The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused many workers across the country and across the globe to shift from working at their job sites to almost entirely working from home. While those companies and employees which are still able to be operational during this time are certainly more fortunate than others with less work flexibility, the current state of the world has certainly caused some stresses for people who are now working in a majorly unprecedented way.
Cybersecurity should be an integral part of any business’ normal operations, and the present situation is no exception — if anything, the current climate calls for enhanced cyber defenses. Employees are always susceptible to potential cybersecurity risks and attacks, however, with a major part of the workforce being forced to work entirely online with varying levels of reliable home Internet security, hackers are taking advantage of the vulnerability that this new situation presents. These unprecedented times can be scary for businesses and employees alike; however, as the saying goes, knowledge is power! Educate yourself and your team with the below quick tips to keep your company’s cybersecurity defenses strong, even when the team is apart.
Training on Telework Guidelines
The creation of company-specific telework guidelines is the essential first step in a company’s work from home plan. Were many of us in this new situation under different circumstances, it would have been ideal to have guidelines provided for employees prior to the situation unfolding. Despite the unusual circumstances, it is still important for clear and effective guidelines to be created for employee, customer, and management benefit. Expectations from each of the three parties of what they require from the others will help to smooth the transition from usual operation status to a fully online one.
Emphasize the importance of heightened cybersecurity awareness
Beyond a purely operational standpoint, the creation of telework guidelines helps to secure the company during this especially risky time period. Clear determination of authorized users and cybersecurity practices aids employees in their jobs while working from home by thrusting security to the tops of their minds.
Due to the widespread panic and number of people working at their homes, cybercriminals have upped their game and phishing attacks have steadily been on the rise since January 2020, jolting upward even moreso since March of this year. Educating members of your work teams on the importance of being hyperaware of security risks during this time will be your company’s first line of defense when it comes to avoiding these types of scams.
Equip Teams with Cyber Tools for Success
At the company office, employees are heavily reliant on their employer to provide them with certain tools for success for the given job expected of them. For a typical office, this includes things such as reliable Internet access, laptops or desktops on which to work, and education on company policies and procedures, to name a few. In our new situation, it is still important for employers to check in with employees and make sure they have or gain access to adequate substitutes to these typical tools in order to ensure continuity of company success.
Reliable, Secure Internet Access is Essential
While employees are working at home, most are working on their laptops utilizing their home Wi-Fi connections which tend to have varying degrees of reliability and security. It is not necessarily realistic to expect employers to pay for home Internet for all of their employees, however, guidance on proper Internet connection security can help avoid malicious hackers from capitalizing on vulnerabilities. Firstly, employees need to ensure that they have strong passwords for their home Wi-Fi and they should also check the network usage to ensure no unknown devices are accessing their home Internet. Additionally, avoiding public Wi-Fi, which tends to be password-free or accessible to many random individuals, helps to protect from hackers in the physical vicinity of the employee. If necessary, encourage employees to use personal, protected hotspots off of their phones and to limit working in public as much as possible.
Utilize corporate devices when possible
Though it may not be entirely feasible for all companies, those with the means to do so should provide corporate devices (laptops, phones, etc.) to employees when possible. A recent study found that over half of all people working from home access inappropriate content on the same devices they utilize for remote work. By providing employees with things such as corporate-owned laptops, companies can avoid potential cyberthreats or malware accidentally downloaded by employees and ensure work data stays on work devices, rather than risking company information on personal computers. This also ensures that all users who access the company databases and related information are authorized to do so, adding yet another layer of protection to a company’s defenses.
Strengthen login credentials and processes
As always, ensuring employees have strong, hard-to-guess, non-duplicated passwords helps to make for better protected company data. On top of this, companies should enable two-factor authentication and make it a requirement for employee work accounts so that not one, but two identifiers are needed in order to log in to an account.
Cybersecurity can be an intimidating subject for employees even during seemingly “normal” times, and the current state of the world can increase employee anxiety surrounding the potential threats they could face or mistakes they may make. This is why it is essential for employers stay in constant communication with their employees, not only to ensure that work is being done, but to make sure employees continue to practice strong cybersecurity in their daily routines. When in doubt, encourage employees to forward any seemingly suspicious emails to the company’s dedicated IT department, along with any questions or concerns they may encounter. It is always better to be safe and secure, than sorry.
In 2018, 5 million employees, or 3.6% of the population at that time, worked from home at least half time or more — as a globe, we have been forced to make an abrupt shift from this small portion of the workforce participating in telework to participation on a much grander scale. While many people have either just begun or heavily extended their remote work initiatives, the landscape for employment has been changed for the foreseeable future, with residual impacts likely seen forever. As companies adapt and states begin to reopen, keeping cybersecurity at the top of mind when it comes to telework plans is essential for the continued success and safety of your business.