Businesses of nearly every size have had a hard time adjusting to the sudden shift to hybrid and remote work. The abrupt shift to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) requirements and the patchwork processes most businesses needed to function during COVID-era lock-downs opened up vulnerabilities for attack, information breaches, and other potentially devastating cyber attacks.
Now, sometime after lockdowns made the business world turn on a dime, there’s a bit more time to reflect on what the best practices are for keeping a distributed, remote team safe. This article will help business owners understand the risks and best practices involved in cybersecurity for remote workplaces.
Assess risks to your network
The first and most important work you can do to keep cyber threats at bay is to ensure your network is secure. This can take several forms, but the most common for business owners to investigate themselves are the locations of confidential information, such as financial data, and what (if any encryption) is used to protect it.
Your network risk assessment should help you spotlight risks to your system and its sensitive data. This often begins with a review of the programs employees use regularly. There are several tools available for purchase online that can help you conduct your assessment and provide next steps. Once you’ve spotted weaknesses, you can focus on strengthening those first. From there, you can move on to other less common but still important tools within your technology stack.
The complicated role of remote work
If your company is making the switch to hybrid or remote work, there can be more weak spots in your network. You’re relying on the employee, as well as their network security, to play a protective role in your company’s information security. If you haven’t provided employees with their own devices, you may also risk information breaches due to vulnerabilities on an employee’s machine.
Remote work makes network security more challenging, but not impossible. Some tools, like a virtual private network (VPN) through which your employees need to access work servers, can help obscure data from prying eyes. VPNs create a secure connection between an employees device and the internet, which is a great way to keep data safe when working remotely.
Other tools, like cloud computing, can help you keep employees connected to the information and tools they need while keeping your infrastructure safer.
Getting BYOD right
BYOD can be a great asset to help you reduce IT costs while still keeping employees connected in a remote-work world. At the same time, it’s critical that you implement best practices for employee devices on your network. It’s not enough to have them download the tools they need to stay connected to the virtual office: it’s about making sure you retain as much control over information as you want.
Some employers opt to require administrative privileges on devices that download work-related apps or information. This can help keep a device safe from the employer’s perspective and can prohibit files from moving back and forth between personal and business accounts.
Other software is designed to ring-fence your company data on their devices, which helps ensure you don’t lose data outside the network. Consider the utility of an encrypted messaging app on BOYD gear as well as a strong VPN that helps keep your business information protected when connecting to the internet outside your office.
Incorporate the right applications and tools into your ecosystem
Several apps can help enhance your network’s security both in and outside of the office. Encrypted messaging apps help keep your company’s information off of less secure or unencrypted networks. Secure laptops, ideally with encrypted hard drives as well, can help keep information on company-owned devices more secure, and are an essential bulwark against data leaks due to the theft. Also embrace spam filters, secure browsers, and company firewalls when possible. Turning off access to certain applications on work-related devices, as well as password randomizer tools, can also help prevent data leakage. Last but not least, install security updates promptly across your enterprise stack.
Stress-testing your infrastructure
Your network is only robust if it can handle extremes—this can mean crowded servers during peak work hours, a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), or other major threats to your digital ecosystem. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in stress testing for your new, remote-friendly infrastructure.
Stress-testing your applications helps you understand their threshold under a heavy load. This may mean testing how many users can access the platform at once, what an app or website’s breaking point is, and whether or not software can recover on its own. This can be particularly helpful for businesses that rely on remote access for employees as it helps determine what your infrastructure can handle.
Embracing remote work and network security
The future of remote work is here, and its popularity means fewer employees may be returning to the office on a full-time basis soon. Employers and security teams have to keep on top of the unique threats remote work may pose to their networks. The good news is that there are some simple steps, as well as a few more advanced measures, that can help you make sure your technology is robust and capable of defending against evolving tactics.