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Security Threats and Challenges of Hybrid/Remote Work



Security Threats Challenges HybridRemote Work

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

The switch to a remote or hybrid work model has happened at an astonishing pace. Initially fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses the world over rushed to facilitate remote working for employees.

This has many advantages for both the employee and the employer. But it comes with baggage and one of the major downsides is security. In this article, we discuss some of the security threats of remote work, the challenges these pose, and some of the solutions that can ease the risks.

What Are There Security Risks Associated With Remote Working?

For many of us, the shift to a remote working environment has been a blessing. No longer shackled to set hours in a fixed place of work, it has opened up a world of possibilities including choosing the cities we live in based on factors like cultural preferences.

However, as workers moved from the office environment, so did the data. This is the crux of the matter. No longer are IT departments able to ringfence data safely within the confines of a work network.

This paradigm shift is a major challenge for security professionals and opens up a host of new security threats to be considered. Let’s look at some of the primary concerns:

Insecure Network Connections

Remote workers will often make connections from unsecured public networks and home networks, many of which have inadequate security. This leaves devices open to a variety of attack types, including:

  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks: This is just as it sounds, attackers can intercept communications between the worker’s device and the network.
  • Wi-Fi eavesdropping: Hackers can easily monitor wireless traffic on unsecured networks.
  • Malware injection: Insecure networks can serve as a gateway for attackers to inject malware into the remote worker’s device.
  • Network spoofing: Attackers can create fake networks that mimic legitimate ones, tricking remote workers into connecting to them and giving the attackers access to their data.

These are just a few of the areas that are easily exploited. However, as we discuss a little later, there are ways to mitigate the risk.

Increased Threat From Phishing Attacks

Digital communication channels are essential for remote work to “work.” Again, one vulnerability here is that devices are operating out of the “safety net” of the work network and the security that protects it. There are also vulnerabilities within software suites designed to facilitate remote working to consider.

Scammers are opportunists and those behind phishing and social engineering attacks are more than aware of such weaknesses. Some of the methods used include:

  • Email phishing: The original phishing scam is becoming increasingly sophisticated.
  • Spear phishing: This is a more highly-targeted form of email phishing.
  • Phishing using collaboration tools: A plethora of such tools have been rushed onto the market and open new doors of opportunity for scammers.

Phishing techniques have become incredibly sophisticated, and even the most tech-savvy worker is now vulnerable to such attacks.

Endpoint Security

Ultimately, endpoint security defines the major security problems with remote work. Endpoint security refers to the devices that workers use to access company resources. Such security used to be easy, the vast majority of devices were static and safely tucked away behind firewalls and other layers of security.

Now it is not so simple with many companies implementing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies. This allows employees to use personal devices for work matters. In some ways, this is super convenient, but security professionals would argue the case.

Among the inherent security problems with endpoint security are:

  • Device diversity makes it challenging to implement effective security measures.
  • IT departments have limited control over personal devices.
  • Lower levels of security controls on personal devices.

These are inherent security problems that organizations need to address if they want to mitigate the security risk associated with remote working.

Best Practices and Strategies to Mitigate the Risks Of Remote Working

Forearmed is forewarned, so now that we know all about the risks, let’s look at some of the strategies that can help remote workers stay secure:

  • Education: The end user should be fully educated about the risks and how to negate them.
  • Network security: Mechanisms such as safe VPNs should be implemented.
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions: These can help to enforce security policies across all devices, even employee-owned devices.
  • Data encryption: Ensure that all company data on any device is encrypted.
  • Security updates: All devices should be regularly updated with all security, operating system, and application updates.
  • Segmentation and containerization: Similar to a virtual machine this allows for “compartments” to be created that segregate work and personal applications and data.

Remote working carries increased security risks, this is just the nature of the beast. However, with due diligence, education, and strong procedures, it is possible to minimize the risk.

Remote Work: Staying Safe in a Connected World

Any seismic shift in the way we work will have to navigate a rocky road. The move to remote and hybrid work practices can certainly be considered a shift of such proportions.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are massive benefits to remote and hybrid working. By implementing proper procedures and security measures, the risks can be effectively managed and minimized, making remote work a viable and secure option in our connected world.

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