By the start of 2022, about 30% of all employees in the U.S. were working remotely—as part of either a hybrid, distributed, or fully remote workforce. That means as many as 50 million people are working remotely, and the risk they each introduce—as well as that which comes with third-party vendors—needs to be carefully monitored.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic provided the tipping point, forcing many companies to switch to a remote or hybrid work environment, while also enjoying some of the conveniences, savings, and productivity benefits that come along with it. But the risk that comes with remote workers, and the third-party vendors involved in developing a hybrid workforce, gives reason for pause. Read on to learn some of the risks that come with alternative work ecosystems and how to protect your network.
Increased Security Risk from Remote Workforce
While remote work arrangements have paved the way for a variety of professional possibilities, they present unique security risks. Some of these stem from:
- Lax security procedures employed by remote and hybrid workers
- Threats introduced via the public networks many remote workers use while doing their jobs
- Varying levels of anti-malware tools and firewalls in and around remote workers’ devices
- Data exfiltration by hackers stealing information as it travels between your network and your workers’ computers
Here are some ways to mitigate these risks.
Protecting Your Network for Increased Security Risks from Remote work
With the following tips, you can shrink your attack surface instead of allowing it to grow out of control as you add remote or hybrid employees.
Tip #1: Use a VPN for Remote Workers
With a VPN, all data that users send between their computers and your network is encrypted. This means that even if a hacker were to intercept it, they wouldn’t be able to decipher the seemingly random letters and numbers the encryption converted it to. Without a VPN, a hacker could position themselves between your worker’s computer and your network and steal sensitive data. By monitoring the risk associated with each worker connecting to your system, with or without a VPN, you can limit the chances of your digital infrastructure suffering a breach.
Tip #2: Ensure All Software Run by Remote Workers Is the Latest Version
Software providers frequently issue patches and updated versions that address security concerns, meaning they do a lot of the cyber protection heavy lifting for you. If you set up a system to double-check that all apps are running the most recent and secure version, you can leverage the provider’s updates to better safeguard your environment. This is a particularly important step because it can prevent a remote worker’s computer from being the host for malware that introduces a backdoor to your network. With a risk monitoring system that assesses the risk introduced by third parties, you can limit—or eliminate—your exposure to malware.
Tip #3: Monitor Your Risk from Third-Party Vendors
While the risk that comes with third-party vendors is often par for the course, remote work introduces even more third parties into an organization’s vendor ecosystem, thereby introducing even more risk. Each additional third-party vendor creates another attack vector that hackers can use to infiltrate your system.
Also, in a remote work environment, some employees engage in shadow IT—where they source, install, manage, and troubleshoot their own digital tools. This exposes your network to risks due to:
- Downloading insecure applications
- Malware that gets installed when a remote worker accidentally downloads corrupted or fake antivirus software
- Vulnerabilities created by remote workers turning off certain privacy settings, firewalls, or other security measures on their devices
On the other hand, by monitoring the third-party vendors your remote, distributed, or hybrid workforce uses, you can accurately assess the risk each employee introduces.
Protect Your Environment with CyberGRX
By using a VPN, running the latest versions of software, and monitoring the risk from third-party vendors, you can quickly expand your workforce without expanding your attack surface at the same rate. See how CyberGRX works with a free demo today.
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