COVID-19 Demonstrates the Power of Remote Workplaces (But Those Are Not Without Risks)

Andrew Douthwaite

March 25, 2020

COVID-19 is changing the way society handles a lot of things, including how we work. As companies rapidly shift to remote workplaces, we can expect there to be a few hiccups along the way. In response to this lack of preparedness, cyber-criminals are increasingly taking advantage of the chaos COVID-19 has caused. Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to safeguard your network and digital assets while supporting a remote workforce.

Why Telecommuting, Video Conferencing, & Remote Work Are More Important Than Ever

As companies shut their physical offices and mandate that employees work from home, telecommuting, video conferencing, and remote work are becoming vital tools that businesses need to be able to leverage effectively to stay in business. In some cases, employees who have been told to self-isolate or live in states such as California and Illinois (which have ordered all residents to shelter-in-place), working from home is the only option.
Video conferencing, in particular, has become the lifeblood of many businesses as suddenly far-flung workforces work to stay connected. From important meetings to social situations (such as having lunch as a group), videoconferencing allows businesses to maintain a sense of community and ensure that workers can connect with one another to complete their tasks and achieve their goals.

The Hazards of Remote Work

COVID-19 Demonstrates the Power of Remote Workplaces (But Those Are Not Without Risks)
Bad actors may try to take advantage of the chaos that suddenly pivoting to a remote workforce can bring. When employees work from home, they may be using inadequately protected devices or unsecured internet connections. They may also be more likely to share files over the cloud or send attachments over email.
As the number of emails increase, as employees work hard to keep everyone up to date and in the loop, employees may be less likely to catch suspicious emails (such as phishing scams). If they do suspect something is fishy, they may not know how to properly report it now that they can’t just walk over to the IT department.
It doesn’t help that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to spread malware, even going so far as to impersonate trusted organizations such as the WHO and the CDC in an attempt to get unsuspecting users to download malicious files or click on dangerous links.

Safeguarding Your Business From Bad Actors

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help safeguard your company’s infrastructure and digital assets.

Implement Good Security Protocols

Without the implementation of robust security protocols in place, your chances of detecting, defending against, and mitigating the damages caused by a cybersecurity attack are very slim. By comparison, the way you would mark emergency exits, practice fire drills, and post evacuation plans in prominent locations to safeguard your employees in the event of a fire, you also need to be prepared to confront and deal with cybersecurity attacks quickly and effectively.
You should work with your cybersecurity provider to ensure that your incident response protocols are up to date and review your protocols with your employees. Depending on your organization’s unique cybersecurity needs, you may need to work with your provider to update or adjust your protocols and policies to ensure that they continue to meet your needs as you switch to a remote workforce.

Smart Data Management

As employees work from home, more information is likely to be shared among them using email, instant messaging apps, and the cloud. Smart data management strategies allow you to ensure that private or sensitive company information isn’t able to be shared with unauthorized users, and also helps ensure that employees can access the information they need to complete their work.

Protect Your Devices

COVID-19 Demonstrates the Power of Remote Workplaces (But Those Are Not Without Risks)
As workforces leave centralized locations such as offices and disperse to their homes, it is more important than ever to ensure that all of your endpoints are protected.
Depending on your company’s current BYOD (bring your own device policy), you may need to consider what steps you are going to take and insist your employees take, to safeguard digital assets and infrastructure accessed from personal devices. At the very least, employees should ensure they have firewalls installed and that their antivirus software is up to date. You may also want to consider providing employees with secure connections and VPNs.

Secure Connections & VPNs

Secure connections and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) can allow your employees to access company files and networks securely.

  • Secure connections refer to connections that are encrypted using one or more security protocols to ensure that data flowing between two or more nodes is secure. The purpose of secure connections is to prevent unauthorized third parties from accessing sensitive data and prevent this data from being viewed or altered by unknown parties. To safeguard data, secure connections require users to validate their identity.
  • VPNs, on the other hand, are used to create private networks using public internet connections. VPNs are designed to mask your IP (internet protocol) address, making the user’s online actions virtually untraceable.

Though COVID-19 will, eventually, come to pass, it will likely leave a lasting mark on the world. By making smart investments in your infrastructure and data security now, you can not only safeguard your employees and your company now but help future proof your business.

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