Boosting Cybersecurity for Teams Working Remotely

During the COVID-19 health crisis, the majority of ‘non-essential’ businesses in Austria and indeed the world as a whole has seen remote working become the new norm — and this means an increased risk for cybersecurity attacks. Chris Moschovitis, cybersecurity expert and author of Privacy, Regulations, and Cybersecurity: The Essential Planning Guide (to be published in 2021) states, “cybersecurity issues have not necessarily changed, but they have increased. Campaigns of disinformation, plus ransomware attacks against healthcare professionals have increased”. If you have a business and your employees are currently working from their own devices, what steps can you take to lower this risk and thereby protect your and your client’s sensitive data?

A Vulnerable Time

The brand new report, COVID-19 Impact On Cybersecurity Market - Global Forecast to 2021, reports that around the time when home confinement measures started (between 9 and 23 March) over 300,000 suspicious COVID-19 sites were created to infect endpoint devices with malware. The latter includes viruses, ransomware, Trojans, spyware and other software aimed at stealing data and/or holding victims to ransom.

It is when individuals are most vulnerable that the role of data privacy becomes more important. Therefore, employees should be trained to adopt measures and protocols that safeguard personal information such as financial and banking data, identities, addresses, social security numbers, and the like. Steps to take include the use of instant messaging or video conferencing instead of email, education on how to create uniquely strong passwords, and the use of secure Wi-Fi networks. Employees should also know how to identify phishing attempts and be instructed to avoid clicking on links in return for false promises.

Using Network Firewalls

Network firewalls help ensure that hackers do not have access to private networks. Installing these will ensure that when staff exchange data, unwanted traffic will be blocked. It will also help prevent against malware, worms and viruses. To strengthen its effect, all computers of remote employees should also have antivirus installed. Firewalls can stop employees from accessing dangerous software but antivirus software can help put an end to existing files that may already be compromising individual computers.

The Use of VPNs

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a good tool for all companies working remotely — even those who may not necessarily be handling sensitive data. VPNs can be used with public or private WiFi to encrypt all data sent along a public Internet signal. Companies can breathe easier knowing that every time employees log onto programmes, communicate or send emails, all information will need to be authenticated before reaching their destination.

Secure File Sharing

There are many safe options for businesses working on documents and files together. These include OneDrive, ShareSync, and Dropbox. Only authorised persons can access folders and edit information. Moreover, all these platforms allow users to view recent changes made and to identify the persons who have been working on/adding/modifying existing files.

During the COVID-19 crisis, many remote working teams are having to change their approach to cybersecurity. As more and more personal devices are being used for work purposes, employee training on how to identify and avoid attacks is key. The use of firewalls, anti-virus software, and VPNs can also help. Finally, file sharing should only be undertaken within a secure environment.

Author: Jane Waterson

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