Cybersecurity Challenges of Remote Work

What to Know About Remote Work and Cybersecurity 

It is a perfect cybersecurity storm. More workers are working out of the office with various devices on shared systems. Companies are storing proprietary, sensitive data on the cloud. And AI is becoming more powerful as it becomes part of our lives.

This all adds more opportunities for cybercriminals.

Cybersecurity should be on the minds of employees and leadership of companies, small and large. It involves maintaining the privacy of employees and customers, enabling access to work platforms and tools, and protecting the integrity of systems and data. It can feel overwhelming, but there are things companies can do.

Why Strong Cybersecurity is Essential

As remote and hybrid work becomes more accepted, employees are logging in from homes, co-working spaces, cars and transit, and even the gym. They check email, join Zoom meetings, access company data and upload/download documents on multiple personal and company devices.

At the same time, more businesses are storing sensitive data on the cloud. The 2023 Thales Cloud Security Study, (an annual assessment on cloud security based on a survey of nearly 3,000 IT and security professionals across 18 countries), found:

  • 39% of businesses have experienced a data breach in their cloud environment, an increase from 35% reported in 2022
  • Human error was the leading cause of cloud data breaches by over half (55%) of those surveyed
  • 75% of businesses – compared to 49% last year – said that more than 40% of data stored in the cloud is sensitive

Once a data breach happens, companies must alert the affected parties, whether employees, vendors, clients or consumers, manage public fall-out and alert regulatory bodies while understanding what happened and how to prevent it in the future – and not neglecting core work.

New Risks for Remote Workers

Now, cyber attackers target remote workers to exploit organizational weaknesses. Sophisticated cyber groups that are actively monitoring businesses around the clock combine an understanding of user (employee and customer) psychology with technological expertise to pinpoint vulnerabilities at the individual and organizational level.

Remote work is significantly compromised by the lack of control that an organization has over employees’ home networks along with the countless risks inherent to the Internet of Things.

AI also increases security threats that organizations must be prepared to address. While companies may block or ban ChatGPT and other AI technologies in the office, shadow IT still exists. And with quantum machine learning on the horizon, concern about AI’s ability to break encryption has become ever more likely.

What Companies Can Do

While collaborating with trusted technology providers and having the right IT systems in place are critical, companies can involve their employees as proactive defenders against breaches.

Responsible companies will provide employees with regular cybersecurity training and collaboration tools that help overcome phishing attacks specifically targeting remote workers.

Steps to Plan Your Cybersecurity Strategy

  • Conduct a thorough assessment of existing cybersecurity measures to identify gaps
  • Implement endpoint security solutions to protect devices of remote workers
  • Establish secure multi-factor authentication
  • Develop an incident response plan tailored to remote work scenarios – and regularly review it
  • Require the use of VPNs and secure wi-fi networks
  • Emphasize data encryption and secure file-sharing practices
  • Implement single sign-on (SSO) for software as a service (SaaS)
  • Use secure communication and collaboration platforms and tools

Giving staff the most updated tools and information so that they are aware of what to look out for and what to do in case of a breach can expand the companies’ defenses against hackers.

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