Even after the pandemic leaves our lives some of its effects will linger on, like remote work which may get regularized. While few companies may opt for a wholly remote structure, there are signs that many firms will offer a hybrid model where employees get to work a few days of the week remotely. This means remote security will be a key issue for both enterprises and their employees.
Working from home has significant advantages for both employers and employees. It reduces the need for large-scale infrastructure for companies while it frees workers from the pain of daily commute. It also gives them a better work-life balance by giving them more time to spend with their families. But for remote workers, security should be a top priority as they don’t have the usual safeguards provided by their offices.
To help enterprises, employees, and even solo entrepreneurs and freelancers, here are 11 ways to improve work from home cybersecurity.
11 ways to improve work from home cybersecurity
Use multi-factor authentication working remotely
If there’s a cybersecurity measure that employees are resistant to, it would be multi-factor authentication (MFA). People seem to view it as unnecessary and as an inconvenience. But MFA is one of the most effective ways to secure a company’s cyber assets as it provides an additional layer of security.
The biggest advantage of MFA is that it protects the systems even when an employee’s login credentials are compromised. This is important as login credentials are at risk through organized attacks in the form of keystroke logging or phishing. With MFA, even if external entities get hold of those credentials, the employee will be required to provide a secondary confirmation.
Companies should install MFA to augment their work security and to have comprehensive access control of their networks and systems. This is especially necessary when employees are working remotely.
Use centralized cloud storage
When employers are physically together in the same location, there are inbuilt protocols for storing and accessing documents. Workers instinctively know that sensitive information needs to be backed in the cloud. Importantly, the systems are also predisposed to encourage this. But things change when people work from different locations.
When workers start storing crucial information in their hardware or on external storage devices, it increases the risk of data breaches. Therefore, companies should demand that their employees save documents in the cloud.
This ensures that even if the work from home security of employees is breached, there will be backup copies of crucial information. Also, remember that even without any external attack, employees could lose data saved in their gadgets due to a variety of other reasons. Saving in a centralized cloud storage solution is the answer to that vulnerability.
Mandate security VPNs
Virtual private networks or VPNs are an effective tool to strengthen remote working security. This is important as a home Wi-Fi network may be more susceptible to data breaches without the residents being aware of it. Also, if the employee decides to work from a restaurant or cafe, they will be using a public network which significantly increases the risks.
To prevent this, companies should require employees to use VPNs whenever they connect to the internet. This will encrypt their data irrespective of the network settings. Importantly, it will retain the same functionality and appearance as the organization’s network.
VPNs are important because they provide a firewall to vulnerable internet access points. Even if an employee detects a problem, it may not be feasible for the company to send someone across immediately to resolve it. The smarter way to beef up remote workers’ security is to use a VPN in the first place.
Use antivirus security software
Home networks don’t have the same level of cybersecurity protocols that an enterprise network would have. While it hardly matters when employees use the organization’s network, it raises problems when they work from home. To improve security, what they need is the latest and most robust antivirus software.
Antivirus software prevents, detects, and neutralizes an array of cybersecurity threats, including, viruses, worms, malware, spyware, and trojans. They are also effective against phishing scams to a great extent. An advantage of credible antivirus software is that it would work in the background without the employee having to intentionally set it in motion every time they access the internet.
Antivirus software is also formidable for preventing attacks before a security flaw can be patched. These zero-day attacks won’t be noticeable to the user if they’re connected to the internet through a personal Wi-Fi network.
Limit access to remote work devices
You may be aware of the best practices of cybersecurity. Even if you’re not working from an office, you might take the necessary precautions to protect your systems. But working from home means your family members will also use your devices. This increases the risk of cyberattacks.
Your spouse or partner may understand the need for cybersecurity but your children may not. So, it’s important to ensure that you don’t leave your systems vulnerable. The most practical tactic is to have separate devices for work and personal reasons. You could give your personal laptop to your children when they need it.
But if you can’t, ensure that there is password protection. You should also use MFA wherever possible. While it may be easier to have a laptop only for work, most people use the same smartphone for both work and personal communication. Whenever someone in your family uses your phone to access the internet, it puts your files at risk. So, make sure that your internet access and files are password-protected.
Strengthen your home Wi-Fi Security
There are certain cybersecurity risks associated with the behavioral insights of employees. Most workers have devices that automatically get into either their home or office Wi-Fi networks. Since the ease of access is not vastly different, employees might feel that the network security might also be similar. But home Wi-Fi networks are particularly vulnerable to data breaches.
Protecting a device is meaningless if the point of internet access isn’t equally protected. Unfortunately, most people tend to be unmindful of the need for stringent home Wi-Fi security. So, employers will have to remind their workers to institute certain measures. The first step, of course, is to make sure that the network is encrypted. In other words, anyone would need a password to access it.
Secondly, ensure that you have a strong password. It shouldn’t be something that a neighbor can easily guess, like a family member’s birthday. Thirdly, make sure that you have enabled encryption on the wireless configuration page.
You can also limit access to the devices by their media access control or MAC address that indicates a device’s physical address. Since no two devices can have the same MAC, you will ensure that you’re only allowing trusted devices from your family members to access your home Wi-Fi.
Have stronger passwords
One of the most unpleasant truths about cybersecurity in general and remote working security, in particular, is that people don’t have strong passwords. They tend to have passwords that are easily memorable. It could be based on their birthdays, anniversaries, the street they grew up in, their pet’s name, etc. This weakens and makes them predictable.
Organizations should ask their employees to have formidable passwords that have a combination of both lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters. As a user, you shouldn’t opt for a password that’s easily connected to your life. You could make up words, phrases, and ensure that others won’t be able to immediately guess them.
The other thing you must do is to periodically change your passwords. This doesn’t mean that you merely upgrade it by changing a number or symbol. You should spend some time and think of a unique password.
Finally, to the extent possible, don’t use the same password for all your access points. Your online banking password in particular shouldn’t be the same as the one you use for emails. It should be especially difficult to guess. Your Wi-Fi password too should be changed regularly, even if it means updating all your devices to the new password.
Beware of phishing and other scams
A significant proportion of cyberattacks start as email and phishing scams. Cybercriminals lure victims into sharing confidential and sensitive data, including passwords and credit card information. There are several steps that organizations and individuals can take to safeguard against this constant threat.
The first is to ensure that all intra-company emails happen only on VPNs that will create encrypted connections. The advantage of this tactic is that it authenticates the user and their device while encrypting the data that’s communicated. Secondly, the devices that employees use should also encrypt data, which will secure sensitive information if the device is stolen or lost.
Thirdly, users should be encouraged not to reply and engage with unfamiliar individuals and organizations. Employees should never download or run any programs that come from doubtful addresses. Finally, users should be advised not to use the same device to manage their personal email addresses. If they do so, they should be instructed not to download or open any attachment from a suspicious entity.
Enhance your video conferencing
As remote work got regularized, so did video conferencing. While it has been exceptionally effective in saving both time and money, it also raises certain risks. There have been several instances of “Zoom bombing” or uninvited individuals entering meetings.
If an intruder attends a crucial meeting, your company’s sensitive information would be at risk. This is on top of the humiliation the staff may suffer as a result of it. Plus, any such incident has the potential of going viral on social media which will hurt your credibility.
The key to preventing it is by ensuring that video conferences are private and require a password for access. You should also ensure that the software is encrypted and that you’ve installed the latest version with the necessary patches. Finally, users should be encouraged to use sliding webcam covers whenever needed.
Regularly update software and operating systems
Even the best software and operating systems have their flaws. The good news is that the technology companies constantly check their products for vulnerabilities and send patches through updates. So, updating software and operating systems regularly is an effective way to improve work from home security.
While users are aware of the latest updates, a large percentage simply ignore or postpone them. This opens the door for hackers to exploit those loopholes and enter the system. Companies should therefore mandate that all software and operating systems be updated diligently.
Never leave your devices unattended
Even if you’re working from home, you should lock your screen and ensure that your computer is password-protected. The last thing you want is a family member to access a site or download an innocuous-looking application that will put your system at risk.
But it’s even more important if you’re working from a restaurant, cafe, or park. All it takes is a few seconds for someone to either open your laptop or steal it. Once it happens, all your emails, company information, and personal data are at risk.
By all accounts, the number and intensity of computer cyberattacks are on the rise.
In an age where remote work is normalized, both organizations and employees should constantly improve their remote work security to avoid data breaches and the unwanted media attention that arises from it. Fortunately, all it takes is a few simple measures, like the ones listed above, to boost work from home cybersecurity.