5 Cyber Threats for Companies Working RemotelyJanuary 4, 2022
It’s no secret that more and more companies are switching employees to remote work because of the pandemic. And since you are interested in this article, your business is probably among them.
Remote work offers a lot of benefits to both employees and employers. However, there are some pitfalls, including cyber security weaknesses.
Employees use home networks and, often, personal devices when working remotely. And if they don’t possess proper technical skills and experience, and you haven’t provided them with IT support, different problems can arise:
- Traffic interception;
- Capturing passwords or personal data;
- Router hacking;
- Redirecting the user to harmful sites;
- And others.
The consequences of malicious actions can be severe for a company. Therefore, it is not surprising that most IT security professionals consider it extremely important to protect remote workers from phishing and cyber-attacks (see the recent statistics in the screenshot below).
Screenshot taken on the official Statista website
You should know about the potential cyber risks that remote workers face and how to prevent them. This article will talk about 5 cyber threats for companies working remotely and cover how to protect from them.
It’s important to mention that you need to care about the company’s website security; otherwise, all further recommendations will be almost pointless. For example, many business owners forget that installing new updates to the platform running the site regularly is necessary.
Moreover, suppose your website runs on an outdated CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal. In that case, you should consider migrating to a more modern platform. For instance, if you run an eCommerce store, consider opting for a Magento headless commerce solution, building a Progressive web application (PWA), or optimizing what you’re using in another way. This is especially true if you have a massive and complex site, for example, a huge eCommerce store. Only then you’ll reach maximum data protection.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve let employees work remotely wholly, partially, or periodically. In any case, it’s much more challenging to keep your data secure at a distance than it is in the office.
To know what to pay attention to, check out 5 possible problems you can expect when the team members work remotely.
Remote employees can connect to work accounts via unsecured WiFi connections at home and in public places. Attackers can spy on users and capture personal or corporate information through these networks.
- Employees should use a VPN connection when working outside the office. Otherwise, it’s better to prohibit them from using unknown WiFi networks.
Screenshot taken on the official NordVPN website
- Home WiFi should also be protected. To do this, employees must periodically update router software to significantly reduce the hackers’ risk of accessing user data.
- It is worth installing a firewall that monitors traffic and blocks suspicious activity.
- It’s necessary to use at least WPA2 encryption, as WEP and WPA are easier to hack and less secure. The name of the home network should be hidden from the neighbors.
After transferring to remote work, employees often neglect the basic rules of cybersecurity. So, they may not intentionally give fraudsters access to their network and personal information, falling for a phishing scam.
How do these scammers work? First, they send an email from a seemingly legitimate address. Next, the user clicks on the link in the email and provides personal information. Then, hackers use it to access accounts for various scams, steal other confidential data, etc.
Phishing can be pretty difficult to detect, especially if such emails bypass spam detection mechanisms and end up in the inbox.
Nowadays, the best way to avoid phishing problems is to instruct employees. The fact is that even various antivirus software cannot always recognize a malicious attachment in an email and block a risky site. Therefore, it is worth relying on employee awareness and common sense.
The main recommendations for recognizing phishing are as follows.
- Pay attention to the sender and the literacy of the content. In most cases, scammers fail to pretend to be a legitimate address flawlessly. You can spot a phishing email if it contains a mistake in the domain, inaccuracies in the content of the email, or its abstract.
- Check the address of the page to which the link leads. Don’t click on a suspicious link right away. First, hover your cursor over it and look at the page URL to which it leads.
- Take your time. Do not be fooled by messages about the limited duration of any promotion or the period when you can pick up a prize. Be careful, and be sure to check any suspicious emails thoroughly.
- Don’t give out confidential information. If you have doubts that the request for personal information (logins, passwords, etc.) from the bank, mobile operator, etc., is legitimate, contact the service provider to clarify the information.
- Beware of unknown attachments. Scammers often pin attachments (ZIP, RAR, etc.) that are executable software files of malicious programs. That’s why before opening suspicious files, check them with an antivirus.
Screenshot taken on the SecurityMetrics website
Most companies secure their data with VPNs, firewalls, and other methods. However, all of these are powerless when confronted with simple human error.
Of course, it’s much easier for hackers to crack a weak password than it is to break through multiple layers of security. Thus, your job is to convince employees to take setting passwords seriously.
- Passwords must be complex enough to be challenging to hack. They should consist of numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and characters. You should not use birth dates, phone numbers, phrases, and so on.
Screenshot taken on the official Lemonly website
- A unique password should be used for each account; it must never be repeated. Otherwise, a scammer, who gets access to one account, can easily hack other accounts.
- Do not use the “remember password” option for working accounts.
- You should use two-factor verification for business accounts and applications. Use email, text messages, or biometric features to verify data.
Your employees share huge volumes of confidential information daily, including work-related information. Therefore, your task is to protect the company’s important data from unauthorized access during its storage and in the process of being exchanged.
Interception of confidential company information can lead to several negative consequences:
- Identity fraud, when hackers gain access to an employee’s personal information.
- Data theft by criminals and extortion of money to get it back.
- And others.
End-to-end encryption, standard on most messengers, should be used for data transfer. Additionally, encryption services can also be applied to increase important data security when being shared between employees. An example of such a program is AxCrypt.
Screenshot taken on the official AxCrypt website
While working in the office, employees can discuss essential issues during face-to-face meetings and gatherings. However, when working remotely, employees have to use special software for video conferencing and so on. Accordingly, the risk of data interception by scammers increases.
Commonly known, video conferencing software is not as secure as we would like it to be. There are some gaps in their protection. For example, there have been cases when confidential company data fell into the hands of cybercriminals when using Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Image credit: Freepik
There is also the possibility of fraud when using shared services such as Google Docs. There may be weaknesses in such publicly-used services in terms of data protection.
Use teleworker security hardware at the company level to improve security.
Many medium- and large-sized businesses use network security hardware for this purpose, such as:
- Advanced firewalls;
- Intrusion prevention products;
- Network antivirus software;
- 802.1x authentication for WiFi access;
- And others.
The purpose of these precautions is to protect workers’ devices. But this is the case when employees work in the office.
When employees work from home, the corporate network no longer protects the devices, and security becomes more difficult. Therefore, teleworker gateways are used to improve safety in remote work environments.
This equipment protects employees’ personal devices just like corporate ones and provides a secure VPN connection to remote resources. This means that employees do not have to use a separate VPN.
When working remotely, it is crucial to protect all company’s data securely. The carelessness of employees working out of the office can lead to severe problems for the company.
That’s why it’s necessary to properly instruct your distant employees about the basic rules of cybersecurity. Make sure to provide them with support from an IT specialist to help with configuring firewalls, updating antivirus software, upgrading WiFi routers, and so on.
So, we covered the top 5 cyber threats your company may encounter when working remotely. Of course, these are not all possible dangers; the list could go on and on. But at least now you are aware of the basic safety rules.
About the Author
Alex Husar, chief technology officer at Onilab with almost a decade of successful Magento migration and PWA development projects for eCommerce companies around the globe. Being a Computer Software Engineering specialist, Alex is equally competent both in terms of full-stack dev skills and the capability to provide project-critical guidance to the team.