Ever since the pandemic struck in 2020, many companies have moved into a remote working model.
But from a cybersecurity standpoint, working from home can bring in a lot of trouble! Whether you are on a team remote work or team office, our breakdown will have an unbiased take on some critical questions: Why is remote work being widely adopted? What are the cybersecurity issues associated with it? How are regulated industries dealing with this? What can individuals like you and me do? So, we present to you a comprehensive discussion on remote work from a cybersecurity angle.
Why is remote work becoming so prevalent?
The pandemic and consequent global lockdowns had shut down several businesses. Many of them moved their operations online. During that phase, many employees reported a rise in productivity and better work-life balance. In metro cities, especially, saving on the traveling time also acted as a benefit to office goers. More quality time spent with family was an additional benefit reported by the majority of them. Now in 2023, some companies have shifted to working from the office again while the majority are employing the hybrid mode. Meanwhile, around 16% of the companies worldwide have shifted to fully remote operations (SOURCE) With these statistics, we know that flexible work is bound to continue in the near future. Especially for operations that don't NEED your presence in the workplace. Discussing what works better for businesses and individuals is beyond our scope. So, now that we know why remote work is so widely sought after, what are the consequences of it?
What are the cybersecurity concerns of remote work?
Although remote work has its own set of benefits, it is a nightmare for cybersecurity. There are several factors contributing to it. Home networks are much more vulnerable to attacks, and it makes the overall systems less secure. Moreover, there is a disconnect between the IT security team and employees. This could make it difficult to identify and fight against such attacks. The natural defence of employees not reporting when something goes wrong could be detrimental. Using personal devices is another major cybersecurity issue for remote work. These devices have no security protocols and systems in place. To sum it up, it would be extremely difficult for companies to effectively tackle cybersecurity lapses. This could lead to data breaches, amongst other such attacks whose damages could go up to billions. We will discuss the solutions for these in the subsequent sections. But the deal is not so straightforward for regulated industries.
How will regulated industries tackle this?
Firstly, let's define them. Regulated industries are industries that form the backbone of a country and are overseen by a regulatory authority to ensure compliance. They cannot use personal devices for business purposes. Let's take, for example, the banking and finance industry. Financial firms have to keep a record of employee conversations related to business dealings. This is a regulatory requirement. A breach of this would cause fines to be levied. Has it happened? Yes! In 2021, JPMorgan Securities paid a combined $200 million in fines to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This was because employees, including those at senior levels, were using WhatsApp and emails for business communications. Which is impossible to keep a record of for compliance purposes. But even with all employees following protocols, there are still several risks. Regulated industries need a much higher level of security to be maintained. They can only use applications and systems that have been approved to be safe. So, what can be done? You could hire MailSPEC to help you create a cybersecurity infrastructure. We have the French ANSSI certification, which is a globally renowned certification.
With our state-of-the-art products and services, we deploy secure critical communications for regulated industries and public services. But it's not only the corporates, you and I can also help mitigate the risks.
What are the best cybersecurity practices for remote work as individuals? We'll go through some tips employees could follow to secure their remote working environment -
Keep personal and work devices separate Many companies, especially regulated ones, don't allow you to work on personal devices. Even if your company does, it's good to keep both devices separate for information security.
Use unique and strong passwords Don't use the same passwords across different accounts. And always use THESE guidelines for your password.
Turn on Multi-factor Authentication (READ MORE) MFA is one of the strongest ways to avoid getting hacked. It's simple and effective.
Actively attend and complete cybersecurity training You are never too experienced to learn. Cybercriminals keep coming up with new tactics to fool you. To stay on top of it, complete the cybersecurity training irrespective of your ranking or industry.
Don't break company protocols The company's cybersecurity protocols are in place for a reason. Not following those norms can get you and the business in trouble. Moreover, if something goes wrong, make sure you report it to the concerned authorities at the earliest.
However, don't forget the most important factor -
Awareness and vigilance are the best cybersecurity practices.
Remember, at the end of the day, cybersecurity is everyone's responsibility!
------------------------------------------------------ Remote hybrid work models are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
With more individuals seeking work-life balance and flexibility, this number is likely to increase over time. Make sure you follow the company policies, security training, and internet best practices.