Telecommuting has become mainstream for many office workers, and that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. In recent weeks, we spoke about business continuity (BC) planning, backup BC workspace, managing your network bandwidth, and adapting your workforce during these uncertain times. Another big part of adapting to this changing landscape is cybersecurity. Managing remote employees’ cybersecurity is more essential than ever to protect your organization’s infrastructure, applications and data. Enabling the right cybersecurity tools is the first step in protecting your business.

Last year, a study from Verizon reported that one in three organizations had experienced a breach caused by a mobile device. Now, with so many more employees working from home via laptops, smart phones, and home computers, that percentage is no doubt rising.

Securing remote devices can be challenge since remote employees may not be on your network in an office but accessing it from other places. Those neglected endpoints provide numerous opportunities for cybercriminals to enter the system.

A common example: While reading work email on her laptop, an employee opens a malware attachment she thinks is company document. The malware executes a script which emulates a trusted system process which, in turn, begins stealing login credentials. Eventually, the hacker moves laterally through the network, accessing multiple accounts and stealing data. Such as breach might escape notice for months.

The most vital cybersecurity tools for remote workers

The best way to prevent an cyberattack targeting a remote employee is to harden their cybersecurity defenses. The following are the most important security tools:

Anti-malware

Any device with access to an organization’s data and applications should be equipped with malware protection. By far the easiest and most common attacks are done with malicious email attachments, web links, or software downloads. Ideally, the anti-malware solution is provided and administered by the employer, in order to ensure that everyone has corporate approved and up-to-date anti-virus protection.  

Encryption

Encryption can prevent unauthorized users from accessing applications, installing malware, or corrupting and stealing files. There are different approaches to endpoint encryption. One is to encrypt the entire device, called whole drive encryption. It makes the entire laptop or tablet unusable until it’s unlocked with the user’s encryption key.

Alternatively, individual files can be encrypted. File-based encryption goes with the document, protecting it for the life of the file. The recipient must have the decryption key or a link to the sender’s encryption service to access the file.  

A third option is to use secure file sharing services. There are many options with different security features.  For instance,

Virtual private network (VPN)

Encryption can also be used for the traffic in-flight, reducing the risk of any intercepted information being readable. Remote employees often use unsecured home or public Wi-Fi to connect to work resources, which is an open invitation to a hacker. A Spiceworks Data survey found that employees in 61% of organizations connect their employer-owned devices to public Wi-Fi networks when working outside the office, and that 12% have experienced a security incident involving employees on public Wi-Fi while 34% aren't sure.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) run all of the traffic between the client and remote network through an encrypted tunnel. With a VPN, neither your ISP nor any other snooping parties can access the transmission between your computer and the VPN server. There is no shortage of VPN vendors offering products at different price points, security levels, and bandwidth restrictions. Fortinet, Barracuda, CheckPoint, Cisco, and F5 are examples of enterprise VPN providers.  Microsoft Windows also includes a VPN client to let users connect to work or personal VPN services.

Also read: Can Your Network Bandwidth Support Your Remote Workers and Customers?

Identity access management (IAM) and multifactor authentication (MFA)

IAM software or the cloud-based version, identity as a service, restricts user access to applications and files based on their work needs and seniority. For instance, an editor might be able to read, edit, and share marketing documents, but not access accounting applications. If an employee’s account is hacked, IAM helps ensure that the hacker does not gain access to everything. One well-known example of this is Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) software as a service. Multifactor authentication (MFA) authorizes access to applications based on two or more types of identification. That might include a smart card, a password, and a thumbprint or other biometric identification. MFA ensures that a hacker can’t gain access to IT systems by stealing passwords.

Also read: Cybersecurity’s Next Big Thing: Identity Management

Mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM)

Mobile device management enables IT departments to manage corporate-owned devices. MDM includes capabilities such as activating/deactivating devices, locating lost devices, and wiping data from stolen devices. It can also prevent users from downloading malware. MAM is used for managing applications on BYOD and corporate-owned devices. MAM enables IT security managers to partition a BYOD device into personal and corporate spaces and manage only the work-related applications. For instance, MAM can prevent users from installing any applications that aren’t from an authorized corporate site.

Also read: Are Mobile Devices a Threat to Your Network Security?

Tools are only part of the bigger cybersecurity puzzle

Of course, employee training is also essential to educate workers about common malware and phishing techniques and to remind them about security policies and practices. Cybersecurity training videos, online quizzes, and email alerts are also useful in keeping employees conscious of the need for cybersecurity.

As you work to improve security for your remote employees, let us help you to do it faster and better. Contact us to learn more about finding the right solutions to enable your remote workforce. Learn about cybersecurity and mobile security in our Strategic Guide to IT Security.

Strategic Guide to IT Security

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