Four Lessons Learned About Cyber Security and the Remote Workforce

By: | Category: IT / Infrastructure

There’s been no single more significant shift in the workforce than that caused by the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Almost overnight, millions of workers left the office to continue their workplace efforts from their dining room tables. While technologies made this massive shift possible, those same technologies revealed security lapses in companies’ IT infrastructures, exposing them to ransomware attacks, data loss, and business continuity risks.

What lessons have we learned about cyber security and the remote workforce over the past year-and-a-half? Here are four that resonate with our expert team.

1. Do your homework on at-home work

Does your company have a network and remote work security plan and policies? If you didn’t have one in place prior to your workforce leaving the office, it’s still not too late to create one and act on it.

Network security policies provide a roadmap for how you plan to secure and protect your organization’s IT infrastructure. The first step in creating a network security plan is to perform a risk analysis. We recommend you engage a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) experienced in the task to help complete the analysis. An MSSP has access to vulnerability testing tools that most companies do not. The actual network security policy is a written document that defines your security guidelines and practices. Make this a living document that is updated frequently.

2. Start at the end

Advanced endpoint protection (AEP) platforms are the first step in the cybersecurity battle and are critical for companies with a remote or mobile workforce. As the name implies, these applications are designed to protect endpoints, which are any devices (servers, desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, and smart watches), that have access to your network resources. A remote workforce may have doubled or even tripled the number of endpoints accessing your network — increasing the risk exponentially.

Think of advanced endpoint protection as antivirus software all grown up and ready for the 21st century. Where antivirus software protects an individual device, endpoint protection platforms protect the entire technology infrastructure from attacks directed to an endpoint. Where antivirus is only as good as its last update, advance endpoint protection continually monitors network traffic. By relying on machine learning and artificial intelligence, advance endpoint protection platforms get better and faster at identifying threats over time.

3. Beware of the shadows

You’ve likely heard the term “shadow IT” to refer to employees accessing services and applications outside of corporate IT. This practice is sure to be more prevalent as employees work from home and may even be using their own computers to access the corporate network. The danger with shadow IT is that the applications may contain vulnerabilities that are exploitable by cybercriminals.

Managing shadow IT involves educating your workforce about the dangers, as most aren’t bad actors, they are simply defaulting to routine, at-home behaviors. Uncover what apps employees are using and make recommendations for approved apps with similar functionality. You should also consider full-time network monitoring and auditing services provided by an MSSP to find the current assets, spot anomalies, and respond to threats quickly and effectively. In addition, vulnerability scanning tools can find unauthorized usage and related threats that may seem innocuous or that are undetectable with traditional network monitoring solutions.

4. Take a comprehensive approach

For remote workforces to function efficiently, they need technology that gives them easy access to necessary resources. Making this possible, safely and securely, requires a comprehensive, concerted effort that combines people, processes, and technology.

Security features, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and proactive endpoint management and maintenance, gain new importance as companies determine how to protect their companies and employees while they are working remotely. Network monitoring applications also have a place in your security plan, as do firewalls, email security solutions, data loss prevention tools, and a robust backup and disaster recovery plan that is fully documented and tested frequently. Combine these tools with employee security awareness training and a strategic, proactive approach to managing your technology for the most comprehensive approach.

It’s impossible to create a network that is 100% secure 100% of the time. But with some expert guidance, a robust toolset, and continuing employee education, you can create a remote work environment that will stay out in front of threats and keep the dangers at bay. Learn more about how to protect your organization by connecting with one of the information and cyber security specialists on Net at Work’s Managed Services team.