Combating Security Vulnerabilities Due to Remote Work

The future of work will be dominated by remote working, and the pandemic has turned what was an occasional perk into a dominant trend all over the world. 

Remote working will be well-suited in the long term for certain sectors, especially organizations that are tech-focused. But for non-tech organizations, this requires a lot of adjustments in terms of processes, communications, service-level agreements, and most importantly, data security. Even tech-focused organizations that used location based measures to enhance their security are now facing new remote-work challenges. The existing network security measures in place that relied on being local won’t work if your workforce has scattered to their homes. 

The Remote Work Conundrum: Data Security

While remote working can work well for many employers and employees, serious scrutiny needs to be applied, specifically for businesses that manage large volumes of customer data. Statistics before Covid-19 showed that 83% of senior executives agree that the likelihood of data breach is higher when employees work off-site. Now, with cyberattacks on the rise, securing remote workers is more important than ever. 

Enforcing security becomes difficult for remote workers

When employees work remotely, they become harder to monitor. Not an issue for a team with a strong work ethic and good manager, but a serious problem when your IT team is attempting to standardize policies across the entire organization. 

Remote employees increase the risk of lost, stolen, or compromised devices and documents containing sensitive data. Now, with so many shifting to WFH, combined with minimal training and high stress related to Covid-19, it’s easy for bad actors to trick your users into downloading malicious software. Employees’ home networks don’t have the same protections that corporate networks do, which leads security teams to direct users to login via VPN. Even then, hackers are finding ways to bypass this security measure

Companies are not committed to security best practices

Prior to the pandemic, remote work was a challenge that many companies glossed over - it was a perk, not a necessity, after all. Now, it’s an urgent need, and in the first rush, many companies focused simply on enabling their users to work. Security took a backseat to productivity, as many companies weren’t set up to operate this way. Organizational communication, workflows, and how to handle meetings took priority over rolling out updated security policies. If your company is one who took that approach, you’re a prime target for cybercriminals. 

Setting up a VPN is a good step towards ensuring end to end encryption for your sensitive organizational data, as is enabling multi factor authentication. Ultimately, you should plan to make taking secure actions and following best practices easier for your users than making insecure choices. 

Physical layers of security can be compromised more easily

Apart from the digital risks, remote workers are also more likely to put their physical security at risk, especially in public places. For instance, there may be an employee who talks too loudly on the phone or someone who leaves their laptop unattended at a café. In these cases, sensitive information could potentially be exposed.

This is less of an issue right this moment, while many states are only beginning to lift social distancing restrictions. As more restrictions are lifted, however, workers looking to get out of the house will need guidance on the risks of public WiFi networks, how to guard data from “shoulder surfing”, and similar best practices for working remotely in a public space. 

How to Make Remote Work Safer

Cloud computing is an accessible and easy way for employees to access corporate data anytime, anywhere. However, even with cloud-based security systems in place, the possibility of a breach is still evident. That’s why it’s recommended to integrate more sophisticated and robust authentication systems, such as multi-factor authentication or biometric recognition to exert more control over your company’s data.

Mobile device management (MDM) solutions are another way to ensure all employee devices, including applications or data accessed by the device, are monitored or authorized by the company’s IT team.

Additionally, here are some secure remote working best practices employees should follow:

  •       Work with your IT team to formally distribute a documented remote working policy and make sure employees are aware of its criteria.
  •       Clearly list the tools and processes they should be using for communication, storage, project management, and any other remote functions.
  •       Enhance your remote working solutions with tools such as a virtual private network (VPN), multi-factor authentication, and data encryption software for emails.
  •       Public Wi-Fi networks pose a serious security risk and should be avoided when working remotely. This may require you to set up a personal hotspot or VPN.

Adapt to achieve maximum security in the modern workplace

It’s been said over and over, but we are in unprecedented times that are putting unprecedented stresses on today’s businesses. ImageWare’s own SVP and CTO, David Harding, said this in an interview about cybersecurity threats and biometrics authentication:

“At ImageWare we have always believed that the adoption of multiple biometrics was inevitable because no one biometric satisfies all authentication needs. For many years I have said that biometric authentication will only be successful if it is situational, environmental, and personal. Those are the three criteria that any biometric or set of biometrics has to meet.”

With remote work a necessity for the foreseeable future, convenient methods for securing that remote workforce are essential. To embrace multifactor authentication, workers need biometric options that meet their situational, environmental, and personal needs. 

If your organization is looking to improve their existing authentication security, ImageWare can help. Talk to our team today: 

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