Defending Remote Workers in Today’s Modern Threat Climate
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The modern work environment has changed considerably over the past year. When the coronavirus hit in full force, everything shifted on a personal and professional level. Enterprises across the board scrambled to adjust their infrastructure and thus came the rapid adoption of remote–working environments. As you know, remote work is an infrastructure where workers manage tasks from a home office or a location that isn’t specifically at a business location. It’s nothing new, sometimes used as a solution when physical access to an office building wasn’t possible.
Naturally, because of its flexibility, it’s wildly popular. But the thing is, this rushed adoption occurred for everyone. Small and medium enterprises found themselves juggling a system they weren’t familiar with. Unfortunately, this created a forest of ripe targets. That’s because while businesses got their internet-based infrastructure rolling, cybersecurity was an afterthought. Now, remote workers are shouldering the burden of cyber defense, but they’re prime targets in a threat climate drowning in attacks.
Ransomware, Hackers, and Phishing, Oh My!
The critical question–even today–is maintaining a proactive defense strategy. That is to say, taking advantage of security plans which prepare for attacks versus reacting to them. That’s because remote networks are targeted by different malicious campaigns. Take a quick gander at any cyber news outlet and you’ll see how common they are: ransomware compromising businesses, hackers “sleeping” in networks, phishing schemes stealing login information. The list is extensive.
Typically, IT teams and cybersecurity specialists handle these issues. But remote workers are targets, and it’s left to them to decipher security threats. Far easier said than done, as you can imagine. While phishing and social engineering have been around since the inception of email, today’s tactics use sophisticated means to dupe readers. Often they’ll pose as a friend, coworker, and even professional business. You’ve received them too, even if you didn’t realize it. For example, attackers hijack official imagery and even professional email addresses when they deploy an attack. At first glance, it’s often enough to trick a careless reader.
Now, expand that attack surface problem to hundreds, maybe thousands of remote employees. Therein is the problem: keeping your network safe.
Key Strategies for Remote–Networking Defense
The first, and hardest, reality to accept is there exists no universal defense plan which can protect a network, let alone remote–working options. It’s not to set a precedent of despair, but to clarify the current state of cyber affairs. Ransomware attacks and malware gangs rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to do so. Therefore, your organization needs to prepare for an inevitable cyber attack, no matter its severity.
Once you internalize that, shifting into a proactive defense strategy for remote workers comes next. There are numerous logistics to it, of which aren’t possible to cover extensively in one go. However, we can target some key points to consider for cybersecurity “sanitation.”
Education and Awareness
This is a tough one. Workers and people are often intimidated by the complexities involved in cybersecurity. And, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding cyber attacks today, where it sounds like an indomitable problem that only experts of the highest caliber can handle. While breaches do need addressing by said experts, you don’t need to be one to stop attacks.
Creating friendly information campaigns to help workers spot phishing and vishing schemes is a big part of cyber defense. Going about that requires an efficient and practical way of educating workers. Information should be presented in a simple, digestible way, hitting on key points, such as knowing the general structure of a phishing email, checking the sender address, and never clicking on any links in the message itself.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA), one-time codes, and two-factor authentication are cheap, easy ways to double up on security. In a remote work environment, it’s even more important. If your business uses any collaboration software for work, 2FA can prevent unauthorized users from accessing work areas. It isn’t a bulletproof solution, but necessary when organizing remote environments.
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Keeping it Simple
The best way to corral defense strategies and terms are to keep things as simple as possible. Part of why cybersecurity breaks down is because, again, of complexity. Workers feel overwhelmed with all the terms. That equates to slower response times and sometimes a total disregard for cybersecurity. And while yes, cybersecurity is inherently complex, core safety rules don’t have to be.
Know Your Enemy
It pays–literally–to understand the motives and strategies routinely employed by ransomware and hacker gangs relevant to the current cyber climate. For example, COVID–19 created a perfect foundation for hackers to launch phishing campaigns. Therefore, you can assume remote workers receiving messages about it are likely to be malicious in intent.
Remote Working BDR Plans
If you don’t know already, BDR stands for backup disaster recovery. It’s standard in any competent IT model. Remote workers, therefore, should have a BDR solution they can use in the event of a breach, or, if they suspect a password or file has been compromised in some way.
BDR plans are intrinsic to any good IT operation, but when shifted to remote workers, it’s a different ballgame. You should take time to lay out a simple, but coherent, plan for staff so they have an idea of what to do in case of emergency.
And Finally, the Power of Simplicity!
It’s worth repeating: simplicity is key. Cybersecurity terms, concepts, and strategies can appear overwhelming. In a lot of ways, they are, which is why it’s a concentrated team effort.
When delegating strategies to the remote workforce (or operating as one), keeping everything as simplified as possible. For instance, if you adopt multi-factor authentication (and you should have already), keep it as a “few clicks” operation. You don’t have to get too in-depth as to the why and how only its purpose and how to do it.
Part of defending remote workers is a long road of enhanced security culture and cybersecurity sanitation. But with these key strategies, you’re on the way to developing an improved, secure environment.