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Remote Work Security: Best Practices for Businesses and Enterprises 

Remote Work Security: Best Practices for Businesses and Enterprises

IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report consistently reveals the staggering financial impact of cyber incidents. In 2019, the average cost of a breach stood at $3.92 million, dipping slightly to $3.86 million in 2020. However, 2021 marked a dramatic shift. 

The 2021 report established an average cost of $4.24 million per data breach – a 10% jump from the previous year and the highest in the report’s history. This upward trend has persisted, with costs reaching $4.35 million in 2022 and $4.45 million in 2023, a 15% increase in just three years. 

The Remote Work Factor

people working remotely

The surge in data breach costs aligns with the widespread adoption of remote work in response to the pandemic. The rapid implementation of remote work technologies appears to have opened new remote work-related cyber security risks. 

IBM’s 2021 report highlights this connection, finding that breaches involving remote work cost over $1 million more on average, hitting $4.96 million. Nearly 20% of studied organizations linked remote work to their data breaches. Further evidence from Alliance Virtual Offices suggests a 238% increase in cyberattack frequency due to remote work. 

Why Does Remote Work Lead to More Cyberattacks?

Companies that adopt remote work face heightened cybersecurity risks associated with remote operations. Some of the reasons that lead to this include: 

     

      • Expanded Attack Surface  – remote workers access company networks and data from various devices and locations. This off-premise access increases possible entry points for cybercriminals. 

      • Increased Vulnerabilities – remote workers may use personal devices, home networks, and public networks, which lack robust security measures to access company data. Additionally, many remote workers don’t have the skills to protect themselves from attacks. Both of this makes them more vulnerable to cyber threats such as phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, and unauthorized access. 

      • Unencrypted Data Sharing – when proper encryption and security protocols are lacking, remote workers may transmit sensitive data using unencrypted file-sharing methods such as emails. This introduces risks of data interception and unauthorized access to systems. 

      • Weak Passwords – enforcing proper password security measures may become difficult in a remote work environment. This may lead to remote employees using weak passwords, reusing passwords, never implementing multifactor authentication, or sharing passwords with other family members or friends. 

      • Increased Sophistication of Attacks – cybercriminals have capitalized on the remote work trend by launching more sophisticated and targeted attacks to exploit vulnerabilities in remote work setups. Attackers have become more agile and have teamed up.

    Whereas remote work may offer companies and employees benefits such as increased productivity and flexibility, organizations should invest in proper remote work security measures and risk management strategies to mitigate heightened cyber risks.

    Remote Working Security Risks

    In IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, it was noted that the most common root cause of breaches was stolen user credentials. For example, the 2021 Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack happened because attackers stole a single password to a legacy Virtual Private Network (VPN) system.

    To steal user credentials, particularly in remote work environments, malicious actors use the following cyberattacks:

       

        • Phishing Attacks – this is where cyber attackers attempt to steal information such as usernames and passwords or trick victims into downloading malicious software by sending deceptive emails, messages, or malicious links.

        • Malware Infections – cybercriminals infect devices and networks with malicious software such as ransomware, keyloggers, or spyware through malicious links, attachments, or compromised websites. These malware are used for surveillance, stealing sensitive information, and blocking access to systems and networks.

        • Zero-Day Exploits – Cybercriminals leverage previously unknown vulnerabilities in remote workers’ software, operating systems, or applications to launch targeted attacks before security patches or updates are available.

        • Password-Related Attacks – a common attack is password spraying, where attackers attempt to gain unauthorized access to systems or user accounts by systematically trying out commonly used passwords against multiple accounts or usernames. Another password attack is credential stuffing, where attackers use leaked verified credentials to access accounts that may be using the same credentials.

        • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks: In MitM attacks, cybercriminals intercept communication between remote workers and corporate networks to eavesdrop, modify, or steal sensitive information.

      All these attacks, when successful, can have devastating reputational and financial consequences.

      Remote Work Security Best Practices for Businesses and Their Remote Workforce

      For secure remote work, companies that have a remote workforce need to: 

      Adopt a Zero Trust Approach

      authentication for secure remote work

      Zero trust is a security model grounded on the ‘never trust, always verify’ principle. In a zero-trust model, every user, device, or system inside or outside a network is not trusted by default. All entities trying to access resources on the network must be authenticated and validated before access is granted. Additionally, access is limited to only the resources necessary for the user or device to perform its intended function. The zero-trust model is effective in preventing breaches. It also helps minimize the impact and cost of data breaches.

      Adopt Security Automation

      Security automation involves using technology to automate cybersecurity tasks and processes such as threat detection, response, and remediation. A good place to start is by using Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) tools, which use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate, enhance, and streamline threat detection, response, and mitigation. Security automation leads to a better overall security posture and cost savings. 

      Have an Incident Response Plan

      A good remote work security strategy acknowledges that no system is invulnerable. Organizations must prepare for the inevitability of security incidents. An incident response plan and a trained and equipped incident response team are crucial. This ensures a rapid and coordinated response when incidents occur, minimizing their impact on the business. A structured plan guides swift action and reduces potential damage.

      Invest in Employee Training

      employee training on secure remote working

      Employees, despite their best intentions, can be susceptible to cyberattacks. Training is crucial to fortify your defenses and guarantee secure remote working. Educate them on common threats, secure remote work practices, and online safety. Regularly updated training equips them to recognize and counter ever-evolving cybercrime tactics.

      Modernize Your Business Operations 

      Organizations that neglect operational modernization are prime targets for costly data breaches. To avoid being a victim, continuously update your software and systems. Implement advanced security technologies to enhance threat detection, prevention, and response. Additionally, utilize cloud services to minimize the possibility of data breaches. Ideally, you should implement a hybrid cloud approach. IBM found that a hybrid cloud approach had lower data breach costs compared to a primarily public cloud or private cloud approach. 

      Enforce Strong Password Policies

      Enforce strong password policies such as multifactor authentication, requiring complex passwords, discouraging recycling and sharing passwords, banning common and default passwords, and using a password manager to manage passwords rather than writing them down.  

      How Does CyFlare Secures Remote Work Environments?

      CyFlare offers Extended Detection and Response (XDR), Managed Detection and Response (MDR), Cyber Risk Intelligence, and Attack Surface Monitoring, all of which are designed to help you automate your security strategy, eliminate alert fatigue, improve investigations, access automate remediation services for addressing security events and get personalized analytics tools and expert guidance. 

      To take the first step towards enhanced remote work security and experience the full range of benefits offered by CyFlare’s comprehensive security solutions, Schedule a Demo today.