1. Home
  2. opinion
  3. How to navigate cybersecurity risks in the era of remote work

How to navigate cybersecurity risks in the era of remote work

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, remote work has become a norm. And while the benefits of flexibility and access to a global talent pool are undeniable, the significant challenge all organizations battle is the ongoing threat of cybersecurity risks.

In my role as the CEO of cloud security company Plerion, I’ve personally witnessed the intricacies and vulnerabilities that remote work adds to the equation. And believe me, this challenge is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

The remote revolution

Research from McKinsey shows us that hybrid work has changed the way people work, live and shop. Office attendance varies by city, tending to be lower in cities with expensive housing and a large share of knowledge workers.

Employees at larger firms report significantly lower attendance than smaller firms. One potential reason is that larger companies tend to have more resources and technology to support working from home. Quite simply, there’s much more IT support to allow it to happen.

While the hybrid way of work has had a number of positive impacts for both organizations and employees, such as increased productivity and work—life balance, the potential security risks that come with a dispersed workforce are undeniable.

Expanding the attack surface

Remote work expands the attack surface for cybercriminals. Workers are logging into company systems on an ever-growing number of devices including mobile phones to see tasks, access private data and upload company documents on shared systems.

Cloud security breaches are by no means rare. A recent Thales study found that a staggering 39 percent of organizations around the world experienced a data breach in their cloud environment last year.

Businesses have also reported a dramatic increase in the level of sensitive data stored in the cloud. Three quarters (75 percent) admit they are using cloud storage to store sensitive data, up from 49 percent this time last year.

"Organizations have a crucial role to play in safeguarding the security and privacy of their remote workforce while addressing the cybersecurity challenges of remote work."

It coincides with the hybrid way of work, creating greater security risks than some organizations might like to believe.

Think back a couple of years ago when Facebook notified more than 530 million users that their personal data had been stolen and posted to a public database. The data breach included phone numbers, full names, locations, email addresses and other private data from user profiles.

Then there’s the Alibaba attack that impacted more than 1.1 billion users’ data in late 2019, the LinkedIn data scraping breach in 2021 that affected 700 million LinkedIn profiles and the Accenture ransomware hack the same year. Hackers stole and leaked proprietary corporate data, and even worse, breached the company’s customers’ systems.

Aside from the work involved in alerting users of a data breach, organizations also have to deal with the string of media headlines and public scrutiny that follows.

Facing the challenge head on

There’s no doubt that the cybersecurity risks organizations face in maintaining robust cybersecurity environments in a remote work environment is a battle no organization can face alone.

This has given rise to the need for secure collaboration tools that will help overcome the very real risk of phishing attacks out there that specifically target the growing army of remote workers.

The lack of control that an organization has over employees’ home networks has given rise to countless other cybersecurity breaches across the corporate landscape.

While having the right IT systems in place is critical, the other piece of the puzzle is the role of employees as both potential security vulnerabilities and active defenders.

Organizations need to do their part, however, incorporating continuous cybersecurity training and awareness programs for remote employees to make sure they know what to look out for, and what to do in the event of a cyber breach.

Afterall, cyber attackers target people, and exploit organizational weaknesses. These increasingly sophisticated groups are actively casing out your organization around the clock in the concerted hunt to access private data. This focus on psychology and technological know-how is what makes the modern attack so dangerous.

The challenges

Even seemingly impenetrable global organizations are falling victim in this remote work environment.

For numerous businesses, the challenge lies in effectively navigating the complex terrain of maintaining employee privacy while enabling seamless access to work tools, whether it’s from their home office or using their phone during personal moments like cheering on their child’s soccer game.

The evolving landscape of remote work is being significantly influenced by the emerging risks of the IoT. Organizations have a crucial role to play in safeguarding the security and privacy of their remote workforce while addressing the cybersecurity challenges of remote work.

This responsibility lies with organizations to provide continuous training to effectively manage these risks at all times. Collaborating with trusted technology providers becomes the essential solution in collectively addressing these remote work cybersecurity challenges.

How to build a resilient remote work cybersecurity strategy

Here’s my step-by-step guide for organizations to establish a comprehensive remote work cybersecurity strategy:

  • Assessment: Begin with a thorough assessment of existing cybersecurity measures to identify gaps specific to remote work.
  • Endpoint security: Implement robust endpoint security solutions to protect devices used for remote work.
  • Secure access: Establish secure access controls and multi-factor authentication for remote access to corporate services.
  • Network security: Advise the use of virtual private networks and secure wi-fi networks for remote work.
  • Data protection: Emphasize data encryption and secure file-sharing practices to safeguard sensitive information.
  • Collaboration tools: Recommend the use of secure communication and collaboration platforms.
  • Incident response: Develop a well-defined incident response plan tailored to remote work scenarios.

As the CEO of Plerion, Mike Rahamti steers organizations to prioritize and remediate the critical one percent of cloud security risks that matter most. Leveraging a rich backdrop as the Founder of Cloud Conformity, where he serviced industry leaders, including Atlassian and Qantas, Mike now leads Plerion in pioneering unparalleled cloud intelligence and defence solutions. Plerion stands as a vanguard in the industry, heralding a new era where cloud security is transparent, integrated and, above all, effectively targeted to crush risks before they arise, bringing clarity and unity in a landscape fraught with complex challenges.

Inspiring The Business World