The Covid-19 epidemic is forcing many employees to work remotely from home. With the attendant difficulties of doing this comes invariable security concerns that are of equal or greater importance. Below are best practices to minimize this risk.
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Physical Security of Company Devices
It’s important to note that just because employees won’t be working from the office doesn’t mean they won’t travel or work in public places. When doing so, employees are exposing themselves to a greater risk of losing their laptops and all the data that resides locally.
Do – Ensure all devices that support it use full disk encryption. If a machine is lost, the data on the device should not be accessible to thieves.
Do – Implement robust password management for laptop access. All accounts on the device should require unique login credentials, and where practical user accounts should be restricted to non-admin privileges.
Do – Remind employees to log out whenever the system is not in use, even at home.
Do – Remind staff of the necessity of basic security practices, such as ensuring that they don’t leave company property unattended in public places.
Access to Company Networks
When accessing corporate networks remotely, there is a higher risk of unauthorized access and data leakage. Employees may engage in behavior they never would do at the office, such as sharing a device with other family members or using the same device for both personal and work activities. In addition, the use of Home ISPs and public Wifi services present an attack surface that is outside of your IT or security team’s control.
Do – Use a VPN to connect remote workers to enterprise networks and servers. A virtual private network provides a direct connection as if the remote device were connected to the organization’s LAN. The encrypted communications cannot be spied upon by the user’s home ISP and can prevent a ‘man-in-the-middle’ type attack.
Do – Remind staff that a laptop used at home is still company property and should only be used by authorized personnel for company business. Any non-work-related activity should be conducted on the employee’s own devices.
Authorizing Financial Transactions
The biggest financial losses due to cybercrime occur through email compromise, where attackers take over or spoof the account of a senior manager or executive, and use that account to instruct another member of staff via email to make a wire transfer to an overseas account, usually on the pretext of paying a phony invoice. An increased number of staff working remotely presents an opportunity for this type of fraud, as the whole scam relies on communications that are never confirmed in person.
Do – Make use of teleconferencing technology (Skype, Zoom, and similar) to ensure that financial transactions are actually coming from a legitimate, senior member of staff.
Susceptibility to Phishing Campaigns
Phishing campaigns are a threat for all employees whether they are based in-house or remote, but for workers who are unused to working ‘home alone’ and are now dealing with an increase in email and other text-based communications, it can be easier for them to lose perspective on what is genuine and what is a scam.
Do – Train staff to habitually inspect links before clicking by hovering over them with the pointer to see the actual URL destination.
Protecting Endpoints from Malware
Unlike the desktop computers in your office, which likely never connect to any other network than the company intranet, portable devices like laptops and smartphones used by remote workers can have a history attachment to many different networks. If such devices are unprotected, you never really know where they have been, what they have been connected to, what peripheral devices have been plugged into them or what processes they are running. All the measures mentioned above won’t prevent a network breach if a user with an infected device logs on to the corporate network.
Do – Protect all your endpoints with a trusted security solution that acts locally on the device itself and does not require cloud connectivity.
Do – Protect your endpoints by enforcing device control that gives you the capability to manage the use of USB and other peripheral devices across all your endpoints.
Do – Ensure you have visibility across your entire network so that you can detect unprotected devices and receive notifications of anomalous behavior.
Telework or telecommuting need not impact employee productivity or security, and many organizations will have some experience of supporting remote work at some scale. The challenge presented by the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak is that your organization could have to support a rapid, large-scale shift to remote work, involving employees who are typically office-based and not used to the different demands that working from home can bring. When routines get upset, security is often an early casualty. Make sure your employees understand and are prepared for the additional security challenges of remote work if they are requested or required to work from home during the current health emergency.