While remote work is now more common, the convenience of staying connected with colleagues and clients from the comfort of your home has a set of security risks. It is essential to secure your remote work setup, protect your data, and keep the cyber criminals at bay.
Remote Work Security
The flexibility of remote work with the ability to work from home or while traveling, along with the continued improvements in technology and communications, has made it easier to access data and resources from anywhere.
However, with this freedom comes additional cybersecurity risks. Without the right security measures in place, your data and devices are vulnerable to attack. Taking steps to secure your remote work setup and protect your data from hackers and malicious actors is not just wise, but a requirement.
Here are some of the benefits of secure remote work, common cybersecurity threats in remote work setups, and best practices for protecting your data and devices.
The Benefits of Secure Remote Work
A secure remote work environment maintains a productive work setting while allowing protected access to company or customer resources and data. The right security measures free a team to share and access data from anywhere with reduced risk to threats and compromise.
Fundamentally, secure remote work practices help protect your data from cyber-attacks. By taking the necessary steps to secure your remote work setup, you can reduce the risk of data breaches and other malicious activities.
Common Cybersecurity Threats in Remote Work Setups
The National Vulnerability Database lists tens of thousands of common cybersecurity threats that can affect remote work setups. There were over 24,000 new common vulnerabilities and exploits (CVE) in 2022, for example. This includes phishing attacks, malware, ransomware, and data breaches.
Phishing attacks involve sending malicious emails that appear to originate from a legitimate source to gain access to sensitive information. This type of attack is often used to steal passwords and other sensitive data.
Malware is malicious software that can be used to take control of a computer or device. It can be used to gain access to sensitive information or to spread viruses and other malicious code.
Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts files and data on a computer or device and then demands payment from the victim to restore access.
Data breaches occur when sensitive data is exposed or stolen. This can include customer information, financial data, or other confidential information.
Distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks overwhelms internet targets with bogus, repeated requests or noise, blocking others from access or causing service failures. It can sometimes be a distraction masking a secondary hacking attempt. A compromised computer, because of delaying important updates, can be an unwitting accomplice in such attacks by hosting malicious code. Sometimes called zombie devices, these compromised systems are acting under the control of a third party.
The astonishing number and growth of CVEs indicates both a more active threat environment and an awareness of vendors to recognize and address vulnerabilities. It also shows a constantly evolving threatscape.
Best Practices in Securing Remote Work
There are several best practices that you can implement to secure your remote work setup and protect your data from cyber threats. These include, but are not limited to:
- using strong passwords
- encrypting your data
- installing security software
- keeping computing asset’s software up to date
Protecting Your Data and Accounts
Passwords are one of the most important tools for protecting your data.
Using strong passwords is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your data. Make sure to use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols when creating passwords. It is also important to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. A product like KeePass Password Safe, or similar software, can protect and manage account information, even across multiple computing devices.
Combining password strength with Multi-Factor-Authentication (MFA) is a better step. MFA, sometimes called two-factor authentication, uses a principle of, “something you know, and something you have.” For example, you know a password or PIN number, and you have a device generating a one-time-use token through a text message, physical device, or phone application.
Finally, it is important to regularly update your passwords. This ensures that any compromised passwords are no longer valid and that your data remains secure.
Encrypting your data is another key step in securing your remote work setup. By encrypting your data, you can ensure that it is not accessible to unauthorized users. This can be done locally on computing devices or on shared storage locations.
Finally, it is important to install security software on your devices. Security software can help protect your data from malicious actors and can alert you to any suspicious activity. This can include drive-encryption, anti-virus, anti-malware, or virtual private network (VPN) software. Additionally, third-party services can monitor account information, scan, and protect email, or go deep into the dark web and analyze threat actors targeting specific companies and organizations.
How to Secure Connections and Communications
Securing communication can involve several overlapping elements, such as using a virtual private network, use of encrypted messaging services, and secure cloud storage.
A VPN is a secure network connection that allows you to access the internet without being tracked or monitored by third parties. A VPN protects the data sent over the internet. It is a valuable tool for protecting your internet communications. A VPN can be used at an application layer, like the Tor Browser (https://www.torproject.org) or at a system level through a variety of services.
Encrypted messaging services such as Threema (https://threema.ch) provide an extra layer of security when communicating with colleagues and clients. Threema uses end-to-end encryption to ensure that messages are secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties and supports anonymous identities.
Finally, using secure cloud storage is a way to store and share data securely. Cloud storage services such as OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive offer strong encryption and other security features to protect your data from cyber threats.
How to Detect and Respond to Cybersecurity Threats
Detecting and responding to cybersecurity threats is essential for protecting your remote work setup. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) list several detection tools and services https://www.cisa.gov/free-cybersecurity-services-and-tools. Tailoring the tools to your individual or business needs requires an individualized analysis of your computing environment. There is no one solution.
One of the most important tools is a security monitoring system. This system can detect any suspicious activity on your network and alert you to any potential threats. Malware, firewall, and anti-virus software are examples that protect and monitor your equipment directly to help detect and remove malicious software from your devices.
Detection can extend beyond your immediate devices. Scanning can be done from external tools to identify weakness by internet facing devices, or internal to a business’s network infrastructure. Services by companies like Rapid7 and Mandiant provide detailed assessments of computing infrastructure which can guide and prioritize remediation efforts.
Finally, it is important to know how to respond to cyber threats. Make sure to have a system in place for notifying the appropriate people in the event of a security breach or other malicious activity. Plan for restoring from backups in case of corruption or equipment failure and deploying software updates.
Securing your remote work is essential for protecting your data and devices from cyber threats. By taking the necessary steps to secure your remote work setup, you can reduce the risk of data breaches and other malicious activities. Stay alert and keep your computing assets current with the latest updates to reduce the chance of being exploited.