We have previously discussed the rise of remote working and what the best practices are for both employees working away from the office as well as what best practices are for the organisations which deploy remote working in the first place.
In the article below, we will look into why it is important to separate your home network from your professional network, as well as how Boltonshield can enable you to get the best out of a remote working setup while minimizing the potential risks to your company and your employees.
Home networks are vulnerable
There are a number of reasons why the wireless networks used in our homes tend to be at risk of intrusion. This is incredibly dangerous as any potential unwanted party that has gained access to your network can intercept or access all unsecured web traffic within the network.
Firstly, home network users do not usually monitor the users who have gained access to the network. This is the result of the assumption that no external intruder will either have the ability or the desire to do so, but this is an incredibly naive mindset to have if you wish to remain secure.
Moreover, the standard routers we are being provided by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) are geared towards affordability and low cost rather than security. An ISE report in 2014 found that several popular routers from companies such as Linksys, Belkin and Netgear had vulnerabilities that could be exploited by either local or remote malicious entities.
Stock routers also come protected by default passwords, which if left unchanged, can expose you to security violations on both the manufacturer’s and the ISP’s side of things. Put more simply, should the manufacturer be hacked and their default password database is compromised then so is your own device. However, even in cases where users change to a custom password, their replacement passwords aren’t generally strong enough to thwart intruders.
More crucially, unlike other devices that you may have at your home, stock routers are bereft of the ability to receive automatic updates, even if they come with security risks shortly after release. The manufacturer may release subsequent patches to resolve these issues but home users are not likely to bother updating them, exposing themselves to hackers and other entities which will have had ample time to find every conceivable vulnerability on the device.
Separating personal and professional data is easier said than done
While IT administrators can take a number of measures to prevent company employees from transferring data from work devices to personal devices, it is practically impossible to negate the mixing of the two ecosystems entirely.
For example, while a workstation may have its USB drives disabled to prevent users from copying data to a flash drive for any reason, benign or malicious, laptops may or may not go through the same process. After all, disabling a laptop’s drives may hinder productivity in some cases.
Moreover, if the organisation uses cloud-based storage, a user can simply download a work document on their home device so that they can work on it from home. If their personal device or home network are compromised, a malicious entity will have gained access to both their personal data as well as any locally-stored professional data.
Also, with the proliferation of remote working and the return to the pre-pandemic life-work balance, users have found it increasingly difficult to differentiate between their personal and professional sessions on their devices. This may result in dropping down their guard when it comes to personal privacy and cybersecurity in general. In other words, users would be particularly vigilant when working at the office on a strictly work-related device, while their online behaviour may become more lax when working at home.
IT governance policies and procedures are not static
While an organisation may have spent a considerable amount of time and resources in shaping its IT governance and all the processes and rules that comprise it, there is an undeniably important necessity that this collection of procedures and best practices are revisited on a periodical bases so that the most up-to-date picture of both the organisation, as well as the external business environment, is incorporated into the plan.
The number of employees may have increased and thus increasing the strain on the network, team members from remote locations or other countries may have been hired, equipment may have become outdated, software licenses may need to be renewed, software choices may have to be reviewed, external data privacy frameworks may have been changed so that internal compliance has now been affected and is in need of corrective changes, new users may have joined and are in need of IT training and IT security education. The list is endless. A prudent organisation views this as a fluid, iterative process, which aims to reduce potential vulnerabilities and risks with every review.
Not enough hardware for home use
Companies who have enforced a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy have grown in number over the past few years, mainly due to the obvious cost-related benefits in not having to pay for additional devices or software licenses.
In 2019, Forbes reported that the BYOD market is estimated to be worth $367 billion dollars by 2022, while Cisco has found that organisations which implement this policy save about $350 per employee on an annual basis. Moreover, Frost & Sullivan have found that employees who use their own devices save about 58 minutes per day and thus enjoy a notable productivity gain.
Despite the aforementioned benefits, BYOD entails a number of risks, including malware infiltration exposing company data, legal liability issues, loss or theft of the device, as well as shadow IT (additional work performed by other departments to circumvent real or perceived shortcomings by the organisation’s IT department), among other issues.
However, despite the clear advantages in providing users with company-owned and company-managed devices, the sheer cost of the hardware and software license acquisition may make it impossible for an organisation to provide a laptop or work tablet to all remote workers, particularly now when the percentage of concurrent remote workers is so high.
How Boltonshield can help you deal with the above issues
Boltonshield can help your organisation navigate the remote working ecosystem and empower your off-site employees to remain productive while staying safe and secure from cybersecurity threats.
Boltonshield can provide cloud-based storage solutions with our state-of-the-art datacenters, which have been designed to offer the maximum security possible while enabling your organisation to safely utilize a number of services, whether deploying a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a custom solution on one or more Dedicated Servers.
In addition, Boltonshield can provide terminal servers which can be used by remote workers. A terminal server can provide a safe, secure and remote working environment, access to organisational resources from wherever they are, as well as a singular point of both entry and maintenance which can be more easily monitored and managed.
Finally, while each respective company’s internal IT department is responsible for the proper configuration of work laptops, Boltonshield’s Security Operations Center (SOC) services can incorporate all organisation-owned devices, including laptops. This allows us to detect, analyze, and respond to cybersecurity incidents on all endpoint devices regardless of the current network they are connected with, enabling you to safeguard employee devices even when they are being used remotely.
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Data Leakage Prevention
Corporate data can exist in three distinct forms. It can exist mid-use, for example when an employee or automated process is working with that dataset; it can be in motion, for example when transferred through the network; and it can be at rest, when it lies in data storage.
Data leakage prevention software is able to monitor this data in all three states, detecting any possible attempts at extracting or viewing that data and warding them off by blocking the data in question.
Endpoint security practices help prevent the exploitation of end-point devices, such as portable devices and desktops, by hackers and other malicious entities. These practices include the use of antivirus software, as well as more comprehensive protection platforms able to examine incoming files and detect advanced threats such as fileless malware and zero-day attacks.
Sometimes the most advanced cybersecurity systems can become undone through user ignorance and the resulting harm they can inflict on the organisation. Organisations should make it a habit to train all current and newly-hired employees, educating them about the potential dangers that exist and ask them to tailor their online and offline behaviour accordingly. Even advanced and experienced users should be informed on a periodical basis so as to be kept abreast of any new or emerging threats.
Upgrade and Update
It goes without saying that both equipment and software can become antiquated, ineffective, faulty or simply be out of date. Allowing this to happen opens you up to the possibility of threats, particularly in instances where malicious actors have had years to develop penetration techniques designed specifically to bypass a specific piece of protection hardware of software.
Software and devices should be updated on a regular basis so that threat databases are updated and any faults are patched. When a device or software has served its purpose and any updates are simply keeping it functional, rather than optimal, then it must be reviewed for replacement.
An IT system must be constantly surveyed so that you can detect any attempts at breaching it for the extraction of data, any potential system weaknesses, as well as any other threats that may endanger it. This is a proactive process and the ability to react and fix any issues before anything dangerous has already happened is invaluable to an organisation.
Review and restrict access
Organisations must constantly review which users have access to what kind of data and apply restrictions accordingly. For example, department-specific data should not be accessible by users who are not members of that department.
Moreover, even if a user can access a folder and the files within it, what can they do with those files? Can they edit them and save them after changing the original file? Can they copy them to their local device? Can they delete them? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered when creating your organisation’s access levels.
Cybersecurity insurance helps companies and organisations recover from a potential cyber attack. Generally, such policies help deal with the expenses of an investigation by a third party, any potential financial loss after a breach, as well as any liability that the business may be affected by. Organisations must regularly review their insurance policies so that they are up to date, extended, and as comprehensive in their coverage as necessary.
Use encryption in communication and storage
Data encryption involves the encoding of a set of data so that it can be deciphered and accessed by the person with the correct encryption key. This ensures that no external entities or anyone who should not be able to access the data can gain entry to it. Moreover, encryption should also be used in communication, not just in data storage. This means that when the data is transmitted through the network it is encrypted and thus preventing any interception or eavesdropping.
Review and test backup regularly
The importance of a healthy backup process cannot be overstated. Regularly backing up your data can provide a safety net in the event when data has been stolen, held hostage, lossed or damaged. Organisations should ensure that their backup processes are tested and reviewed on a regular basis so that any accidental deviation from the planned backup process or other potential faults are prevented or identified as quickly as possible.
Use the cloud
We have long gone past the notion that local means safer. Cloud-based computing solutions can enable an organisation to quickly adapt to changing needs, remain up to date with the latest technological updates and threats in a manner much swifter than locally-based solutions, scale up or down accordingly, as well as avoid any potential issues that may arise from local server crashes.
Test effective security
It is prudent that organisations go beyond the implementation of IT security measures and truly test their ability to defend themselves from outside threats of all sorts. Organisations can hire specialists who can conduct penetration testing, as well as comprehensive security assessments and audits. This will allow an organisation to truly understand their current setup’s security limits and quickly move to address any latent vulnerabilities.
How Boltonshield can help
Boltonshield can help you assess your current security levels through a variety of methods, including penetration testing and security audits. This can help you identify problems and potential risks in a proactive manner and address them before they can be exploited.
Boltonshield can provide your organisation with terminal servers which can be used by remote workers. A terminal server can provide a safe, secure and remote working environment, access to organisational resources from wherever they are, as well as a singular point of both entry and maintenance which can be more easily monitored and managed.
If you want to get updated about our recent publications about cybersecurity related topics, subscribe to our newsletter!