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Friday, October 30, 2020

The Cybersecurity Risks Related to Remote Workers Returning to Workplaces

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In many countries, governments have decided to ease the Covid-19 induced lockdowns. As a result, companies are now lifting the work-from-home orders.

However, the uncertainty associated with pandemic still exists. Many organizations have selected the mode of semi-remote and also virtual workplaces for the coming 12-18 months. 

Big companies such as Facebook have allowed their staff to work from home permanently. Shopify, a Canadian-based e-commerce company, has announced that it has become “digital by default.”

Since many companies have rapidly adopted the arrangements of semi-remote working conditions, they need to be very quick in mitigating the cyber risks. 

The rapid reintegration of the workers in the offices has indeed increased concerns related to cyber-security. For countering the new cybersecurity challenges, organizations must revamp their strategies accordingly. The situation can then become better for the entire staff and organization.

Risks Related To The Usage of Personal Devices

As there was a rapid switch for working remotely, this factor increased the reliance on personal devices for work.

Secondly, because of Covid-19, many companies have faced problems in the procurement of new devices for work. As a result, this condition increased the use of personal devices for meeting work requirements.

By personal devices, it is not meant to include computers and cell phones but even USB devices or any other kind of peripheral devices that help store or transmit data.

Personal devices can be exposed to hackers. Suppose they are brought to the company’s infrastructure. In that case, these devices can increase the potential risk of injecting malware into an enterprise’s network once the employee will return to work.

Organizations need to plan how personal devices can be integrated into the overall workflow. Some of the critical options in this regard include monitored and segregated networks to incorporate personal devices.

The issue related to Unapproved Personal Applications

The overlap takes place between an individual’s personal and work life because of the remote work. It indeed becomes quite difficult for the workers to prevent themselves from using work-related devices for personal work.

The main issue that occurs is the existence of unapproved applications that operate on work hardware. 

Some of the examples related to such applications consist of printers, any hardware driver, personal cloud storage application, and video games.

Moreover, the usage related to social media and general browsing of the internet on work-related devices can increase the risks associated with malware and phishing attacks.

All these applications have similar kinds of risks for personal devices as well. They can still become more problematic on work-related devices as they are usually considered secure through infrastructure standards.

Therefore, companies must have a proper plan in advance to secure devices that had to be used by employees while working remotely. 

The updating of the work inventory is crucial by the management. The devices need to be secured as fixing misconfigurations, cleaning along with scanning of malware. 

The restoration of the devices through a good backup is also necessary. All this needs to take place before utilizing connections associated with a company network. 

The emergence of Unattended Systems

From IT’s perspective, another vital concern is related to the reintroduction of all those services and systems that were either unattended or offline during the WFH (work-from-period).

Many organizations ceased some of the functions related to IT during the work-from-home period. Some of the companies that shut down most of their systems may have made IT infrastructure offline for the entire duration.

Just in case, if this whole situation led to missed patches in security, the reintroduction of some of the systems in this regard can make them vulnerable to cyber-attacks

Furthermore, if these systems had been left online, they were unmonitored or unattended, hackers may have exploited the situation. They would wait for a company’s return to work before they can deploy malware in the company’s network.

It is vital for the organization before the whole staff returns to work; the critical systems that were not monitored must go through complete scanning with an anti-virus tool to ensure no infections occur. The logging also needs to be checked to identify evidence of intrusion.

The verification of the security patches and configurations must occur across all machines, especially those not connected with infrastructure during remote work.

The incidents related to Human Error may occur

There would be a good opportunity for the organizations to return to a certain level of normalcy. They may even try to cover the losses that occurred because of the pandemic. However, this situation can cause many employees to make human errors after returning to the office.

Some examples related to human error are falling victim to phishing and even violating practices associated with security. Many employees must have forgotten processes which were not performed during the last few months. The accidental leaking of information can also occur.

The consideration of the physical security practices would also matter for the company as many employees may have gone out of practice and maybe even less prepared for dealing with social engineering after the isolation period.  

The company must restart the training and education programs related to phishing. The phishing tests must be conducted as they would be quite useful in gathering statistics about the risk associated with this breach method.

The continuous adjustments and monitoring of email rules must remain a vital priority for companies. Furthermore, the training specific to the employees’ physical security concerns must be conducted when returning to work.

Common Challenges for the Company and Workers

Once the employees return to the office in the initial phase, they can find it stressful in regathering their workforce, regardless of management positions.

Coworkers would even spend an excessive amount of time, in the beginning, to reconnect with their previous memories. This activity can harm the productivity of the workers.

The employees can, indeed, struggle with their productivity while trying to adapt to the office environment. The return associated with the commute can temporarily affect the employees’ happiness and would result in fewer hours worked every day.

Some of the industries do not face problems related to remote work. However, some of the organizations find it difficult to operate their operations through remote work. The corporate office needs vital security controls and technology, which is challenging to use at home.

A great deal of logistical work can even occur if all the assets given by the company to the employees during the remote work are taken back. It can create a further burden for the staff who were already struggling in their work.

Recent Lessons Learned

When the transition took place to WFH (work-from-home), there were some surprising lessons for the managers and the staff. The companies were able to learn for the first time that it is not impossible to have a remote workforce.

Furthermore, the question associated with productivity was resolved. Employees were able to maintain acceptable productivity levels. Their productivity at times was even higher when they worked at the office as a full-time employee. 

The companies started to think that remote employees can help organizations reduce their costs—for instance, low spending on utilities and day-to-day overhead expenses.

However, there was also a realization that there was quite a work to make employees use the tools to safely conduct their work from home – some of these included laptops, Zoom, Slack, VPNs, and Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

The businesses are now trying to learn lessons to make a meaningful adjustment before returning to the office premises. Companies also had to make specific provisions for continuing communication with socially distanced employees. 

Companies must focus on the health and safety associated with those employees expected to join the office after spending months in isolation. The new working norm that exists now at most workplaces is wearing face masks and arrangement of worker shielding because of the pandemic concerns.

Conclusion

Many organizations have transitioned themselves with new ways of working. It is a must for organizations to make changes to minimize their cybersecurity risks.

The assessment and monitoring of cybersecurity risks need active management, priority, and mitigation.

The teams associated with Cybersecurity must be in a position for mobilizing virtually and then coordinating with multidisciplinary teams to conduct mitigation of potentially complex attacks.

In this way, the management and the staff will not experience any cybersecurity risks once the whole homework is carried out correctly.

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