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Today’s businesses are facing more frequent and sophisticated cybersecurity threats. In fact, a recent report from IBM found that the average cost to a business to rectify a cybersecurity attack is more than $4 million dollars. Improved technology, a growing reliance on cloud storage, and a move to remote work all contribute to a more hazardous environment for companies.
The Work from Home Workforce Increases the Level of Cybersecurity Threats
Over the past decade, the number of people working remotely skyrocketed by more than 150%. The pandemic only accelerated this growth. As of 2022, nearly two-thirds of employees work from home at least some of the time. While the shift to remote work has increased productivity and work-life balance for employees, it has also opened up more opportunities for cyber-criminals.
When employees work from a centralized office, employers can protect their servers and networks from the cybersecurity threats created by unauthorized access. But when employees are distributed remotely, companies must contend with ensuring the safety of dozens or even hundreds of different access points.
This increases the possibility of a weak link for a hacker to exploit. This poses a cybersecurity threat, since employers have less control over routine security practices. For example, such practices as changing passwords frequently or only sharing files through encrypted channels are more difficult to enforce.
Remote workers are ripe targets for data breaches and phishing schemes. This is largely because WiFi-enabled home office devices rarely offer the same level of security as professional grade IT infrastructure.
Therefore, companies must update their IT protocols to counter the safety vulnerabilities of remote work. For example, they should encourage employees to update their software regularly. Employees should also know to log into their work devices only from a secure WiFi connection.
However, employers can ease the financial burden on their employees by uploading high grade anti-virus protection software onto all work laptops. Or they can pay for an enterprise level VPN subscription.
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Cross Use of Personal and Work Devices Poses a Cybersecurity Liability
Another cybersecurity liability, alongside remote work, that has increased the threat level is the dual use of personal and work-issued devices. Seven out of ten employees use their personal device in the workplace to communicate with their colleagues or support their tasks.
But personal devices rarely come with high level security features. Therefore, hackers can intercept the information these devices transmit. Further, private information a worker shares on a personal device is at risk of being leaked.
This can put a company afoul of several privacy laws. These can include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The latter also applies to US-based companies serving European clients.
Companies can limit their exposure to cybersecurity breaches resulting from private device use by ensuring that employees only conduct business-related matters within a secure private workspace. These workspaces may be accessible through an app or password-protected webpage.
Businesses should also have protocols in place to handle when employee personal devices are compromised, stolen, or infected with malware. These instances, too, can pose cybersecurity threats to the business.
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Credential Misuse Is a Pervasive Cybersecurity Threat
Many people can recognize the signs of obvious phishing attacks these days. However, more sophisticated tactics, such as credential theft and misuse, are more difficult to discern. Large user data hacks, often arising from security breaches of third-party vendors, release millions of usernames and passwords onto the black market.
Hackers can purchase these credentials and enter otherwise secured IT networks using bots. Once in the system, the criminals can access sensitive data such as banking information.
There are several ways a company can reduce its exposure to credential misuse as well as other cybersecurity threats. Firstly, enabling two-factor or multi-factor authentication processes that require the use of an authorized mobile phone or device can add an extra layer of protection.
Businesses can also invest in password storage systems that can automatically detect user information that has been exposed in known data breaches. Other security features such as human verification tests can prevent bots from accessing internal networks.
Organized Cybercrime Is Insidious and Lucrative
Meanwhile, the global cybercrime market rakes in more than one trillion dollars per year. Hackers are now coordinating their efforts to attack larger targets. The most common ransomware trends are conducted by individuals and groups from various international criminal networks. This makes it more difficult to identify the culprits or their locations.
Ransomware attacks are on the rise. This is a cybersecurity threat that can affect companies of all sizes in any industry. Companies can spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars restoring their infrastructure. The added cost of lost income due to business interruptions make ransomware attacks extremely expensive.
Employee education is the best way to thwart these attacks. As employee credentials and devices are often the gateway for ransomware schemes, companies should invest in comprehensive training programs that train employees to identify and report phishing and other types of cybersecurity breaches and other threats.
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