The Rise of Remote Work and The Security Risks That Come Along With It?
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Although working from home has never accounted for the majority of employees, with the recent increase in health concerns from a global pandemic, most white-collar companies are judging it as too risky to have employees in the office. This has significantly changed the landscape of work, as well has how employees feel about it.
Some employees are enjoying the freedom to work from the comfort of their own homes, while for others it is akin to being trapped inside. Some front-line workers are envying the work-from-home freedom that others have found and have begun looking for their own remote jobs. Remote work has gained popularity because it is seen as risk-reducing. However, with the rise of remote work itself, there are many other risks that can arise.
Risk 1: Lack of Information Privacy
For companies that traffic in sensitive data, the fact is simply that information cannot be guaranteed to be private once it is being worked with outside of the office. It’s easy to imagine an employee being on a conference call discussing sensitive information that a family member happens to overhear. Or, even more worrying, sending emails about private information over an insecure connection. Remote work can create an opportunity for private information to leak out because there is less control over employees and their work in a distributed workforce. Companies and employees alike need to be aware of this risk and on alert against outside attempts to access sensitive data, as well as careful about the conversations they have regarding protected information.
Risk 2: Home Wi-Fi Security Risks
Most people don’t have a secure home wi-fi network. Yes, it may be password protected, but is unlikely to be equipped with the more robust security measures that are usually in place when you have an entire IT team protecting the company’s internet gates. This means that phishing emails are more likely to get through a home internet connection than a corporate internet connection. Phishing emails are emails that look innocuous, such as cloning the boss’s email address and asking an assistant to purchase a specific gift card. If the assistant clicks the link to see the gift card, they may be giving over control of their computer to a phisher. Being alert against strange emails and verifying links can help to reduce this risk, but it cannot get rid of it entirely. All it takes is one person clicking the wrong link to infect an entire company network.
Risk 3: Insecure Conference Calls
Remote workers have been learning how to use a variety of conference call technology that many have not had to use before now. Some teams have given up trying to use software like Zoom entirely because there are team members who just can’t figure it out. In fact, in some sensitive government agencies, there are teams that have simply started using iPhone conference calling because it’s what is the easiest thing for the members of their team. Unfortunately, this opens up a risk of others listening in on the call. Imagine the number of people who would like to hear a sensitive government agency conference call, and how simple it is for people with the right skills to gain access to an iPhone call. Even if it seems easier or less of a hassle, making the effort to ensure that you’re using the company-approved conference call software can ensure that your private conversations stay private.
Risk 4: Insecure Passwords
Over the years, it has become common knowledge that one of the most common passwords that people use on their personal accounts is “password,” and another is “12345.” Even those who have more complex passwords are often guilty of using the same password for every personal account, from their cool Milanote visual boards to their company email. Understandably, some people don’t want the mental burden of remembering a dozen different passwords. However, with the rise of remote work, the security risk of a dozen work accounts having the same password can make it much easier for a hacker to crack the password and gain access to an entire network or steal someone’s identity. Shoring up any passwords that may be insecure is a great tip for anyone looking to make their remote work set up a little more secure.
Risk 5: Disruption of Services
Many companies do not have the operational structures in place to support huge numbers of their workforce doing their work from home. For example, a company with 50,000 employees is unlikely to have purchased a VPN plan that supports 50,000 employees, since it was once a safe bet that there would never be so many workers on the VPN at once. Now, however, these systems are being pushed to their breaking points, with some companies seeing service outages and disruptions as employees all try to access the same services at the same time. This is a security risk impacting the financial health of the organization, because it impacts the company’s bottom line as they lose out on productivity from employees struggling to work from home with limited resources. Some employees may even begin to look elsewhere for remote jobs that are equipped to make their work more simple.
Risk 6: Outdated Cyber Security Software
While you may have anti-virus protection on your computer, are you 100% certain that it is fully up to date? These days, with the level of sophistication in the cybercriminal world, anti-virus protection is just the beginning. Anti-malware software, firewalls and encryption software are just a few of the different needs your computer has if it is expected to survive in the wild world of the Internet. Not only does this software need to be updated regularly, but it also needs to be verified with your company’s IT department to ensure that it is fully protecting the company’s information as you work from home. To be more secure working from home, you want to be sure that when you’re in your pajamas on the couch filling out spreadsheets, your protective software is working to keep you safe and not leaving the gate wide open to the outside world. Make sure that your cyber security software is correct and fully updated and you’ll feel a lot better about remote work.
Whether you are currently working from home or someone who would like to switch to remote work, it’s important to be aware of the security risks that can come with the new workplace landscape.
Watch out when you are dealing with sensitive information and try to ensure that it is handled with the same level of privacy as it would receive in a closed office environment.
Be aware that home wireless internet networks can be significantly more prone to attack and more likely to be penetrated by scams like phishing emails.
Try your utmost to use the approved conference call lines that have been validated by the company you work for, rather than opting for a cellphone call because it seems easier in the moment.
Ensure that you are practicing the right level of password awareness, not using the same password for every account or using overly simplistic passwords that can be easily cracked by a hacker.
Make sure that you are coordinating with your company to ensure you don’t have a disruption of your income security because your company isn’t up to speed with the latest work-from-home infrastructure.
Last, but not least, take initiative to verify with your IT department that your cybersecurity software is what it should be and is working.
Doing these things can help you to reduce the security risks that can come with remote work, ensuring that you stay safe and productive in the new virtual workforce.
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