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Strategies for Keeping Your Hybrid Workforce Safe from Cyberattacks

GettyImages-1669222472The hybrid working model—where employees split their time between the office and home—has become the new norm. In fact, a study conducted by Owl Labs revealed that 62% of employees have opted for working hybrid. However, this flexibility brings new cybersecurity challenges that businesses must tackle to protect sensitive data. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, it's crucial to adopt strategies that safeguard your hybrid workforce from potential dangers. Let's explore common security risks faced by hybrid workforces and strategies to keep your team secure.

 

Common Security Risks that Hybrid Workforces Face

Being able to work from home is often a great perk for employees that also opens up the doors for businesses to expand their job candidate pool. However, creating this type of working environment also opens up the organization to a wide range of security risks that they’ll need to factor in.

 

1. Larger Digital Attack Surfaces

In a traditional office setting, organizations are able to clearly map out various entry and exit points in a business network. This gives them clear boundaries they can work in to maximize the effectiveness of their security protocols.

However, when operating with a decentralized workforce, the potential attack surface of an organization dramatically increases and can be incredibly difficult to document. With multiple employees using various methods for accessing company resources, many of whom use public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks, businesses will often have their hands full trying to identify and remediate new vulnerabilities in their systems.

 

2. Less Visibility and Control

Along with the lack of visibility over their employees that decentralized workplaces have, they also lose a certain level of control when it comes to applying certain cybersecurity best practices in their workflow.

As part of facilitating additional scale to their operations, many businesses support the needs of their remote employees by granting them access to various cloud-based services. However, many times as the organization grows, it can be easy for businesses to lose track of the amount of subscriptions they maintain and the levels of access different users have to each.

If left unchecked, this lack of transparency can lead to more compromised credentials across the organization and an increased likelihood of unauthorized individuals gaining access to sensitive company data.

 

3. Inadequate Security on Personal Devices

While many organizations provide company-owned laptops for their remote employees to use, other businesses may allow their staff to use their own personal devices when handling their day-to-day work activities.

Unfortunately, most smartphone devices and personal laptops don’t have the necessary security protocols in place that most businesses would want when being given access to their critical systems.

Outdated operations systems and the absence of firewalls and endpoint security can make personal devices a prime target for cyber-attacks and can provide an insecure entry point into a business’s network.

 

Important Strategies for Keeping a Decentralized Workforce Secure 

Knowing the risks associated with maintaining a decentralized workforce, it’s important to take certain steps to keep your business secure. Some of these effective strategies include the following.

 

1. RELY ON Zero Trust Principles

Many businesses place varying levels of trust in their employees to only use the access they’re given in the best interests of the organization. However, while many employees may not have any malicious intent behind their actions, it’s common for login credentials to be compromised over time and malicious actors posing as authorized individuals are able to gain access to company databases or critical systems.

To help this from happening, many businesses today are relying on Zero Trust security principles. In these situations, organizations take the approach of “never trust, always verify.” This mandates continuous authentication protocols for all users and devices, regardless of who the employee is or the authority they have. The goal is to significantly reduce the likelihood of unauthorized access taking place and minimize the impact of potential breaches.

 

2. Creating Stronger Endpoint Security 

Laptops, desktop computers, and portable smart devices all represent endpoints that businesses need to protect. Endpoint security solutions can be invaluable when helping organizations keep track of the various devices accessing their networks like using advanced technology to help keep them secure.

Endpoint security solutions include the use of antivirus and anti-malware technologies as well as intrusion detection systems that can identify suspicious anomalies in a network in real-time and allow for different remediation activities.

In highly regulated industries that are subject to regulatory compliance, gaining certifications in security frameworks like HITRUST and ISO can help organizations ensure they’re meeting and maintaining important standards even when operating with remote teams.

 

3. Conducting Third-Party Vendor Audits 

Many organizations rely on various partnerships with third-party vendors to provide necessary services for both their customers and employees. However, while having access to subscription cloud services or SaaS solutions can be an important part of growing a business, they can also create even more threats to digital security.

If a security breach were to take place at a particular vendor, businesses could be liable for any sensitive data that was lost, stolen, or compromised. That’s why it’s important to conduct vendor audits regularly to ensure compliance with security best practices.

These formal audits use a systematic approach to evaluate all security protocols in place and how they compare to industry benchmarks. This can be an important way for companies to identify whether or not maintaining a certain partnership is in their best interests.

 

4. Contracting Outside Security Firms 

As businesses scale, it can be difficult to stay on top of the necessary steps that need to be taken to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture. In these cases, it’s often a valuable investment for organizations to partner with an outside security firm that can outsource their cybersecurity needs.

Outside security firms have teams of security professionals with access to a wide range of advanced solutions that can harden an organization’s security. This can include ongoing contracts with penetration testing services and other managed security service offerings.

Working with an outside security firm frees organizations from needing to spread their internal resources too thin while still having the ability to protect their data, systems, and networks from cyberattacks.

 

Keep Your Decentralized Workforce Secure 

Hybrid working models are commonplace for modern businesses. However, in order to keep this format viable for organizations, they need to place a high priority on their security protocols. By following the strategies discussed, companies can establish a much stronger cybersecurity posture while ensuring their employee and client data stays secure.

 

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About the Author: Nazy Fouladirad is President and COO of Tevora, a global leading cybersecurity consultancy. She has dedicated her career to creating a more secure business and online environment for organizations across the country and world. She is passionate about serving her community and acts as a board member for a local nonprofit organization.

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