The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to embrace widespread remote work for their workforce. The sudden changes have led to increased use of internet based work platforms and cloud based management systems and at the same time exposing many organisations to major cybersecurity threats.
What are the increased security risks from remote working
Employees which would normally connect to the internet behind secure networks and additional security systems may no longer have access to company offices’ secure networks. VPN usage is now a lifeline for staff to access office internal network resources, however VPN servers in place may not be designed to handle the load of a fully remote workplace.
Insecure and misconfigured VPN connections are likely to pose major security attack against organisations.
Most staff have resorted to using personal personal devices to carry out work functions and access official data and applications. These devices may already be compromised or otherwise poorly updated and protected.
Furthermore, many individuals share login accounts amongst family members or do not protect their user account at all.
COVID-19 related cyberthreats have also been spotted as opportunistic cybercriminals exploit our collective anxiety and need for information and certainty about the pandemic. Phishing emails and forwards on social media may succeed in socially engineering your staff into compromising devices, accounts, and services.
Lastly, the advent of frequent remote work may lead staff to improvise in selecting cloud services which do not meet the security or compliance needs of their organisation.
How to detect cybersecurity threats
Many companies are unprepared and don’t have security detecting tools in place making it difficult to detect malicious activities.
Organizations should evaluate the security defense mechanisms in place and explore into hiring cybersecurity experts to help them identify the loopholes in their systems and recommend security systems tailored for the needs of each organization.
Companies need to work closely with cybersecurity experts to understand risks engendered by remote work as they pertain to organisational systems, processes, and policies. This may involve;
- A close review of the company’s VPN configuration,
- Consideration of secure gateway solutions for remote workers,
- Reviews of security for organisational intranet and extranets and ,
- Review of user account security and mobile device management configurations.
What should companies do to counter security threats and ensure compliance
Given the stress experienced throughout this pandemic, staff are less likely to review organisational policies to know what to do.
It is advisable for companies to summarise the most important and actionable information for their staff including expectations for devices, authorised cloud applications, and emergency response contacts.
Companies need to train their staff and create awareness of security threats, how to detect them and what is expected of them to protect their organisations.
Sensitize their employees around information security outside of the office space. Restrict working in public spaces or accessing public wifi. Working from public spaces should be restricted and organization should utilize technologies that ensure confidential information remain secure on their employee’s devices in the case of theft or damage.
Use of personal devices should be discouraged , otherwise, security standards should be set up for the use of personal devices accessing company resources.
Companies should conduct remote staff awareness programs on cybersecurity threats such as phishing and malware.
Adopt centralised solutions to help ensure that staff utilise secure internet connections, secure data on their devices, evade malware, and meet security baseline requirements on their devices and accounts.
Organisations which do not have any or sufficient internal capacity are advised to consult or work with cybersecurity and data protection professionals to help them detect cyber breaches and comply with data protection and confidentiality regulations.
We also advice that companies regularly update their remote working policies or practices with an emphasis on cyber security during and post COVID-19 era.
Article compiled by Alice Namuli Blazevic of Ugandan member firm Katende, Ssempebwa & Co