Enterprise cybersecurity, or simply internet safety for companies that have an operational element that must be online, is as fundamental and important as anything else in the business structure. With the digital transformation in full swing today, it is imperative that any online business protects its three most important assets; the corporate data, the customer, and the data. Employees could be at risk of cyber-attacks if they work remotely, in fact, this can easily happen if cybersecurity measures are not met. This is why it is important to understand what remote work cybersecurity risks are and ultimately how to keep remote employees safe whether they are working from home or from a public location.
The Importance of The Internet For an Online Business
Currently, there are over 4 billion internet users globally and over 2 billion live websites on the internet. 44% of people are estimated to be using laptops and desktops, while over 50% use smartphones. Judging by this, having an internet presence and ultimately reaching the customer base is crucial for the growth of any business, and statistics will support this fact; over 20% of small business owners have reported that they believe having a website will exponentially grow their business. For an online business, marketing, sales, and blogging are crucial to the business operation process and growth of the company. Furthermore, social media is even more important as a growth catalyst. What is more, by 2040, it is estimated that over 95% of all shopping will take place online. So, yes, the internet is crucial for the survival of an online business. Of course, there are industries (like some service industries) where an internet presence is not required, however, these industries still use the internet to access resources and the vast online knowledge base.
How about remote employees, then? How has the advancement of the internet environment changed work models? Remote work has jumped dramatically, especially since 2019. The ‘gig’ economy is exploding. Over 50% of businesses now allow for remote work, while over 20% of the workforce works remotely. Even before 2019, in the U.S. alone more than 5 million people were already remote working. Now, that number is drastically higher and according to statistics almost all of the people already habituated to working online will not go back to classical working models. Not only has remote work transformed the way we live, but has an overall impact on employee happiness, work flexibility, environmental benefits and cost savings for businesses. However, there is of course a dark side to all of this if we aren’t careful. There are several cybersecurity hurdles to be wary of which can cause major damage to both employees and the organization.
What Are Remote Work Cybersecurity Risks?
Now, we have seen how beneficial remote work is and how it is, overall, a massive improvement over classic work models. Essentially, it is a clear evolution from the office and traffic grind which is something that is being quickly left behind in the archaic past. So what is the problem? Well, there are many, to say the least. As far as cybersecurity is concerned, protecting remote work employees can be even more difficult than securing the company itself. By removing employees from the company space and company network, and adding potentially unsecured devices to the mix, it is possible to open up several weakened security gaps for cybercriminals to target. Not only this, but remote working increases the possibility of human error due to there being no physical connection between company and employee.
Let’s look at some of the cybersecurity issues associated with remote work and remote employees;
– Accessing data via unprotected Wi-Fi networks
– The risk of unsecured personal devices
– Privacy issues associated with working in public
– Password hygiene issues
– Potentially problematic data security in transit
– Social engineering scams
– External cyberattacks
There are quite a few points on this list that require addressing and resolving. These issues apply to both the employee him/herself as well as to those that make decisions and create policy in the company.
Let’s think about some real-world negative scenarios that have arisen as a result of the transfer to remote working;
– Communication between employee and company is now less direct and more complicated
– Timing cannot be guaranteed because it has become more flexible
– Employee monitoring is more difficult and complex
How to Keep Remote Working Employees Safe?
Securing a remote workforce requires several steps that organizations need to pay attention to, as well as security policies that need to be implemented. For the employee, a new level of cybersecurity awareness and hygiene is required as well. So, this is a cumbersome two-way street that needs to be locked in for optimal cybersecurity to be reaped.
Let’s look at some fundamental, well-established, and tested recommendations;
– Educating employees in cybersecurity and computer security best practices
– Making sure that employee devices are secured
– Encrypting communications on the company/personal device transit highway
This is a short list, but one that can be expanded into dozens of sub-headings. Think of these three points as the main ones. So, let’s understand the basics without which remote work should not be done in today’s risky internet environment. First of all, it is crucial that all employees use a premium Virtual Private Network or VPN for starters. Secondly, an organization must have some sort of ‘remote work policy’ that manages trusted platforms and tools and cybersecurity guidelines. Thirdly, employees must understand that working in public (while having coffee, for example) is an activity that is vulnerable to prying eyes, so working from more private locations should be preferred (especially as public Wi-Fi is unsafe.) In addition, employees have to secure their Wi-Fi at home, which means setting a unique password for their router as well as keeping to password safety practices in general. Finally, a general recommendation for anyone involved with remote work is to stick to secure connections, avoid oversharing information online, and avoid malicious emails.