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Best Cybersecurity Practices for Remote Work: Keeping Your Data Secure

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Best Cybersecurity Practices for Remote Work: Keeping Your Data Secure

With remote & hybrid work environments now common, organisations must reevaluate cybersecurity strategies to protect data in dispersed environments. Traditional perimeter models focused on the corporate network have weakened. Employees accessing systems externally expand the attack surface.

This guide covers key steps & considerations for securing remote work against modern cyber threats. By implementing strong access governance, endpoint security & data protections, organisations can enable flexible work while minimising risks.

Secure Remote Access to Systems & Data

Traditional VPNs granted network access by bringing remote users inside the corporate perimeter. But alternatives like zero-trust network access (ZTNA) now offer more secure remote connections:

  • Enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) for any external access to verify identities. Require employees to use biometrics or security keys in addition to usernames/passwords.
  • Limit access by user roles using context-aware policies. Only allow certain users to connect to specific apps & resources based on identity & context like device posture. 
  • Isolate access without full network connectivity. ZTNA & micro-segmentation grant connection only to authorised apps, not the general network. 
  • Block unsanctioned apps with allowlisting. Prevent access by unofficial apps or those with security issues.
  • Routinely change passwords & other credentials so stolen credentials have limited value. Consider passwordless authentication.
  • Log all access for auditing. Continuously monitor remote access, user activity, data & admin actions. 

By removing outdated implicit trust in users within the corporate perimeter, zero-trust security models adapt to remote environments. Verify all access continually.

Secure Endpoints & Edge Devices

Remote employees use various devices managed by company laptops, personal computers, tablets & phones to connect outside the office. Securing endpoints is critical.

  • Install endpoint detection & response (EDR) tools on all devices to continuously monitor activity, detect threats & block malicious actions.
  • Enable full-disk encryption (FDE) across devices to protect data if devices are lost or stolen. Require strong passwords for access.
  • Enforce device compliance through industry standard frameworks like NIST 800-53 to continuously audit & remediate insecure configs. 
  • Limit apps by allowing listing app containment to only permit approved apps. Block unsanctioned high-risk apps.
  • Promptly install security updates for operating systems, apps & firmware. Automate patch deployment for speed & consistency.
  • Train employees on safer computing practices & spotting threats like phishing. Cyber awareness is crucial on the remote edge.

With a layered model securing the edge, breaches require overcoming multiple defences. Don’t rely on single protective measures.

Secure Data Sharing, Storage & Transmission 

Collaboration tools & cloud apps used remotely involve new data security considerations:

  • Classify data by sensitivity level & restrict sharing accordingly. Only allow those with a need-to-know to access restricted data.
  • Encrypt data in transit end-to-end for all uploads, downloads & sharing across apps, services & networks.
  • Encrypt data at rest for cloud-based storage & SaaS apps via provider offerings or after-the-fact encryption layers.
  • Back up data offline & air-gapped from cloud services for availability assurance if main storage is compromised. 
  • Mask or tokenize data where possible by removing directly identifiable information. This reduces risks from exposure.
  • Vet external partners carefully if sharing access to apps & data. Ensure they meet security standards contractually.
  • Add data loss prevention (DLP) capabilities to identify & monitor sensitive data across cloud apps, email, endpoints & networks.

With data now moving beyond the perimeter, protecting it throughout its lifecycle regardless of location is imperative.

Additional Cybersecurity Practices for Remote Work

Some more aspects to factor in when transitioning to hybrid remote/onsite work models:

  • Perform expanded attack surface management & risk analysis on new external access points.
  • Evaluate if cyber insurance should be expanded to cover remote workforce risks.
  • Physical security still matters ensure employees use secure locations when working remotely without visual or physical data exposure.
  • Develop clear bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies on separating personal apps & usage from company data access. Enforce compartments via mobile device management (MDM).
  • Increase focus on insider threat detection in addition to external breaches.
  • Test incident response plans with remote participants to validate effectiveness outside the office context. 
  • Assess expanded compliance requirements for data access, privacy & residency with remote staff in new jurisdictions.

Cybersecurity must be assessed with a broad lens encompassing identity, devices, networks, data, apps, risk management, policies & education. With a deliberate focus on these priority areas, organisations can adopt the flexibility of remote work without materially increasing risk.

Protect Your Home Network

  • Strong Passwords: Choose secure, one-of-a-kind passwords for your WiFi network and change them frequently.
  • Wi-Fi Security Guidelines: Turn on the WPA2 PSK or WPA3 encryption mechanism to keep unwanted users from accessing your network.
  • Update the firmware on your router to address any known vulnerabilities by keeping it up to date.

Employ Safe Devices

  • Endpoint Protection: Equip every device used for work with reliable antivirus and anti-malware software.
  • Patch & Update: Apply the most recent security patches to keep software and operating systems current.

Put Secure Remote Access into Practice

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): Require workers to use a VPN to encrypt data transmission when connecting to the company network.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to give remote access an additional degree of protection.

Educate & Train Employees

  • Employee Security Education and Training: Conduct frequent training sessions on phishing email detection, secure password creation & safe online conduct.
  • Awareness: Encourage remote workers to adopt a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

Safeguard Cloud-Based Services

  • Make sure your cloud-stored data is encrypted both while it’s in transit and while it’s at rest.
  • Enforce appropriate access controls, such as Role-based Access Control (RBAC), to restrict who has access to and can alter data.

Backup Data Regularly

  • Automated backups of important data should be implemented regularly to ensure prompt recovery in the event of data loss or compromise.
  • Testing Backups: Consistently test data backups to ensure their efficacy and integrity.

Establish Clear Policies

  • Policies for Remote Work: Create and disseminate policies for remote work that address security.
  • Establish acceptable use guidelines for all business resources, including gadgets.

Track & Identify Threats

  • Constant Monitoring: Make use of security technologies to keep an eye out for odd activity on endpoints and network traffic.
  • Create an incident response plan that specifies what should be done in the event of a security breach.

Update Security Software Frequently

  • Antivirus and firewall software should be kept up to date in order to protect against the most recent threats.
  • Use intrusion detection systems (IDS) to spot and handle questionable activities on a network.

Maintain Physical Security

  • Safe Workspaces: Make sure remote workers have a safe place to work and that they lock their gadgets when not in use.
  • Protect your devices by using cable locks and carrying lockable laptop bags when working in public areas.

Conclusion

Remote work offers numerous benefits, but it also presents cybersecurity challenges. By implementing these best practices, organisations can strengthen their remote work cybersecurity posture, protect sensitive data & reduce the risk of cyber threats. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility & ensuring that all employees (remote and in-office) are well-informed & equipped with the tools & knowledge to protect company data is important for an organisation to be safe from cyber-attacks. SOC2, ISO 27001, HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, CCPA, FedRAMP & NIST frameworks define security requirements around data privacy, residency, transmission, backups, controls, auditing, access management, policies, physical security & more which will help set up a remote working environment within an organisation.

Adapting enterprise cybersecurity models to the new normal of remote work is imperative for all organisations. By combining identity-focused access governance, layered data protection & expanded monitoring, companies can keep data secure regardless of where employees are located.

Key Takeaways

  • Adopt zero-trust access principles to verify all users & devices seeking access. Eliminate implicit trust.
  • Secure endpoints with EDR monitoring, encryption & allowlisting to harden vulnerable remote entry points. 
  • Classify data by sensitivity, limit access, encrypt broadly & implement robust DLP monitoring. Never leave data unprotected externally.
  • Focus on cyber awareness training for employees as the last line of defence. They must be prepared to identify threats.
  • Continuously monitor identities, devices, accounts, activity logs, network traffic, data, cloud apps & admin actions to hunt for any warning signs of compromise. Prevention is ideal, but fast detection & response is key.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the most common cyber attack vectors with remote work?

  • Phishing/social engineering resulting in stolen credentials.
  • Compromise of unsecured home networks & devices.
  • Insertion of malware onto endpoints via downloads or email attachments.
  • Unprotected cloud app misconfigurations allowing unauthorised access.
  • Physical theft or loss of unencrypted devices.

How can companies assess their cyber readiness for hybrid or remote work?

Conduct comprehensive audits & risk assessments of identity & access management systems, network architecture, endpoint security, data practices, incident response plans, end-user security knowledge & third-party risks. Identify any gaps that may be exposed in more distributed environments.

Should organisations invest more heavily in cloud security or endpoint security for remote work?

Both are vitally important & interrelated, so increased investment should be comprehensive. Cloud apps & endpoint devices represent the two most common vectors for data exposure when outside the office. Take a layered security approach covering both fronts.

How can organisations spot suspicious activity from remote employees? 

Robust logging of access, network traffic, data movement, admin actions, endpoint behaviour & cloud app events coupled with Security Information & Event Management (SIEM) solutions & User & Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) make the suspicious activity easier to detect through advanced correlation.


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