Tackling IT security in a hybrid-work world



In today's modern work environment, where and how work happens has drastically evolved. The traditional office is no longer the sole hub of productivity; instead, work occurs anywhere, from the comfort of one's home to bustling coffee shops or conventional offices. This transformation, hastened by the global events of recent years, including the pandemic, has ushered in an era of unparalleled workplace flexibility.

However, this newfound freedom comes with a catch – an increased vulnerability to security threats for organizations. According to a study by HP Inc., 70% of IT decision-makers say they have seen an increase in endpoint attacks since the start of COVID-19, and 75% say security has become a higher priority since the onset of the pandemic.

As we navigate the intricacies of this evolving work landscape, we'll explore both the specific security risks that organizations should be mindful of in a hybrid and remote work environment and the essential security best practices to mitigate these risks.

Hybrid and remote work security risks

Expanded attack surface

With the transition to hybrid and remote work, the cyber threat landscape has widened significantly. Unlike traditional office setups with centralized security, remote work introduces diverse locations and devices into the equation. Employees operate from various settings, including home offices, public Wi-Fi hotspots, and coffee shops, using a wide range of personal devices. This diversity offers cybercriminals multiple entry points and attack vectors. They can exploit unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, employ phishing campaigns designed for remote workers, and target device vulnerabilities, potentially leading to data breaches or system intrusions.

Phishing and social engineering

Remote workers are at an increased risk of falling for phishing attacks and social engineering tactics due to the isolation and distractions common in remote settings. Cybercriminals take advantage of this vulnerability by using psychological manipulation techniques to create a sense of urgency or fear, leading remote workers to act hastily. They also craft sophisticated phishing campaigns that mimic trusted sources, like an IT administrator trying to gain remote access to a computer, making it challenging for remote employees to distinguish legitimate requests. Moreover, the reliance on various communication channels for remote collaboration, coupled with the absence of face-to-face verification, makes it difficult to ascertain the legitimacy of senders.

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks

Remote employees often connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, exposing themselves to potential threats such as eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks, where cybercriminals secretly intercept and alter the communication between two parties. due to the lack of encryption and security features. In a man-in-the-middle attack, attackers position themselves between the user and the network, gaining unauthorized access to sensitive data. This vulnerability can lead to data breaches or unauthorized access to accounts. Public Wi-Fi networks, lacking robust security measures found in corporate networks, become attractive targets for cybercriminals seeking to exploit these weaknesses.

Device security

Securing personal devices used by remote employees is a multifaceted challenge. The diversity of devices and operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, complicates device security management. Personal devices may lack critical security components, like the latest security patchesantivirus software, and encryption, making them vulnerable to malware and data breaches. The absence of regular security updates and patches exposes these devices to known vulnerabilities, increasing the risk of unauthorized access, data compromise, and cyberattacks.

Data leakage and privacy concerns

The transfer of sensitive company data across personal devices and cloud services in remote work scenarios introduces complex challenges. This process can lead to data exposure, especially on personal devices lacking robust security features. Cloud storage, while convenient, can introduce security vulnerabilities if not adequately configured and encrypted. Ensuring data privacy and compliance with regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), becomes more intricate as data crosses geographical boundaries. Furthermore, the lack of immediate supervision in the remote work environment can lead to employee errors, such as accidental data sharing or mishandling, increasing the risk of data leakage and privacy breaches.

Security best practices for a hybrid and remote workforce

Zero trust framework

zero trust security model is a transformative approach that challenges the traditional security paradigm. It operates on the principle that trust should not be automatically granted to anyone, whether they are inside or outside the organization. This model enforces strict identity verification, leveraging multi-factor authentication (MFA) and continuous monitoring to ensure that users and devices are who they claim to be. It also embraces the concept of least privilege access, granting individuals only the minimum level of access required for their specific roles. 

Micro-segmentation is employed to limit lateral movement within the network, while continuous monitoring and data encryption help safeguard data. In addition, a zero- trust framework emphasizes robust application access controls, ensuring that resources are accessed based on user identity and context. This dynamic and adaptive approach to security is particularly relevant in today's remote and hybrid work settings, as it reduces the risk of unauthorized access, strengthens data protection, and enhances overall security.

Endpoint security

Endpoint security entails a set of comprehensive measures tailored to individual devices. These measures include antivirus and antimalware software to detect and remove threats, firewall protection to regulate network traffic and prevent unauthorized access, and regular device patching to eliminate known vulnerabilities. 

Real-time threat detection and response solutions continuously monitor device behavior, while mobile device management (MDM) is crucial for securing smartphones and tablets. Data encryption protects sensitive information, and application whitelisting ensures that only trusted applications run on endpoints. Robust endpoint security fortifies devices against a wide spectrum of threats, making it considerably more challenging for cybercriminals to breach an organization's data and network, ensuring a resilient security posture.

Secure access control

Secure access control forms the bedrock of digital security in remote and hybrid work settings. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) requires users to provide multiple proofs of identity, making it challenging for unauthorized individuals to sneak in. Single Sign-On (SSO) simplifies access for users while centralizing control, reducing password-related risks. Identity-Based Access Control associates access rights with individual identities and job roles, ensuring that everyone can only access what's necessary for their work. 

Granular access policies determine who can access specific resources and what they can do with them, adding a level of precision to security. Auditing and logging keep an eye on who's been where, while revocation and de-provisioning ensure that when someone leaves or changes roles, they no longer have access. All of these measures work together to keep sensitive data and systems locked up tight, protecting against unauthorized access and data breaches, and keeping the organization's digital house in order.

Data encryption

Data encryption is a pivotal aspect of securing sensitive information in both remote and hybrid work scenarios. It relies on powerful encryption methods like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). AES, known for its robustness, protects data stored on devices and servers by transforming it into a complex code that's nearly impossible to decipher without the right decryption key. TLS, on the other hand, encrypts data as it moves between devices and over networks, ensuring secure communication and safeguarding data from potential eavesdropping. 

Encryption is vital for protecting data both at rest (on devices and in storage) and in transit (during transfers across networks), particularly in remote work where data often crosses unsecured paths. By adding a layer of access control, encryption prevents unauthorized access even if the physical storage medium is compromised. It's not only a fundamental security practice but also crucial for compliance with regulations such as GDPR and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), ensuring that sensitive data remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access.

Regular security audits

Regular security audits are the proactive checks that keep an organization's defenses strong, especially in remote and hybrid work scenarios. These assessments look at an organization's technology setup to find any potential weak spots or vulnerabilities. Audits also make sure the organization is following the rules, whether they are industry-specific regulations or its own internal security policies.

When weaknesses are found, action is taken quickly to fix them, such as patching software or tightening access controls. The audits also help the organization understand the risks it faces and improve security measures continuously. In a world where security is a top priority, regular audits ensure that an organization is always prepared to face potential threats and maintain a strong defense against cyberattacks.

Remote work policies

Remote work policies spell out the do's and don'ts of security for remote employees. They cover everything from how to create strong passwords and handle sensitive data to what kind of devices are acceptable for work. They also ensure everyone knows the rules of the game when it comes to important regulations and compliance. 

The policies make it clear that regular cybersecurity training is a must and emphasize the need for secure connections, like VPNs, when accessing company resources remotely. They even lay out what to do in case something goes wrong, so security incidents get reported and managed quickly. Essentially, these policies are the compass that keeps everyone on the right path, ensuring that security is a top priority, no matter where work happens.

Phishing awareness training

Phishing awareness training equips employees with the knowledge and skills to spot phishing attempts and social engineering tricks. This training covers recognizing the telltale signs of phishing emails and the importance of skepticism when faced with unsolicited requests for sensitive information. To make it more practical, organizations often run simulation exercises where employees receive fake phishing emails, helping them apply what they've learned. 
Regular updates ensure everyone stays up to date on the latest tricks that cybercriminals use. The training also emphasizes the importance of reporting any suspicious activity, creating a culture where employees are the first line of defense against phishing attacks. By understanding the risks and consequences, employees become an organization's shield against data breaches and financial losses.

Secure collaboration tools

Secure collaboration tools act as a digital fortress for remote and hybrid work, ensuring that sensitive business communications remain confidential and protected. They often have the option to provide end-to-end encryption, meaning messages and files are turned into secret codes on the sender's side and only decoded by the recipient, keeping prying eyes, even service providers, at bay. These tools come equipped with an arsenal of security features, including MFA and access controls to guard against unauthorized access. 
Secure file sharing allows for the safe exchange of documents with tight control over who can access them, while encrypted video conferencing ensures that virtual meetings are a safe space. These tools are the cornerstone of secure collaboration in the era of remote work, ensuring that sensitive business information stays shielded from prying eyes and cyber threats.

Regular backups

Regular data backups are an organization's insurance policy against data loss, a lifeline that safeguards critical information in the face of unforeseen challenges. These backups create resilience by enabling data recovery in the aftermath of cyberattacks, hardware failures, or accidental deletions. They offer the flexibility to restore older versions of files, maintaining data integrity. 
By having backups both on-premises and in the cloud, organizations ensure redundancy, making data available even in the wake of local disasters. The security measures, including encryption and access controls, protect backed-up data from unauthorized access. Automation keeps backups on schedule, reducing the risk of human errors, while periodic testing and verification ensure that data can be successfully restored if needed. With data retention policies and off-site storage, regular backups provide a safety net that allows organizations to recover and continue their operations with minimal disruption, even in the face of security incidents.

Incident response plan

An incident response plan defines what constitutes an incident, clarifies roles and responsibilities, and classifies incidents by severity, ensuring a coordinated and efficient response. The plan outlines specific response procedures, from containment and mitigation to recovery and prevention, allowing organizations to act swiftly and effectively. 
Communication protocols specify who needs to be informed, what information should be shared, and when notifications should occur, which is crucial for managing the public and legal aspects of incidents. Regular testing and drills ensure that the plan works in practice, and documentation and reporting capture the response details. By continuously reviewing and updating the plan and adhering to legal and regulatory requirements, organizations can be well-prepared to face security incidents, minimize damage, and swiftly return to normal operations, all while learning from each incident to strengthen their defenses.

Unlock a secure future with GoTo Resolve

While delivering computer security in work-from-home environments is clearly more challenging than ever, the good news is that simplifying and modernizing your approach to IT management can secure your business and enhance the experience of both your employees and IT staff. Having an all-in-one IT management and support solution like GoTo Resolve provides full visibility to monitor, manage, and support your endpoints, offering a level of security and efficiency that's difficult to achieve with a patchwork of disparate, bolted-on tools.
GoTo Resolve incorporates essential security features to help you safeguard your business:
  • Zero Trust Identity-Based Access Control: Embrace the industry's first zero trust security model, which adds an extra layer of protection by strictly verifying user and device identities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Data Encryption: Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with data encryption using government-approved 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Transport Layer Security (TLS), ensuring that your sensitive information remains confidential and shielded from unauthorized access.
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Streamline and secure your account access by using the same credentials for multiple enterprise apps with SSO and add a second level of security with MFA to make credential attacks extremely challenging.

Want to learn more about how GoTo Resolve can help you secure your business in the new era of remote and hybrid work? Get in touch with us today and discover how to make your IT management more efficient and your data more secure.


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