Businesses have strongly embraced digitalization since the COVID-19 pandemic, with remote work becoming an increasingly popular industrial trend. The work that once required physical presence on-site is now being done remotely despite the recent migration back to offices. However, this transition has not been without its risks and vulnerabilities. For business owners, protecting against new cyber threats has become a big challenge.
On average, companies faced 270 cyber attacks per year in 2021, a 151% increase from 2020, as per the World Economic Forum's Global Cybersecurity Outlook report for 2022. Ransomware, identity theft, and key infrastructure collapse rank among the top personal cyber risks cited by cybersecurity leaders. As a result, most businesses are beginning to realize that cyber incidents will inevitably occur. What is now needed is to improve the ability to quickly bounce back from a cyber attack. This brings up the question: How resilient are the current remote work conditions?
As employees and clients move away from an office setting to work remotely, they need to establish a security policy to ensure business continuity. Understanding the different types of cyber threats and how to deal with them is essential for developing prevention strategies. Cyber attacks during the pandemic can be classified into three main categories: phishing and scams, malware, and distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS).
Scams And Phishing
During the pandemic, frauds and phishing attacks were widespread and effective, with a success rate of 30% or more. To lure consumers, these scams used the terms Coronavirus or COVID-19 to target users with emails, SMS messages, and voice messages. Cybercriminals are also encrypting their websites with HTTPS encryption technologies so as to gain user trust. The most commonly targeted phishing markets are webmail and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) users.
Malware includes viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, ransomware, and other malicious software. These malicious programs can harm your computer systems and data. They can also steal information from your network and compromise the integrity of your system. Users of the video conferencing app Zoom, for example, were targeted using suspicious domains, malicious files, and 'Zoom bombing' during the pandemic.
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack involves sending malicious traffic from multiple sources at once to overwhelm a target server or network. This type of cyberattack has become a common tool for hackers and criminals to disrupt websites and services. These attacks can cause significant damage to a company’s infrastructure, causing downtime and financial losses. For example, in a DDoS attack in 2020, cybercriminals attempted to disrupt the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website in order to deny users access.
The number of remote employees has exploded in the last decade, with nearly half of all companies globally now offering some form of remote work. As employees become more mobile, they spend less time at their desks and more time engaging remotely with colleagues via email, phone calls, video chats, and other forms of communication. This shift creates new security risks for organizations and puts remote teams at risk because they do not always have access to the same tools or resources as their office colleagues. For example, they lack direct access to company resources—such as secure email or VPN connection—making them more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This makes it necessary to implement effective cybersecurity measures. How do businesses mitigate cybersecurity risks when working remotely? We'll take a look at some measures below.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network that allows users to securely access resources across untrusted networks. A VPN provides security through encryption and authentication services. It protects your data from being intercepted while traveling over public networks like the Internet. The additional benefits include remote access, site-to-site connectivity, and mobility.
Every organization must protect its sensitive data and private information from unauthorized access. If anything is lost or stolen, a company might become the target of an attack and face legal consequences. Most firms invest in a remote access VPN to prevent this. A remote-access VPN establishes a virtual private tunnel between your network and a remote user's computer, even if they're connected in a public area such as a coffee shop or library.
VPNs also provide access control features, ensuring that sensitive information is not available to all employees. Before access is provided, staff must check-in and verify their authorization.
It is important to protect every business transaction. A VPN hides your IP address so that people cannot track your online activities. It also encrypts your internet connection, making it harder for others to intercept your communications. VPNs include access control features that ensure sensitive information is not accessible to employees who do not require it. Before granting access, staff must check-in and verify their authorization.
Implement a Strong Password Policy
Keeping secure passwords is an extremely easy and effective way to safeguard data from unauthorized access. You must establish basic security practices and policies for staff, such as requiring strong passwords, as well as appropriate Internet usage guidelines with penalties for violations. Set up ground rules for managing and protecting customer information and other vital personal data. Thieves usually target social security numbers, credit cards, financial information, and other personal identifiers. If you're keeping sensitive information in your files, be sure to pay close attention to how you store it.
Identity and Access Management
Identity Access Management (IAM) is a framework that allows companies to manage their digital identities and control who has access to sensitive company data. IAM specialists ensure that only approved programs, authorized users, and approved devices are linked together. When employees leave an organization, their credentials are immediately revoked. It adds an extra layer of security for any business, large or small.
Cybersecurity Knowledge Base
Knowledge bases are powerful data-driven infrastructure systems that enable the implementation of security intelligence systems. A knowledge base includes information about previous threats and attacks and a set of indicators to identify them. Likewise, they also hold rules and modeling capabilities that help identify threats based on a number of different indicators. Leveraging them will go a long way towards ensuring an integrated and secure infrastructure system.
Maintain Regular Backups
Imagine how long you could run your business if you lost access to your critical data. Data loss can happen in many ways, from ransomware attacks to memory failures. Every business, no matter its size, should take regular backups of its sensitive data.
Regardless of the cause, maintaining a regular backup can help you recover lost data. It's usually kept in a secure location separate from the original device, such as the cloud. Copying data to hard disks, USB flash drives, external drives, or other devices linked to specific computers or devices through a local or wide area network is an effective way to ensure backups are available locally. In addition to maintaining local backups, you should always preserve at least one copy to an off-site server or in the cloud.
While businesses are beginning to recognize the benefits of remote teams, such as improved productivity and reduced costs, they must also realize that remote workers require additional precautions to avoid cyber attacks and other threats. In conclusion, it’s important to take precautions when working remotely so that sensitive information isn’t compromised.