The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 was challenging for many businesses as they were suddenly compelled to change the way they operate. While many have easily risen to the challenge, others have struggled. In many cases, businesses had to expedite their digital transformation strategy timelines for which developing a remote work policy was crucial.
And with remote working becoming the norm in 2021 and beyond, companies will have to strengthen their remote workforce’s defenses as they face a raft of cybersecurity-related challenges. These are some of the most critical challenges that need to be addressed:
Over-reliance on cloud services
Even before the pandemic began, companies have been relying on cloud-based productivity tools and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms such as Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Dropbox. And with good reason; these platforms are easily scalable, increase workflow efficiency, and enhance collaboration. It’s inconceivable for any organization — whether it has a remote staff or not — to function without using at least one of these services.
But the growing reliance on cloud platforms comes with cybersecurity risks.
When your company has a distributed workforce, detecting suspicious logins (especially those coming from unknown locations or devices) tends to be more challenging. Alarmingly, industries critical to COVID-19 response are reported to have the greatest difficulty securing their cloud workloads.
This is why businesses must work with an IT security team capable of identifying possible security risks and, in particular, mitigating cloud computing-related risks. Businesses don’t have to reduce their reliance on cloud services and SaaS platforms; instead, they should take concrete steps to strengthen their defenses. For one, stricter account access policies that include the following parameters must be enforced:
- Immediately flagging unusual account activity
- Detecting compromised accounts
- Using identity and access management tools
- Encrypting cloud data
- Monitoring users’ data sharing activities
Insufficient device security
Without a doubt, it was easier for IT departments to protect office-based networks, servers, and computers and gadgets. Ensuring physical security was also easier, as perimeter security prevented unauthorized onsite access. That’s no longer the case. Remote employees working from home and/or from public places may use personal devices other than the more secure company-issued ones, which then greatly increases security risks.
Furthermore, company IT teams have no control over the security of a home or public Wi-Fi that employees may connect to. As a quick fix, companies may implement the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), which although useful, is far from being an acceptable long-term solution. A more sustainable solution is one that allows employees to access company data on the cloud regardless of the devices they use and the networks they connect to.
The answer to the security dilemma is mobile device management (MDM). MDM solutions are designed to protect individual devices and allow IT teams to remotely monitor company-approved computers and gadgets. In addition, an MDM solution can:
- Ensure devices have an updated software
- Make it easier to keep an inventory of devices
- Notify IT teams of potential device-related threats
- Give staff peace of mind knowing their devices are protected
Out-of-date disaster recovery plans
The pandemic forced many companies to revise their disaster recovery (DR) strategies and tailor these toward a widely distributed workforce. In particular, leaders needed to review threats facing remote workers in a pandemic or any other disaster.
Moving forward, business managers must note that work from home staff may encounter more phishing and identity theft attempts than before. Cybercriminals will most certainly take advantage of people’s fears and will use a variety of COVID-19-related social engineering scams to defraud people and steal their data. People working at home may also be more prone to video conferencing attacks, which they may not be adequately prepared to handle.
Because of these emerging threats in the new normal, businesses’ IT teams must reassess their DR strategies. This requires:
- Updating guidelines for securing devices, accessing data, and keeping devices’ software up to date
- Reviewing and updating communications guidelines that need to be followed in the event of a disaster so that a predominantly remote workforce can easily be reached via numerous messaging options
Although a finely tuned remote work setup offers considerable advantages, any organization with a remote workforce is bound to meet some cybersecurity challenges along the way. Let HERO Managed Services assess your workplace’s most pressing security and business IT concerns — get a free IT consultation today.