Working from home may reduce your employees’ exposure to COVID-19 but it also makes them easy targets for cybercriminals. Relying on online video-conferencing and collaboration tools, as well as cloud-based storage and software, has exposed many companies’ weak spots, amplifying their cybersecurity concerns.
Cybercrime has risen abruptly in the UK over the past year months, with government statistics showing a 344% surge in cyber attacks since August this year. Those statistics are reflected in a study conducted by PwC which showed that over 20% of UK workers consider themselves to be more vulnerable to cybercrime now than before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The Top Cybersecurity Risks for Remote Workers
While we usually think of our homes as safe havens, when it comes to working from home, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Remote workers are more vulnerable to cybercrime because:
- Home networks often lack the standard defence mechanisms employed in the workplace, such as antivirus programs, VPNs, firewalls, and other cybersecurity tools
- Remote workers may access company systems and data from several different devices, including mobile phones which often lack sufficient security controls
- Work from interactions often utilise unsecured public networks, exposing sensitive company data to possible Man-in-the-Middle attacks
- Distance and logistical challenges disrupt the capacities of your IT department
The Most Common Cyber Threats
According to the National Crime Agency, the most common cyber threats in the UK at present are:
- Hacking – attempting to gain unauthorised access to a device or system
- Phishing – bogus communications designed to extract personal or sensitive information, including login credentials and passwords
- Malicious software and ransomware that attacks a device or system and renders it inoperable
- Distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks in which a system or website is overwhelmed by high traffic volumes.
How to Boost Cybersecurity and Protect Your Remote Workers
If knowledge is power, then knowing where your weak spots lie is the first step towards a robust cybersecurity policy. People are, unfortunately, the biggest threat to cybersecurity, with the vast majority of cyberattacks requiring some kind of human interaction.
Weak links in your cybersecurity could be as simple as your remote workers, who are using their smartphones for both work and pleasure, not locking their devices. According to one report, more than one in 10 UK workers never lock their phones while over half share their business devices with other family members and friends.
As a result, education is key when it comes to securing your remote workforce.
You can start your cybersecurity overhaul by following these simple steps:
- Educate users on how to use and operate their devices securely
- Create awareness of the risks of using mobile devices in public areas
- Emphasise the need for secure storage and effective password management
- Introduce encrypted systems to protect data in transit (such as VPNs, encrypted email services, and cryptographic protocols such as TLS)
- Create a streamlined process for remote employees to report potential threats and security weaknesses
- Develop a disaster recovery strategy
- Encourage the use of cybersecurity tools like firewalls, antivirus software, VPNs, and encrypted email
- Invest in cybersecurity liability insurance
Boost your company’s cybersecurity even further by rolling out antivirus software and VPN technology to all your remote workers.
The Bottom Line
Cybersecurity is as much about education as it is about technology. Raising awareness of the most common threats and teaching your staff how to avoid malware infections and deal effectively with phishing email will do more for your cybersecurity than any software or cryptographic protocol.