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How to Overcome the Challenges of Securing a Fully Remote Workforce

How to Overcome the Challenges of Securing a Fully Remote Workforce

The use of a remote workforce presents certain advantages, both for employers and employees. The need for a more convenient system (combined with the demands of a global pandemic) has made remote work far more common than ever before. If your organization is one of those which has recently made the switch, there will be some significant cybersecurity hurdles to overcome. Let’s discuss a few of those challenges and how you can overcome them.

1. Update And Patch Management

Updates and security patches are essential for the maintenance of a secure network. More importantly, these things have to be applied in a timely fashion. When a security vulnerability is discovered, it must be closed as soon as possible. If you or your IT team can find the loophole, someone else can do so as well. According to these numbers, outdated operating systems make you three times more likely to be attacked.

Unfortunately, a remote workforce can make these things more difficult. When everyone is working different hours (as is often the case with a remote workforce), it is very hard to ensure that everyone gets the update/patch at the same time. To deal with this, organizations need to learn how to manage remote communication more efficiently. Thus, you can get those updates out there as soon as possible. You might also consider some sort of auto-update feature to take the matter out of fallible human hands.

2. Device Management

Unless you plan to issue computers and/or mobile devices to all your employees (which would be quite expensive), your remote workforce will be using a wide variety of hardware and software. As for operating systems, most of your employees will be using Windows, but you want to provide options for Mac and Linux users as well. In the past, that third one has often been neglected. However, no security-minded PC user should overlook the definite security advantages of Linux-based operating systems.

The easiest way to deal with this diversity is to create a common app that is used by everyone. It can act as a “translation point” at which everyone’s habits and hardware can converge. You might also want to provide security scanning software for your employees. Like updates, regular security scans can be scheduled automatically so that minimal attention from your remote workers is required.

3. Educating Everyone About Social Engineering Attacks

There are all sorts of online security measures available today. Whether it be firewalls, VPN networks, disk encryption, or an intrusion prevention program, most of these measures are effective. But, you might rightly ask, “how can they be effective when so many cyberattacks still happen?” The answer is simple: These methods are effective, but there is one type of trick that can defeat them all…but only if a legitimate user makes a foolish mistake.

Of course, we are talking about social engineering attacks. Rather than attempting to attack the technological defenses, these methods will focus on the users themselves. The easiest way for them to get a password or other credentials is to trick a legitimate user into giving them up. If someone is not educated and wary about these things, they can easily be tricked. Social engineering attacks remain the most common initial vector for malware infection.

For this reason, it is highly essential that all your remote workers understand the basic concept of “phishing” and that they can recognize a spoofed page, app, or user. In the end, most of these attempts can be spotted with simple comparative analysis. For instance, if someone sends you an email that asks for the entry of a password (on a linked page), you can hover your mouse over the link and compare the URL to that which it claims to be.

4. Authentication And Access Control

Multi-factor authentication should be used whenever someone logs into your network, as it is more difficult to fool an MFA scheme. Any single piece of information can be stolen or spoofed, but it’s more difficult to do that with multiple pieces of identifying info. While MFA is not a universal solution, it is another roadblock that you can throw in the way of a potential attacker.

Access control is also very important. Like most governments, you will want to create multiple levels of access. You probably don’t need to go as far as they do, but the concept of information compartmentalization is very important. There are even certain operating systems (like Qubes) that take advantage of a compartmentalized approach. The idea is simple: a highly segregated system makes it harder for an attacker to compromise an entire system or device. It forces them to work incrementally, and that creates more opportunities for them to fail.

For a remote workforce, the hard thing is to determine which users should have higher-level access than others. In general, only those with IT skills (and upper management) will need access to the higher levels. The average user should have access to only those programs and resources that they need. Intelligence agencies refer to this concept as a “need-to-know basis.”

5. Arrange Some Security Tests

You can use a form of penetration testing to aid your efforts in establishing a secure remote workforce. Your trusted IT people can set up fake attacks using all the most common methods. When doing this, they should mimic known attacks as closely as possible. When it’s over, those who “took the bait” can be educated as to the error of their ways. You can even offer some incentives for those who exercise good security habits, turning this into a method of both positive and negative reinforcement.

As you transition to a remote workforce, you are likely to find other security challenges that need to be addressed. If you would like to learn more, you can always call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500. We can help you to weather these important changes with minimal risk and minimal hassle, and we are always eager to do so. Call today and see why PCH is considered to be among the best.