Remote Environments Keep Workers Healthy – But Put Your Business at Risk

Risk risks cybersecurity business

When the pandemic hit, SMBs faced a slew of questions without easy answers. Top among them was how to keep employees safe, healthy, and productive – all at the same time.

The answer quickly became obvious. Shifting to remote working environments was not only recommended but in some cases mandatory. But as is often the case, one solution led to a new problem. With more employees working in a remote environment, what could leaders do to make sure their data and networks stayed safe from cyberattacks?

Cybersecurity Risks for SMBs

The truth is, when it comes to cybersecurity, most SMBs struggle to develop a company-wide plan that works. The reason for that varies. It could be a budget issue, or lack of understanding. It could be that a business thinks a cyberattack won’t happen to them, or that they do not hold data hackers would deem valuable. But regardless of the reason for the security gap, one thing is clear: cybercriminals see the shift to remote working as an opportunity that is too good to miss.

As a result, it is now more important than ever to introduce the best practices and adopt security tools to keep your business safe.

But what are the first steps SMBs must consider, and where can you look for guidance? Below we outline three critical positions to secure your remote environments and key questions to identify where you are vulnerable.

Remote work environments are not all bad. It cuts down on overhead, employees have developed processes for staying productive, and companies are learning how to maximize profit as a result. In fact, the shift has been so successful that a recent Gartner report found that more than 40% of the companies surveyed said they would keep some form of remote working active even when the pandemic ends. Such a dramatic change means companies must get better at understanding how their data is used and what can be done to secure employee devices and network access.

Cybercriminals typically focus on three areas of attack:

  1. They target remote workers using phishing campaigns, malware, and other threats
  2. They attempt to gain control of servers and networks by compromising remote desktop accounts
  3. They search for personal devices that are not secure and do not follow an organization’s security policy

To offset these threats, business leaders need to secure entry points and employee devices. You need to develop a comprehensive protection plan for all workers to follow. And you need to know where else you are vulnerable.

The goal of a security plan is to create a single, integrated security framework that simplifies device management and entry points and expands your visibility and control.

Workers must understand what is acceptable when it comes to handling data. They need to know what levels of authorization they have. And they must be fully aware of how to make risk-based decisions surrounding the types of devices they use to access your network and data.

Here are four best practices you can use starting today.

  1. Content Storage: Because of increased risk in a remote environment, we recommend securing your cloud-based or web-based storage software with encryption, multi-authentication, and passwords. While web and cloud-based server storage may be among the most convenient ways to manage data, it’s critical to have proper security defenses established before employees can access it.
  2. Two-factor Authentication: Enhance endpoint security with two-factor authentication is a simple step that adds a layer of security when employees log in to important applications and portals. One-time password technology, USB tokens, smart cards, and other technology is available that makes it harder for cybercriminals to attack you using the applications and tools you rely on.
  3. Network Connections: Remote employees should connect to your network using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which uses an SSL or IPsec to encrypt communications from a remote worker’s device. This protects both the worker and your business by making sure hackers cannot decipher data traffic.
  4. Risk Management Plan: A risk management plan will range based on your needs, but it’s important to cover the basics. For example, can you track a machine if it is lost by an employee? Are you able to wipe it remotely so business information is not compromised? These are just two scenarios to consider, but making sure you have a plan will help in the event of a lost or stolen device.

Failure to secure your remote work environments puts your business and your employees at risk. But by following these simple, concrete steps you can take to improve your overall cybersecurity posture.

In addition to the steps outlined above, it’s important to know where else you are vulnerable, and how to develop a unified plan to keep your employees, customers, and partners safe.

To help you do that, we have a series of videos that walk you through the process. There’s also a cybersecurity checklist to use when you talk to your team about cybersecurity risks.

The video series and the checklist are designed specifically for SMBs that recognize the HUGE upside of stopping a cyberattack before it happens.

See the checklist and watch the “Cybersecurity for SMBs” video series here.