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7 Cyber Threats to Consider When Working From Home

 

Working from home is increasingly being celebrated as a way to improve productivity, maintain social distance, and even increase worker morale. But there are some downsides to the strategy—including the increased vulnerability to cyber threats

Fortunately, many of these vulnerabilities can be accounted for and overcome—as long as you acknowledge them proactively. 

Cyber Threats to Consider When Working From Home

These are some of the most important cyber threats to consider in a remote work environment: 

  1. Undocumented policies and procedures. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses improvised their transition to a remote work environment. Rather than putting together a plan and coming up with new policies and procedures, they scrambled to get something in place. Accordingly, many remote workplaces don’t currently have documentation on how employees should connect, what types of devices they’re allowed to use, and other important considerations. These ambiguities can lead to major holes in your security, which hackers can exploit. 

  2. Remote access. Chances are, your employees are connecting to your systems remotely. They’re using cloud computing and connecting with other people in your organization. But if these remote connections aren’t secure, they could easily be hijacked. This is why most remote organizations use a combination of tools including firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs).
     
  3. VPN vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, VPNs aren’t a surefire way to stop all remote threats—and in fact, they can introduce some vulnerabilities of their own. If a VPN isn’t installed or configured properly, or if an employee connects in an insecure way, it could render your entire network vulnerable. 

  4. Individual devices. Employees who work from home often use a number of different devices for work purposes. They may connect via a work laptop initially, but connect with a tablet later in the day to tie up a loose end. While this can be beneficial from a sheer productivity perspective, it introduces more variables into your business’s infrastructure. Any compromised device that connects to your systems could be responsible for a catastrophe. 

  5. Individual networks. Add to this the fact that most employees will be remotely connecting with their own Wi-Fi networks. If they haven’t secured their personal network, a motivated hacker could easily spy on all traffic going to and coming from that network. This is especially dangerous in the era of the internet of things (IoT), where networks can be compromised by any single connected device, among a dozen or more in a typical home

  6. Insecure login credentials. This has been a major cybersecurity threat even before the era of remote work, and remote work makes it even more of a threat. If an employee manages their login credentials ineffectively or insecurely, it could be an easy gateway for a cybercriminal to seize. Weak passwords, easy to guess passwords, and passwords used for multiple platforms are all potentially valuable opportunities to exploit. And when employees are forced to log into many different platforms each day, the risks are multiplied. 

  7. Social engineering. Remote employees may also fall for social engineering schemes—such as giving their login credentials to a person on the phone who claims to be from IT. Education and training are the only ways to prevent this from happening. 


The Most Important Steps to Take

If you’re about to transition to a remote work environment, these are some of the most important steps you can take to remain secure: 

  • Hire a remote IT professional. First, make sure you hire a remote IT professional. Your business will operate much smoother, and be able to respond to active threats much quicker if you have a dedicated IT team working on your behalf. This is doubly true if your IT professional of choice is trained to serve a remote work environment. 

  • Document your policies. Remember, undocumented policies lead to ambiguities. Work proactively to document all your remote work policies, and ensure your employees understand those policies. 

  • Educate and train your employees. Don’t trust your employees to know all best practices for cybersecurity. It’s on you to educate and train them. Teach them the fundamentals, including how to choose and manage strong passwords and how to spot email schemes. 

  • Upgrade your software and systems. Invest in upgrading your software, including your VPNs, firewalls, and antivirus programs. Then, make sure it stays updated so it can continue protecting you against the latest threats. 

Don’t let your fear of cyberattacks prevent you from taking advantage of working from home. While there are some additional vulnerabilities to consider in a remote work environment, they can be addressed proactively to increase your security. Once you have the right systems and defenses in place, you can relax and enjoy the productivity, morale, and efficiency benefits of working from home. 

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