The New Perimeter: Adapting Cybersecurity for Remote Work

Cybersecurity for remote work

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed work culture. Offices sit empty as a record number of people are now working from the cozy confines of their homes. But whether positive or negative, opportunity always strikes, and an uptick in cyber threats, scams, and stolen data has accompanied the teleworking trend. 

Fortunately, the start of this new year is a perfect time to enact better safety protocols and resolve to a more secure working future. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how both employees and employers are tackling cybersec-challenges in a non-office-based environment. 

A new cyberculture and booming market

An ever-growing band of threat actors can target individuals or the companies themselves. IT departments have had to scramble to update their security and cloud capabilities to deal with the vast increase in telework, highlighting (at least) two crucial factors. 

First, these companies and their employees may need time to learn these new features as they switch. 

Second, the rapidity of the remote-work shift meant that companies do not always have time to appropriately test their new securities, leaving susceptibilities that could be exploited. Further increasing risk, workers who are unused to remote work opens further avenues for phishing and other scams. 

A financial perspective 

America is the most-targeted country, facing 46% of the world’s cyber attacks. As such, the US has spent a great deal of money to thwart cyber threats, to the tune of $150 billion expended on cybersecurity in 2021. According to Cisco, 50% of large enterprises spend $1 million annually on security. The overall monetary considerations are staggering, with the cybersecurity market projected to reach $10.5 trillion in 2025. 

Keeping cyber-secure 

However, staying cyber-secure in the era of remote work doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. By following safety guidelines, employing the latest software safety updates, and remaining vigilant, you can work safely (and comfortably) from home.

Most companies may shoulder some of the responsibility themselves, as remote employees may only be allowed to connect through firm-controlled devices that are properly patched and configured and do not store data locally. Ideally, you should utilize modern endpoint security solutions for your firm, as well as connection security parameters that you can lock. 

Your devices should also undergo routine security scans. You or your company can also avail yourselves of risk in other ways, such as limiting utilization of remote access services and user profiles only when business needs exist. Risk assessments, like asset access controls, identity access, logging, and monitoring, should also accompany cloud usage. 

Additionally, you can help protect sensitive data by ensuring you only join teleconferences while using a vetted platform protected from unauthorized access. Robust controls for critical functions can alleviate some of the worry of maintaining cybersecurity for remote work. 

Yer even the best security system is only as good as its weakest link, of course. So, one of the best defenses is to stay vigilant and skeptical, remaining aware of the possibility of threats from ever-increasing sources, including emails and social media. 

Attention and common sense go a long way 

Not all issues are technological, and those settling into remote work styles should take time to familiarize themselves with their company’s telework policies. These policies can include timing factors, such as when it is OK to perform remote work, when, or on which devices. 

The shift of the past several years has seen many occupations become remote, even those that do not necessarily deal with technological domains (e.g., writing, design, fitness and nutrition consulting, personal assistants). However, many companies will provide primers, guides, or recommendations to help their workers remain secure while working remotely. 

In the event that you’re facing some technical or other issue, the safest option is to contact your company’s IT department, rather than trying to resolve the problem yourself, or seeking assistance from a third party. 

It’s also important to remember that you aren’t on your own and not to feel overwhelmed, especially if you are not well-versed in cybersecurity for remote work or technological domains. 

Additional strategies for boosting your remote work cybersecurity

Physical security can lend to cybersecurity. This may be partly accomplished by using only the devices that are approved by your company. This means avoiding work on your personal computer, tablet, phone, or any device you share with others. 

Sometimes, you can improve your virtual safety by using a VPN (virtual private network) to provide a secure connection when handling sensitive information or accessing files. To keep your communique safe, including the topics you’d generally discuss in an office setting, emails provide the option to encrypt the messages you’re sending, generally through the settings. 

Multi-factor authentication gives an additional layer of security for little extra effort, so always utilize it where it is available. As an example, sites dealing with delicate financial data should have an option (in settings) to email or text you a code, which you enter after logging in to the aforementioned site. 

And it almost goes without saying that you can give yourself ample protection by making sure your passwords are tough to crack; long and complicated, with a variety of characters, is a wise way to go.

Being mindful is always advantageous, especially if you have many passwords or applications to juggle. You should avoid reusing a passphrase or using slightly variable versions of a single password, though some may not even realize they’re doing it. To further keep everything safe and tidy, a password manager software can be simple and invaluable. 

What else to watch for when improving your cybersecurity for remote work

Moving various applications to the cloud has its obvious advantages, but it can also incur at least one disadvantage, called cloud vendor lock-in. In the simplest terms, this means that you’ll be forced to stick with a certain vendor because terminating that service is made exceptionally difficult or expensive. 

Whether the ability to switch to another cloud provider is hindered based on cost, legal constraints, or technical incompatibilities, it’s undoubtedly a stressful situation. Especially if your provider decides to change its policies, pricing, or interoperation specifics, making it difficult for you to move data or make use of other services.  Alternatively, a provider’s quality may decline, or you may learn of their shortcomings after signing up and then be locked in. 

One way to avoid vendor lock-in is to ensure your workloads are not based on a provider’s APIs, configurations, or proprietary technology. Instead, “your workloads need to support non-proprietary alternatives.” Researching a vendor is also essential, and you should ask for a “proof of concept deployment” to see if the services match your needs.

Remain mindful and prosper 

Among the most vital aspects is to remain skeptical. Scammers and cyber-thieves will often send unsolicited emails or other messages containing links, especially those offering you monetary compensation or free goods. It’s also helpful to choose where to do your work—public spots like coffee shops can deliver a diversion or even some inspiration, but public Wi-Fi connections may not be secure. 

Fortunately, you can guard against these scams by following basic cybersecurity for remote work protocols. First and foremost, it’s essential to always update the software on your devices to ensure you are using the latest web browsers, operating systems, and security software. A personal firewall can add another layer of digital armor that brushes off various types of malicious attacks. 

As a remote worker, regardless of profession, it’s prudent to be wary of seasonal threats. Scammers, phishers, and other bad actors take advantage of any occasion, including global events, holidays, and even catastrophes, to trick others into volunteering money or information.

As a specific example, tax season sees particular risks, such as IRS impersonation scams and an increase in other data-stealing schemes. 

So it’s best not to share information via text, calls, emails, or social media unless you absolutely know the entity on the other side. Plus, scammers often employ telltale strategies, such as contacting you specifically and posing as an entity that wouldn’t do so (such as the IRS) to ask for immediate payment. This immediacy can be a clear giveaway. 

A bright remote–working future ahead

The telework trend is, more than likely, here to stay. As are the many threat actors seeking to exploit and steal. But one can find remote success and security by following the above advice, as well as staying informed about current trends and innovations, both by benevolent white-hats and malicious actors. It’s the only way for both organizations and team members to stay safe when working remotely. 

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