in the workplace. At the point when an employee is at the office, they are working behind layers of preventive security controls. While not 100% secure, it is more enthusiastically to commit a security error while at the workplace. Although, when a company’s system/devices leave the edge and individuals work distant, new dangers emerge for the organization, and extra security strategies are essential.

Remote employees are ordinarily the first to confront security threats. They’re the critical point from where a malicious actor tries to penetrate. Regardless of whether you have a remote worker in your organization or not, portable devices like cell phones, laptops, and other such devices present security hazards that should be addressed before hackers do.

Best Remote Security Practice for Businesses

Here are the best practices that can be followed to encounter remote data security risks and minimize the risk to its network.

Make sure your passwords are strong and secure

One of the easiest but often most common ways to protect your online presence (whether you are working from home or not) is to have strong passwords and ensure you maximize your passwords’ protection across your devices and for applications’ most recent multi-factor authentication is enabled. You can drastically reduce the risk of data breach by taking these simple steps.

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Check-in Balance of Devices by Organization

It is highly critical to perform fencing to identify the assets that are bringing the threat to an organization. When the devices are not explored, it will be challenging to defend and protect the network from the threat and risks that the device is exposed to. Having an updated record of devices and their users can help to deploy security measures and make monitoring them for possible data breaches easier.

Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are the top picked weapon by hackers that helps them to target and attract users by manipulating them with lucrative offers and scams to get sensitive information like PII (Personally Identifiable Information), credit card details in some cases, or even login credentials by redirecting the user to look-alike version of the legit web application.

Such techniques are very common and advanced that are tough to detect in many cases. Therefore, an email security gateway should be placed to minimize such risk rather than leave all the employees responsible only. You need to be cautious about taking the right steps to safeguard emails to stop data security threats.

Using Unsecured Personal Devices and Networks

Due to multiple variants of operating systems and device hardware, it is complex to keep up with the updated and secure device network to carry out work remotely. Every unsecured device brings a new challenge to the business.

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Also, the medium through which the devices are communicating is less secured as far as the office environment is considered. So, it should also be well secured to prevent any data loss or raising threats to devices.

Weak Backup and Recovery System

In the race to prevent a cyber incident, the most common step is to have a backup and recovery process in place prior. Many businesses commonly neglect backup and recovery practices, but it is the most effective technique to resume operations in cyber incidents. A weak or no backup and recovery plan could be disastrous, leading to catastrophe loss of data.

Video Attack

Popular video-conferencing application Zoom has been found vulnerable to a zero-day exploit. There are many other applications as well that could lead to such threats to businesses using them. It is recommended to have a recent patch installed for such applications to avoid any compromise.

Countermeasure for Bruteforce VPN Attacks

Remote working has exposed the organization to an ample amount of login attacks that include the Bruteforce VPN attack. Additionally, organizations often inactivate the built-in account lockouts function on VPN connectivity to preserve business continuity or ease overhead on IT, which makes it a viable option for attackers to penetrate from.

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Attackers choose to attack the VPN and target a VPN portal and blow it with several authentication attempts, with a list of pre-compiled credentials. If any of the username/password combinations work, the attacker gets his footing. Not only that, if the target uses a single sign-on (SSO), the attacker also has a valid domain log. An attacker could quickly infiltrate the network, begin a discovery using domain logging, and try to increase privileges.

Best Remote Security Practice for Employer

Migrating Applications to Cloud

The main reason to have upgraded to cloud storage for web applications is to be remain updated with recent threat defence and also provides with the compliance of industry’s regulations. In addition, the managed security layer is added to the application, whereas backup is also not a hurdle over the cloud.

Require VPN to provide access to Employees

Virtual Private Network is the most recommended channel for remote users as it provides the same security defined and created for organizations by creating a private tunnel between remote employees and companies. It feels like the user is residing in the company as all the policies are pushed down to the remote user without any glitch.

However, attackers intimidate users during a pandemic to convince them to click on malicious links and download malicious programs. When you click on these malicious links, the attacker’s payload is downloaded, and the attacker connects to the command and control (C2) server. They will then begin to explore and extend privileges to find and steal your sensitive data.

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If the organization is following BYOD (Bring your own device) mechanism, then it should comply with the enforcement of policies related to BYOD and mobile device management to prevent any potential loss of information.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

As the user is residing outside the organization, there are high chances that the user account gets compromised due to less surveillance. Multi-factor authentication will help to authenticate users more securely to ensure that no compromised user can get reach critical information or the company’s network.

Use Services to Manage Passwords

One of the biggest causes of data breaches is passwords being compromised. Managing passwords is a tough challenge for many organizations as it requires a solid data encryption mechanism and storage so no one can decrypt them. There are various services that can be referred to off-load the overhead from the IT team.

Educate Employee on Data Security Practices

While you can trust yourself and your knowledgeable employees to be safe online, it is worth noting that in these times, corporate computers are more likely to be exposed to young children and employees’ family members.

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Therefore, you should gently remind employees to keep their devices secure and not allow other members of their families to access their laptops, cell phones, and other types of hardware at work.

No matter how many security controls you have to encounter and defend against a potential threat, if the end-user is not aware of it, your company is at high risk. As employees are the first line of defence against any attack, it is critical to have conduct awareness training periodically for employees.

Leverage to Insider Threat

Maximized exposure to corporate information over the remote device brings a strong potential of insider threat that the information can be misused by the employee for financial gain, business reputation harm, or for personal grudges.

Capturing internal threats is very difficult if an employee uses a personal device to access sensitive data because the device does not have corporate security controls such as DLP, which typically catches an insider that exfiltrates the data.

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Best Remote Security Practice for Employee

An end-user is an employee who uses the hardware and software assets of your organization in order to perform their job duties. It includes people at all levels who comes from different background of knowledge.

A common practice of secure handling of information in their routine task is the only challenge to target and enhance the organization’s first line of defense. The following are some remote security best practices that end-user should follow:

Be Cautious for Phishing Emails

First of all, just don’t open any link/URL from unknown senders. Hackers always try to use clean email addresses with relevant subjects to trick users into clicking malicious links or redirecting them to fake input pages. Also, try to read out the informative updates from the IT department of an organization to remain updated and aware of the recent cyber threats.

Secure Conference Calling or online Video Sessions

While using online video conferencing tools like Zoom, it is highly recommended to use a solid and unique password to log in; this will minimize the risk if the application gets compromised no employee data will be exposed to danger.

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Also, consider using a paid subscription for such access, as you get enhanced Zoom security features in paid addition. Other considerations could be limiting user access by having a lock option once the meeting is started, a waiting room option to let another user in manually, and also limiting the only host to share screen.

Execute Software Updates Timely

If you work with an effective IT team in an organization, you can install regular updates, run virus scans, block malicious websites, etc., and these activities can be transparent to you. The chances are that you did not follow the same protocols as your PC that is required at work. In addition, your company may be able to provide the higher level of technical inspections that you personally allow.

Your PC is not secure for workplace information without running in the background because a third party could compromise it. In essence, installing a personal computer, whether on a work network or remotely, endangers corporate networks and endangers itself, assuming potential liability for serious corporate damage despite violations of policies, practices, or both. The employee must have all the device software updated in the remote work environment, as unpatched software could lead to potential compromise. Enhanced security features and improved software stability are achieved when the software updates are carried out timely.

Usage of Strong Password

The employee should create a password using a combination of upper and lower case alphabets, special characters, and numbers with a minimum length of 8. Such passwords are hard to guess and complex to break as well using brute-force techniques.

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Securing Your Belongings

It is observed that employee leave their belongings like a laptop, mobile phone, bags, and other stuff unattended while allowing anyone to compromise critical information from it. Therefore, an employee should always lock their devices when not in use.

Be Cautious with Wireless Connections

Public Wi-Fi poses a significant security risk and should be avoided where possible. If you need to access the Internet from a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you need to solve two basic problems. First, other people have access to this network, and without a firewall, between you and them, threat agents can be in front of your computer from all over the room.

Secondly, any interested viewer of your existing network or any other public network that strikes your data between you and your workplace can monitor your traffic. It is essential to find ways to protect your computer and encrypt traffic. Open wireless connections are easy doorways for malicious actors to penetrate and sniff into data being communicated from it. Such less secured Wi-Fi networks make it easier for hackers to carry out cyberattacks.

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Segregating Office Work from Personal Work

An organization laptop is for a representative’s business usage. Employees’ personal tasks should be done independently from a company system or other cell phones as other applications like social media and entertainment applications bring a threat to company information if gets compromised. The employee should be advised to follow this practice.

Using Personal Device

Managing personal devices and office work remotely is a headache, and to avoid this, many employees use the same company laptop for their personal usage. This leads to serving unproductive and insecure web browsing. The more corporate device is used for personal work, the more it gets exposed to potential threats.

When you say “my work environment is safe,” you mean that you have taken reasonable steps to protect and ensure the integrity of the data, code, or other confidential information in your care. You have also taken steps to ensure that you or an unauthorized person do not exercise your rights to access sensitive information systems in a manner prejudicial to the organization that holds the information and the purposes of those systems.

Remote teams have a much larger attack surface than centralized teams. Unlike a centralized team, where you can physically lock confidential information behind firewalls and corporate workstations, such as telecommunications, you are advised or even asked to bring your own device or bring your own disaster. However, by applying the appropriate guidelines, you can certainly minimize the risk of infringement.

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Security breaches happen occasionally, and while there are many such witnesses in the digital world, we can learn from them. It is also essential to provide a clear path for the security of all digital devices.

The sooner your organization can detect and respond to data breaches or even security incidents, the less likely it is to significantly impact your data, customer trust, reputation, and potential loss of revenue. If your organization does not have an event response process, consider creating one.

Any effective data breach is about revenue, reputation, customer confidence, and, most importantly, critical intelligence. While your organization may not have a Home Depot or Target, your small and medium-sized organization where users work remotely can have a significant impact on privacy.

Nevertheless, you can surely minimize the risk of potential cyberattacks on the remote side by following these easy-to-adopt strategies and best practices. Moreover, it is crucial to recognize that the future of work will be dynamic, and that security must meet the needs of a distributed workforce.

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Take the Right Measures to Protect Against Data Breaches

Creating a flexible, secure hybrid environment with the same level of protection for employees to access critical services wherever they are. It is necessary to address priorities and modify the policies and controls used on the site to allow this.

Olha Zhydik
Olha Zhydik is a Content Marketing Manager at ELEKS, a global custom software development company. Olha has been working in the IT industry for over 10 years, including 6 years in marketing. Thanks to her diverse experience, her writing offers a fresh perspective on how technology can help businesses not only innovatively solve problems but also gain a competitive edge. You can connect with Olha on Linkedin or Facebook.