Remote Workforce Security: Protecting the Virtual Workspace
To help them retain top talent, more employers than ever are allowing employees to keep working from home post-COVID, thanks to technology that make it possible to work from almost anywhere. There are, however, risks to your company’s security in allowing access to corporate data remotely. What are those risks, and how is your organization addressing them? We’ll take a look at a few of the most common.
Implementing a BYOD Policy in a Cybersecurity Environment
Creating a security policy for your employees who are working from home can be a challenge, especially if your organization does not have the resources to provide the devices they need to do their jobs remotely. When you provide employees with the hardware they need, you have more control and thus can better ensure the security of important company data. That’s because devices your organization owns can be set up with your anti-virus software, will receive the latest updates, and have any other security tools needed.
But what if that’s just not possible for your organization? You may not have the financial ability to provide these types of resources for your remote workers. In this case, you can offer a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. While allowing your employees to access company data from their devices is not the best solution, you can layer security on top of your BYOD policy as an effective method of protection.
Photo by Yura Fresh
Here’s what your IT professionals should pay attention to when putting together your security plan.
MDM – Mobile Device Management
An important step in implementing a BYOD policy is mobile device management (MDM). This software gives your organization more control over data and resources when personal devices are being used to access that information.
Intune, which is part of Microsoft 365 subscriptions, is a great tool for MDM security. Microsoft Intune is a cloud-based endpoint management solution. It manages user access and simplifies app and device management across many devices, including mobile devices, desktop computers, and virtual endpoints.
Its flexibility lets your IT team protect access and data on organization-owned and users’ personal devices. Intune also has compliance and reporting features that support the Zero Trust security model.
Intune allows your IT team to create parameters to improve cybersecurity. Automatic software updates can be pushed to all devices. You can require that anti-virus software is present on a device before allowing your employee to use it to access company resources and data. Parameters can be set for what types of information can be shared or printed.
Intune allows working with a variety of environments while managing the security of users, apps, and devices. Using Intune or other programs like it allows organizations to take advantage of the financial benefits of BYOD while maintaining a secure work environment.
Anti-Virus for Remote Access
Just as you have set up anti-virus software for the computers in your office, you must do the same for your employees who are working remotely. Anti-virus software works to defend against malware and will block employees from clicking on certain links or installing applications that could potentially be harmful. In a remote work environment, the same parameters must be in place to require employees to install security software on their own devices. In many ways, it’s even more essential in a home environment, where other (usually less savvy) users can access the network and leave employee devices open to attack. (Just think of the latest free game filled with malware that an employee’s child could have downloaded and might be playing on the same network.) Sophos Intercept X is the software we recommend because it provides robust endpoint detection and response, (EDR), anti-ransomware, exploit prevention, and managed detection and response, (MDR) among other features. It’s one of the best cloud-based solutions available for protecting against security threats.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
As we hinted at earlier, for any remote work environment, ensuring that your employees are using a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to your organization’s platform is a must. If you don’t take this precaution, you are essentially opening your remote desktop server on the internet, thereby allowing easy entry for hackers.
A VPN provides a secure connection over the internet between your organization’s network and your employee’s remote computer. Employees will still be able to access their desktop and necessary files, but that access won’t expose your organization’s network to the entire internet and any security risks.
Securing Remote Workforce Through Multi-Factor Authentication
Setting up multi-factor authentication, (MFA), is critical to the security of your remote workforce and those coming into the office. It is the first step to creating a layered approach to security and protecting your data, and it’s easy!
Strong passwords are the first line of defense against hackers, but unfortunately, most people are not setting up effective passwords. In a word, we get lazy with passwords. Hackers can break them fairly easily when users aren’t following good password guidelines. (Stay tuned for more on passwords.)
Since multi-factor authentication requires users to provide two (or more) credentials to log in – such as a password and a security code that is sent to their phone – it offers a very important level of security above and beyond passwords.
Cybersecurity Policies and Training
Photo by Dan Nelson
Establishing a VPN, multi-factor authentication, and MDM software processes are all important steps to security, but your employees can still unknowingly present security risks. That’s why you need a formal, written cybersecurity policy to go along with the tools and technology you put in place.
Educating employees on what to watch out for and how their actions can impact the overall protection of the organization is critical to the success of your remote access security plan. Teach them how to set up strong passwords, how to prevent falling victim to phishing, Wi-Fi does and don’ts, and provide ongoing reminders and training updates throughout the year.
As mentioned earlier, people can get lazy with passwords, opting for the convenience of using a common password across multiple sites instead of choosing unique and strong ones. You can (and should) provide your employees access to a password manager to make it easier for them to create and use effective passwords. Understanding the importance of strong passwords through education will help strengthen your organization’s cyber security.
Training your employees on the latest cyber-attack tactics is also important. Teach them how to spot phishing emails and to be wary of clicking on links or downloads. Give your employees the tools to know what to look out for and make them aware that these attackers prey on human behavior. Run phishing simulations, analyze how your employees performed, and create additional training based on those results.
Another item you’ll want to include in your written cybersecurity policy is a set of Wi-Fi guidelines. This is another potential risk for your organization; some networks can be more dangerous than others. Using public Wi-Fi, for example, is a risk you may not want your employees to take. Let your employees know if that is the case, and clearly state it in your written policy. Your employees need to understand what your expectations are when it comes to security. That way they’ll understand what they can and cannot do when they are meeting a client at the corner coffee shop and need to access shareable information. Empower them to be part of the solution instead of the cause of a breach with good training and clearly written policies that are accessible and reviewed often.
Allowing your employees to work from home can be extremely beneficial for you and your workforce. More people are looking for the flexibility of working from home, and thanks to technology like file sharing and video conferencing, coworkers can collaborate no matter where they are, and work effectively, and in some cases, more efficiently.
Those benefits aside, the obstacle to remote workers is keeping up with your organization’s necessary security standards, especially when your remote workforce is using BYOD. Setting strong cybersecurity policies in this situation is critical, but doable. By creating the multiple layers of protection we’ve discussed, secure BYOD environments are entirely possible.
Need help creating that environment for your workforce? We can help. Contact us for more information on how to get started.
Featured Photo by Goran Ivos