Working from home has been the norm for a large part of the global workforce since the pandemic happened. While there are benefits to the remote setup, it is not without its dangers, especially when it comes to cybersecurity matters. Remote workers with basic IT setup at home are most vulnerable to the associated risks.
Whether you are working from home or running your own venture, it’s important to know potential cybersecurity risks, so you can mitigate or circumvent the threats to protect your business.
Cybersecurity Risks for Remote Workers
With half the world resorting to remote working, that is half the world more opportunities for cybercriminal activities. Without a protected office environment, many of those working on a basic home setup or working remotely out of a laptop on a public network has a greater risk of running into cyber security threats like the following:
1. Malicious Software
This is a common external cyber attack. Rogue software programmes can rapidly spread – attackers can steal and/or destroy sensitive information and knock systems offline. When working outside of an office environment, the devices of remote workers may be more susceptible toward this form of attack without the network and security infrastructure implemented in the office space supported by IT administrators.
The cyber attack can be in the form of spyware, malware, ransomware or phishing emails, and it can infiltrate a remote device that does not have anti-virus or firewall protection. Some advanced malicious programmes can also run in the background without user knowledge, such as Trojan and Worms.
The threat is not just on the user’s device, but also to systems linked to the device. Staff needs to be regularly reminded to use advanced measures to protect their devices, especially the ones they use to access business emails and data. Get them to update their device or enable auto-update, as security patches will fix vulnerabilities in the system. Staff must always report suspicious emails and websites to their IT administrators so that they can run verifications. Avoid clicking fishy links when they are not verified.
2. Information Leakage
Information leakage can occur easily when staff sends out information to third parties using emails, USB drives, or certain messaging apps as they have no encryption by default.
Within the office environment, IT administrators usually have protocols and encryption tools in place for secure file-sharing and storages within its internal network.
When organisations choose to go remote, IT administrators will have to make adjustments to support secure access and remote file sharing. For example, if staff should have access to an internal file server remotely, IT administrators will have to setup Virtual Private Network (VPN) for them, or designate role-based access control.
Your remote workforce should always keep in mind not to share sensitive information and files through email. Should there be a need to send out important information, files need to be properly encrypted with a strong password. Staff can also utilise a secure and reliable business-grade file-sharing platform, and rely on the firewall and anti-virus programmes installed on their computer.
In general, IT administrators will advise against sharing of any important information outside of the secure perimeters as the safest course of action.
3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
In the current business environment, many companies are supportive of employees using their own devices to work if it means greater mobility and increased productivity.
However, it is not a good practice if you want to avoid cybersecurity threats. The level of security that is employed in a personal device does not measure up to that of work devices.
If you encourage this practice in your company, it is important to define a comprehensive cybersecurity policy. For example, list out the devices that are permitted, the device needs to have a particular anti-virus software, and the operating system needs to be up to date.
Despite a world of convenience at your fingertips, the use of smart phones for work are generally not encouraged as they are subject to specific cybersecurity attacks such as SIM swapping or SIM jacking.
It is also important to outline what apps or programmes that should never be downloaded to a personal since they can put the security of the device at risk – and your company data, too.
Cybersecurity Risks for SMEs
There is a common misconception surrounding SMEs that security comes with obscurity – that is not at all the case. Small to medium enterprises have the same cause for concerns as large companies when it comes to cybersecurity issues.
When cybercriminals launch an attack, they could easily target hundreds to thousands of individuals and businesses of all sizes, including SMEs. Here are some of the most prevalent threats and what you can do to mitigate these risks.
1. Phishing Attacks
Unlike large enterprises, SMEs could potentially go out of business if they are hit with a cybersecurity attack, which is why ensuring cybersecurity in the workplace is crucial. This study cites phishing attacks as the most common threat faced by SMEs and most of them happen after a device is stolen or through phishing emails that have something time-sensitive or relevant as the subject (COVID-19 is one of the more popular subjects in the current landscape). For example, a lot of SMEs were exposed to phishing attacks after clicking on links that promises to offer relief and grants for small businesses affected by the pandemic.
2. Malware Attacks
SMEs can also face malware attacks like Trojans and Worms. Trojan refers to a malicious code that is used by cybercriminals to gain access to your network with the intent of stealing or destroying data in the computers within the network. Worms are similar to Trojans, however, they have the ability to self-replicate, spread and be deeply embedded in your system. These types of attacks can come from infected devices, phishing emails, drive-by downloads from unknown websites, to name a few.
This is a relatively new form of cybersecurity threat that can be extremely damaging to an affected business. It involves encrypting data in your company devices to prevent employees from accessing or using company data. In exchange, the cybercriminal will demand ransom to release decryption keys that will allow regaining of your essential business data.
Overcoming Cybersecurity Threat for SMEs
There are three crucial elements to overcome cybersecurity threats as a small business enterprise: people, process, and technology.
Enhancing business security starts with people. They play an essential role in maintaining cybersecurity so they must be made aware of their responsibilities. Your team needs to be trained in cybersecurity trends to protect your organisational assets. For SMEs without a dedicated team, you need to engage professional IT support with solid cybersecurity strategies in place to safeguard your premise.
You can also implement security through the processes your business uses. Make sure you encourage strong passwords, impose access controls, perform audits, and put priority on data protection. This should be accompanied with technical solutions such as antivirus capabilities, encryption, physical and network security, and secure data backup.
For small business owners, a great way to mitigate cybersecurity threats is to switch to a safe workspace. At Compass Offices, we provide a secure working environment with enterprise-grade IT infrastructure that lets businesses run uninterrupted. Our team of IT professionals can also tailor bespoke solutions and advanced security setups that can be tailored to suit different business needs.
On top of safety against cybersecurity issues, the workspace also matters to businesses and their stakeholders when it comes to the working experience. Read about why the office experience still matters in terms of maintaining and building productivity, company culture, talent, performance, and more.