Remote work is a work arrangement where an employee works outside of the traditional office environment, typically from their own home or another location of their choice. This arrangement can be full-time or part-time and is often offered by a company as a flexible work option. Remote work is facilitated by communication technologies like email, video conferencing, chats, task management platforms, SaaS apps, the browser, and additional software that enables communicating with colleagues and completing work tasks.
Working remotely has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is due to the technological advancements that support remote communication, collaboration, and operations. In addition, globalization has also accelerated remote work, as employees need to collaborate with colleagues and clients in different time zones and locations.
Another factor that has spurred remote work adoption is increasing awareness of work-life balance: many employees value the flexibility and work-life balance that remote work provides, which has led to an increase in demand for remote work arrangements. Companies that offer remote work options can attract and retain top talent.
Finally, no discussion about remote work is complete without mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced companies to transition to a complete remote work model for the entire workforce, almost overnight.
Yet, remote work does not come without its challenges, since it differs drastically from working on-site. Remote work cybersecurity is one of the top ones. With more employees working from home, companies need to ensure that their systems and data are protected from cyber threats.
To protect from these risks, companies are putting measures and practices in place to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their data, networks, and systems. This includes:
- Ensuring that sensitive information is kept confidential and protected from unauthorized access.
- Ensuring that remote workers connect to secure networks and use secure protocols to access company resources.
- Ensuring that the devices remote workers use to access company resources have proper security controls in place.
- Ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to company resources and data and that strong authentication and access controls are in place to prevent unauthorized access.
- Ensuring that employees are trained on how to identify and prevent security threats.
- Ensuring that employees use secured browsers when accessing websites and apps.
What are the Security Risks of Remote Work?
Remote work offers many benefits, such as increased flexibility and work-life balance. However, it also comes with a number of risks that organizations and employees need to be aware of. Some of the remote working security risks include:
Remote employees often use their personal devices (BYOD) to access company resources. These devices do not have the same level of security as the company’s managed devices. This can make them more at risk of phishing attacks, since their devices are more vulnerable to malware installation on devices. In addition, employees may be less vigilant to phishing attempts since they are working in a non-office environment. COVID-19 led to an increase in phishing attacks.
BYOD increases the risk of malware due to lack of enterprise-grade security controls, as well as the use of unsanctioned apps and browser extensions that pose a risk. Malware can infect a system through the browser, through email attachments, infected websites, malicious software disguised as legitimate apps, and more. This can result in a security breach that compromises not only the employee’s personal information but also the company’s sensitive data and resources.
Hackers can gain access to a remote working employee’s device or network by exploiting its vulnerabilities or tricking the employee into providing their login credentials or other sensitive information. Once the hacker gains access to the device or network, they can steal sensitive data, install malware or ransomware, or take control of the device. Then, they can progress laterally in the organization. Personal devices typically do not have security controls in place to prevent account takeover.
Remote working employees may unintentionally leak data by sending sensitive information through unsecured channels, such as personal email accounts, messaging tools or unsanctioned apps, or by storing data on personal devices or cloud storage services that may not be as secure as the company’s internal network. They may also be more susceptible to phishing attacks or social engineering tactics that can result in the theft of sensitive data.
Supply Chain Attacks
Third party vendors and suppliers can be considered a type of remote work that needs to be secured to protect the organization. Attacking an organization’s supply chain can be an easier way to breach an organization. This is because third parties’ security controls are often different from the organization’s, but they are often trusted by the organization and have access to internal systems. The SolarWinds attack is one of the most infamous supply chain attacks.
Remote Work Security Policy
Remote work security policies are a set of guidelines and procedures that organizations establish to protect their data, systems, and networks when employees work remotely. The specific policies that an organization implements will vary depending on the nature of their business and the types of risks they face. Some examples of remote work security policies that organizations may consider include:
Passwords are a critical component of remote work security. Organizations may establish policies for password complexity, length, and expiration, and require MFA for remote access. Or, they may choose a passwordless option altogether.
Remote workers often use personal devices to access company resources (BYOD – Bring Your Own Device), which can increase the risk of cyber threats. Organizations can establish policies for device health management, like requiring anti-virus software, enabling encryption, or checking certificates.
Data Protection Policies
Remote employees probably store sensitive data on personal devices or cloud services, which can increase the risk of data breaches. By establishing policies for data protection, like prohibiting the storage of sensitive data on personal devices and requiring encryption, they can reduce the risk.
Browser Security Policies
Browsers are at the intersection between organizational and external resources, devices, and apps. As such, they are a prime attack vector for attackers. Organizations can establish policies for browser use, like requiring a browser security platform, preventing password reuse, controlling access management, or prohibiting sensitive data upload.
Incident Response Policies
Even with the best security measures in place, cyber incidents will probably still occur. It is recommended that organizations establish policies for incident response, such as establishing procedures for reporting incidents, investigating security breaches, and communicating with stakeholders.
Best Practices for Remote Work Security
To achieve effective and secure remote work, it is recommended to implement the following best practices:
Secure Remote Access
Secure remote connectivity can be achieved using methods like Zero Trust and continuous authentication and authorization. By enforcing MFA and granular authorization policies across all apps and implementing the principle of least privilege, organizations can assure remote access is secure and no unauthorized users access sensitive resources. Traffic encryption, device security posture assessment and user activity monitoring can also augment remote connectivity security.
To secure the corporate’s data, granular access policies determine who can take which actions should be implemented. This includes, for example, restricting the upload of PII to certain SaaS apps, downloading to unmanaged devices or sharing with unknown destinations.
Monitoring, analyzing, and protecting against web-borne cyber threats and data risks that derive from the browser. Browser security solutions can be delivered in multiple ways, for example a browser extension. Good browser security solutions will detect and disable risky activity at the earliest stage with near-zero disruption to the user’s browsing experience.
Educating employees on the importance of remote work security, including training on the company’s remote work security policies, helping employees recognize security threats, encouraging the reporting of security incidents, and conducting drills.
How LayerX can Help with Remote Work Security
LayerX is a browser security platform designed to deliver real-time, high-resolution visibility and governance over user activities in all commercial browsers. By doing so, it protects against potential browser-related risks that may compromise enterprise data, applications, and devices, which makes it an ideal solution for remote work security. The platform’s unique feature is its ability to pinpoint user’s browser actions at the most granular level, allowing it to identify and mitigate only the activities that introduce risk.
LayerX provides multiple capabilities, including using the browser as an authenticator to access corporate SaaS apps on managed and unmanaged devices, enforcement of granular access policies on third party contractors when they are accessing corporate resources from their own devices, and protection against malicious web pages, phishing and malware.