Posted on April 27, 2023.

Despite the increasing number of return-to-office edicts in 2023, remote work continues to hold strong as an integral aspect of the modern workforce.

An estimated 66% of U.S. employees now work remotely at least one day per week. That’s according to research from Zippia, which also found that American workers value the improved productivity and work-life balance that remote work offers. Remote work is so important, in fact, that 23% of respondents told Zippia they would take a 10% pay cut to work from home indefinitely.

However, as more businesses consider remote and hybrid work, it’s important to note that remote work introduces a set of new cybersecurity challenges that IT teams have to account for.

What cybersecurity risks does remote work introduce?

While the specific challenges can depend on the size, distribution and nature of your workforce, some of the most common risks are:

  1. Insecure home networks – Remote employees often use home Wi-Fi networks that lack the security measures found in corporate networks. This makes it easier for cybercriminals to intercept and compromise data transmitted over these networks.
  2. Personal devices – Remote workers may use personal devices for work, which may not have the same level of security as company-issued devices, increasing the risk of malware infections and data breaches.
  3. Phishing attacks – Remote work environments can provide a fertile ground for phishing attacks, as cybercriminals take advantage of the absence of face-to-face communication to impersonate colleagues, IT staff or other trusted sources.
  4. Data leakage – As remote workers access, share, and store sensitive information outside the secure perimeter of the corporate network, the risk of data leakage increases, potentially leading to unauthorized access or exposure of critical business data.
  5. Difficulty in monitoring and managing security – Remote work environments can make it more challenging for IT departments to monitor and manage security risks, as they have less visibility and control over remote employees’ devices and networks.

Tips and best practices for securing your remote workforce

While the specific tactics needed to protect your enterprise can depend on the type of remote work your team is doing, all businesses can benefit by implementing these five best practices.

  1. Implement a Virtual Private Network (VPN) – VPNs provide a secure, encrypted connection between remote workers and the company’s network, ensuring that data transmitted is protected from unauthorized access.
  2. Regularly update software – Keeping all software up-to-date, including operating systems, web browsers, and security tools, can minimize the risk of vulnerabilities being exploited by cybercriminals.
  3. Train employees on cybersecurity best practices – Educate your workforce on the importance of strong passwords, identifying phishing emails and reporting suspicious activity to the IT department. Make this training so commonplace that it becomes a part of the company culture.
  4. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two or more forms of identification before granting access to company resources.
  5. Secure personal devices: Implement policies and tools to manage and secure employees’ personal devices used for work, such as mobile device management (MDM) solutions and endpoint protection software.
  6. Secure access to the cloud and SaaS: Just like VPN’s provide secure, encrypted connection to your company’s network you must do the same to protect your cloud and SaaS infrastructure.  Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) can address advanced VPN functionality and provide access and security in one solution that integrates all cloud products in use.

Pay attention to industry-specific compliance rules for remote work

Compliance with industry-specific regulations is crucial to maintaining a secure remote work environment.

For example, in the healthcare sector, organizations must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines, which include securing patient data, using encrypted communications and providing regular security training for employees.

Similarly, financial services companies must comply with regulations like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which mandate robust security measures to protect sensitive customer data.

If your business handles confidential customer information — such as medical or financial data — it’s likely that you have additional responsibilities to protect your data. It’s important to speak with an expert to understand your responsibilities for staying compliant.

What about hybrid workforces?

As organizations adopt hybrid work models, moving back and forth between remote and on-site work, it’s essential to ensure that security measures remain consistent across all environments. 

This can be achieved by implementing unified security policies, maintaining a centralized security management platform, and continually reviewing and updating your security measures to address evolving threats.

The real-world consequences of failing to secure remote networks

Failure to implement robust security measures for remote workforces can have devastating consequences. For example, in 2021, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack disrupted fuel supplies in the United States, resulting in significant financial losses and reputational damage.

Attackers were able to access Colonial Pipeline’s network through an exposed VPN password. An employee had likely reused their password for the VPN in another location.

In another similar instance, the 2020 SolarWinds cyberattack exposed more than 300,000 organizations including government agencies to potential data breaches. The cause? An intern who had been using weak passwords to access the corporate network.

Secure your network today

By following the best practices outlined in this blog post, your organization can better protect sensitive data, maintain compliance with industry-specific regulations and minimize the risk of cyberattacks. If you need help developing and implementing a cybersecurity strategy for your remote workforce, don’t hesitate to contact the expert team at Sanity Solutions. We’re well-equipped to help you navigate the complexities of securing your remote and hybrid workforce. Reach out to us today to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and take the first step towards a safer and more secure remote work environment.