The rapidly growing appetite for remote working, home-schooling, and telemedicine has triggered a spike in cyberthreat activity. In the haste to respond to social distancing mandates, many organizations took shortcuts in their approach for providing remote access, password security, patch management, threat detection and response, and cloud security. As their employees quickly moved from behind enterprise firewalls and traditional security controls, they didn’t consider all of the ramifications for securing dynamic workers and might have overlooked potential security vulnerabilities or risks.
According to Kevin Mayo, Cerium Networks Director of Security, “Your dynamic workforce is now in the wild, no longer protected by premise-based security controls. The dynamic worker is now working from home or from a guest Wi-Fi hotspot outside your corporation’s ability to apply security policy using traditional methods.”
Cybercriminals and hacker groups are responding to the rise in dynamic working with a growing number of creative tactics designed to take advantage of weakened security protocols, insufficient policies, and overly trusting employees. Do you feel confident in your ability to secure a growing and more complex attack surface? Are you experiencing challenges keeping to your cybersecurity budget and staying compliant with regulations while providing your workers with seamless, secure access to networks and resources?
Security Threats and Risks
Providing dynamic workers seamless, reliable access to enterprise resources creates a number of security threats and risks. In Kevin’s view, “There are numerous threats posed by the new dynamic workforce business model to your organization’s confidential data, client privacy, and reputation in a competitive marketplace.” Kevin went to outline some of the questions that organizations embracing a dynamic workforce should be asking:
- How do we know our remote user is who they say they are?
- How do we control network access providing remote users access to our confidential data?
- How do we protect the remote user from cyber threats such as viruses, malware, man-in-the-middle attacks, and data exfiltration techniques, i.e., social engineering attacks?
Kevin also provided some insight into the risks organizations with dynamic workers face. “There are risks for organizations that don’t apply the proper administrative, physical, and technical security controls to protect their enterprise data and dynamic workforce,” he noted. His list of risks included:
- Compromised user accounts with access to the information on the dynamic user’s laptop or possibly access to network data repositories.
- The dynamic worker has become part of a command-and-control bot network where data can be exfiltrated for days and often weeks before the attack has been identified.
- Ransomware has locked the dynamic worker and IT from accessing the data on their workstation.
Challenges for Securing a Remote Workforce
Following, are some of the challenges of supporting a dynamic workforce and the best practices your organization can adopt to help manage vulnerabilities, minimize risk, and quickly adapt to future threats.
Challenge: Protecting Remote Workstations and End Point Devices
Investing in advanced endpoint security is essential for providing the security and privacy controls required to protect a dynamic workforce. Guarding your endpoints, keeping data safe, and protecting devices without impacting dynamic worker productivity requires malware removal and ransomware protection tools for remote Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS devices no matter their location or environment.
Best practices for protecting remote workstations and endpoint devices include:
- Keeping antivirus protection updated to defend your endpoints against the latest virus, malware, spyware, and ransomware attacks.
- Antivirus software is a good start, but cloud-based endpoint protection can provide more comprehensive detection and response capabilities.
- Nearly 95% of cyberthreats originate thru email. Implementing intelligent email protection and anti-spam filters can stop malicious emails before they get to your dynamic worker’s inbox.
Challenge: Phishing Scams Targeting Dynamic Workers:
Hackers are continually inventing new tactics for circumventing email filters to take advantage of dynamic workers. They know remote workers may not be aware of the latest scams and may have more trouble identifying phishing without the ability to verify sketchy emails through face-to-face conversations with their colleagues.
Best practices for combating phishing scams targeting remote workers include:
- Regular awareness training will ensure your users are adequately informed of the latest online risks and enable them to spot suspicious emails and avoid fake websites.
- Developing remote work policies based on the unique remote access needs of your workers that address BYOD, home Wi-Fi security issues, and ensure patching up to date
- Implementing MFA is a critical, preventative security measure for organizations with dynamic workers using smart devices. It provides an added layer of security that compliments password protection and makes it more difficult for bad actors to obtain personal data or breach your networks.
Challenge: Backing up Mission-Critical Data in Dynamic Work Environments.
Ensuring that data is protected and backed up is essential for protecting data for dynamic workers who can’t always access shared corporate files and save their data and documents locally. From accidental deletions and overwrites to hardware failures and ransomware, endpoint backups are the key to a quick recovery.
Best practices for backing up remote work environments include:
- Enable encrypted backups for data at rest (sitting in the repository) or in-flight (coming across the network in a backup or restore operation) to your organization’s data center or an external repository.
- Enable file-level restore for specific drives, folders, and files in case they get corrupted or are accidentally deleted.
- Create bootable recovery images to restore whole PCs in the event of catastrophic hardware failures.
Challenge: Securing Home Wi-Fi Environments
Without the proper security precautions, home Wi-Fi is likely to be just as vulnerable as the open wireless network at the local coffee shop. Most standard home networks can be accessed by amateur hackers that possess even a modest set of skills. However, there are some basic steps your dynamic workers can take to safeguard their Wi-Fi networks.
Best practices for securing home Wi-Fi environments include:
- Change the router’s default administrator password. Default passwords for a wide range of home Wi-Fi routers can be found on-line. With administrator rights, bad actors can access dynamic workers’ files, introduce viruses and malware to their network, and use their Wi-fi to conduct illegal activities.
- Update the router’s firmware. Router manufacturers often provide updated firmware to address bugs and security issues after their products are released to the public. In addition to strengthening security, updating the router’s firmware may also improve performance.
- Disable service set identifier (SSID) broadcasting, especially in densely populated areas such as apartment houses, to prevent unauthorized piggybacking.
- Enable encryption. WPA2 is currently the best standard for encrypting Wi-Fi traffic.
- Create strong passwords at least eight characters long that include symbols and numbers, as well as both upper and lower-case characters
Challenge: Outdated Security Architecture
Traditional network security technologies designed to prevent data from moving outside the organization’s security perimeters are inadequate for providing secure access to a highly-distributed dynamic workforce.
Best practices for updating your security architecture include:
- Consider scrapping legacy hardware-based VPNs and adopting scalable, cloud-based network security solutions. VPNs may lack the capacity to effectively support secure, policy-based remote access to organizational resources and applications.
- Consider implementing Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) to streamline your security stack, increase network visibility, prevent data exfiltration, and reduce the time for detecting a breach.
- Consider a hosted, as a service, integrated security portfolio to unify visibility, enable automation, and strengthens your security across network, endpoints, cloud, and applications. Taking an integrated approach to security will enhance your ability to protect your dynamic workforce.
Getting Prepared for What’s Next
For many organizations, the transition to a dynamic workforce happened virtually overnight, and in their haste to keep their business operational, security wasn’t always their biggest concern. A lot of these organizations see dynamic working as the future of work and are extending their work-from-home policies indefinitely.
If the pandemic forced your organization to make a hasty digital transformation, this is an excellent time to step back and consider the potential security vulnerabilities and risks associated with dynamic working. Cerium Cybersecurity Experts can act as your trusted advisor – helping you develop long-term security strategies and implement policies and solutions to keep your assets protected, no matter their location or environment. We can help you streamline data protection and security to manage vulnerabilities and reduce risks for your dynamic workers.