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Coronavirus and cybersecurity: best practice for remote working

by Josef Kafka

Although many organisations already have ‘working from home’ or other remote working policies,  the outbreak of coronavirus strain COVID-19  has encouraged more people to self-isolate and work from home. In many larger businesses, IT teams will be well-versed in prepping laptops and mobile devices for remote working to ensure minimal cybersecurity risks. However, the increased need to keep potentially infected staff out-of-office has resulted in large volumes of staff working from home without making proper preparations. 

It is essential that if you run a business, you take preventative measures to protect your business from these, well, preventative measures. You need to ensure your organisation’s cybersecurity is not compromised. Where an employee who needs to work from home because they have symptoms and must self-isolate, it is not possible to ask them to collect a properly prepared laptop and phone, or to ask them to attend cybersecurity training. As a result, you may need to set up these users for remote working remotely- a new concept for most businesses. In this post, we look at some of the critical things to consider when setting up those self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus. 

Make it straightforward

One of the most significant barriers to the adoption of safe working practices is that employees find it too fussy or complicated to use - even with significant training. When choosing products, look for those that have a Self-Service Portal (SSP). This will allow a remote user to connect from a new laptop, but set it up safely and simply with no assistance from your organisation’s IT department. 

There are three things you want to be able to set up: encryption, protection and patching. Encryption is necessary because when you ensure that full-device encryption is activated, the data held on the device will be protected even if the device is lost or stolen. Protection allows you to configure security software as you would like, and patching ensures that remote users get security updates automatically. 

Make sure users can perform their role

Working from home can be challenging at the best of times, but where it is unexpected, such as with the outbreak of Coronavirus, you need to ensure your employees can actually carry out their role from home. Where users cannot work without access to specific servers or systems, working remotely will not be a viable option. You need to ensure any remote access solution you implement is working reliably before you ask your employees to use it to carry out their duties. 

It is also essential to clearly explain any differences in what they might be used to. A good example is that emails might not contain attachments. Without proper guidance, employees might attempt to find workarounds, such as asking colleagues to upload documents to messenger apps,  which could compromise your organisation’s cybersecurity. 

You should keep an eye on what remote workers are doing, Where you have set up automatic security updates, make sure they have been installed correctly and that they are working. Ensure that a member of your IT team is available where things go wrong, and to review security warnings that users may have seen. Remote workers should know what to do if they receive one of these security warnings. 

Create easy reporting procedures

Where remote workers are concerned about security, they should be able to report their concerns quickly and understand the procedures for doing so. It can be a good idea to set up a dedicated email address, such as cybersecurity@yourorganisation.com. 

Many cyberthreats succeed because hackers try every member of an organisation before one person makes a mistake, so reporting is an essential party of any cybersecurity strategy. 

Beware of ‘shadow solutions.’ 

As we touched on above, often where several employees are remote working, they may come up with ways of keeping in touch outside the channels you have set up. Think messaging apps, personal email, whiteboarding services, text message or social media groups. These means of solving problems are often set up for improved communication, convenience or speed - but they can end up compromising the security of your business. Ensure that all of your employees understand that password should only be shared through a trusted password manager and that any files containing sensitive information should only be shared through tried and tested channels. 

In conclusion, the biggest threat to cybersecurity as a result of extensive remote working is training. You should ensure that all staff fully understand the risks their actions can pose and that they should take cybersecurity seriously. It is impossible to monitor all of your team members working remotely, but taking steps to ensure they understand their duties and obligations, as well as the correct processes, can help keep your organisation safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

For further advice and assistance with cybersecurity or surveillance, contact us today. We provide high-quality traditional risk assessments, and in-depth monitoring and surveillance, to identify risks in your organisation. Call us now or complete our online enquiry form to find out how we can help you.


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