Many businesses have come to find major advantages in employing a hybrid workforce. While the benefits of flexibility are undeniable, cybersecurity has emerged as a top concern, and the inherent risks must not be underestimated. This article delves into four primary dangers associated with hybrid work, exemplifying the problems they can cause. We then provide practical strategies to protect your corporate network and ensure the security of your hybrid workforce.
Four Dangers That Can Trap Hybrid Workers
“Phishing” is a type of subtle attack where cybercriminals craft deceptive emails or messages, posing as trusted sources, to trick employees into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. The consequences of falling victim to phishing attacks can be devastating, ranging from data breaches to financial losses and reputation damage.
Example: Imagine an employee receives an email appearing to be from their CEO, requesting urgent login credentials. Without proper awareness, they might comply, unknowingly granting a cybercriminal access to critical systems, opening the door to numerous possible consequences.
Failing to Apply Security Patches
Neglecting to apply timely security patches for the device operating system and related business applications can leave your organization exposed to cyberattacks. While your corporate systems may care for themselves automatically according to established policies, remote systems depend on the individual user to leave the device on and connected to the internet to download updates. If the user neglects to do so, the outdated software and systems will often contain vulnerabilities that malicious actors can exploit. The repercussions of failing to apply patches can include system breaches, data theft, and service disruptions.
Example: An unpatched laptop can become a gateway to your corporate network via a known exploit. Hackers seize this opportunity, gaining unauthorized access and exfiltrating sensitive customer data.
Public Wi-Fi and Unauthorized Device Usage
Hybrid work means employees connect from various locations and devices. Accessing corporate resources via public Wi-Fi networks without proper security measures allows malicious actors easy access to credentials and other sensitive information.
Additionally, a corporate device in the home could potentially be shared with other members of the household, downloading unauthorized applications that introduce vulnerabilities (See our article on Shadow IT.)
Example: An employee connects to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop to access company resources. A hacker intercepts their data transmission, gets access, and attacks their servers, asking for a ransom to release their data.
Even with robust security measures in place, human error remains a significant threat. Mistakes such as forgetting to use the company VPN, unknowingly installing malware via a download or an external flash drive, misconfigured settings, or accidental data sharing can lead to data breaches and security incidents.
Example: An employee accidentally shares a confidential document with the wrong recipient through a shared cloud storage service that doesn’t have user-access control, exposing sensitive information that should have remained internal.
Six Ways to Protect Your Corporate Network
Continuous Security Training
Continuous security training is essential to keep your workforce informed about the latest threats and best practices. Regular training sessions and simulated phishing drills create a vigilant and security-conscious workforce.
Example: By regularly educating employees about phishing tactics and how to spot them, you can prevent them from falling victim to deceptive emails.
Implementing a zero-trust policy means that access to your network is never assumed, even from within your organization. Verification is required for all access requests, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and lateral movement within your network. What is more, no user has access to resources that aren’t required to carry out their work.
Example: Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) ensures that even if an employee’s password is compromised, an additional layer of verification is needed to access sensitive resources.
Make it Easy to Work Securely
It can be embarrassing to admit you’ve been a victim of a cybersecurity breach. Create an understanding company culture that removes that inhibition, making it okay to report a breach. Provide user-friendly tools, resources, and support personnel that make it easy to follow security best practices without compromising productivity.
Example: Offer a secure file-sharing platform that allows employees to collaborate while ensuring data remains protected. Encourage reporting of suspicious activity.
Require remote workers to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to encrypt data traffic and secure connections, especially when using public networks or unauthorized devices.
Example: When connected to a VPN, an employee can securely access company resources from a hotel’s public Wi-Fi network, preventing potential eavesdropping by malicious actors.
Regularly Perform Device Security Audits
Conduct regular device security audits to identify vulnerabilities and ensure all devices are up-to-date with security patches. Proactive audits help prevent security breaches before they occur.
Example: Regular audits may reveal that some devices have outdated software, or even unauthorized applications installed, which can quickly be rectified, leaving the user with a secure device with which he can work safely.
Regular penetration testing assesses the strength of your security measures. Ethical hackers can identify weak points in your network, allowing you to address vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them.
Example: A penetration test may uncover a vulnerability in a web application, prompting immediate fixes to prevent potential exploitation.
Protect Yourself with Expert Guidance
Cybersecurity continues to be a paramount concern for organizations with a distributed team. The four primary dangers—phishing attacks, out-of-date software, public Wi-Fi risks, and human error—can have dire consequences for organizations. To safeguard your corporate network and ensure the security of your hybrid workforce, adopt the six strategies outlined in this article.
However, cybersecurity is a continuously evolving field. At Gryphon Consulting, our expertise is dedicated to helping businesses like yours fortify their defenses and protect their data in this ever-changing work environment.