27 November, 2021

How to handle the cybersecurity challenges of hybrid working

The past 18 months has been a whirlwind of lockdowns, restrictions and newfound freedoms, and this has triggered an emergency response from all industry sectors that have had to evolve to survive.

Whilst we’re by no means ‘out of the woods’ yet, many have spent the summer adjusting to a new, post-pandemic normal. The Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt changed life as we know it for the foreseeable future however, especially when it comes to the way we work. During the pandemic, most companies introduced hybrid working policies to ensure the flexibility employees, employers and customers needed during that difficult period.

Months on, it’s clear to see that flexible working is here to stay – according to this research from Microsoft, more than 70% of employees want flexible remote work to continue and employers are seeing the benefits too with productivity up and overheads down for thousands of businesses. But what does this new normal mean for cybersecurity?

Here we reveal the cybersecurity challenges faced by those looking to make a permanent move to hybrid working and exactly how to overcome them.

 

The risk of employee error

A large proportion of cyber security threats are caused by employee errors. Whether intentional or accidental, these errors put companies and the data they hold at risk. Phishing in particular presents a major challenge for employers and their employees. Hackers and fraudsters are using the pandemic and the rise of hybrid working to their advantage to design and execute sophisticated email campaigns that are convincing and expose the precious data within.

By using ISO 27001 as your central framework, you can perform risk assessments and develop preventative measures to inform, educate and raise awareness of the latest cybersecurity challenges with your remote workers.

Even covering the basics of safer, more secure working practices can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to cybercriminals. Teach your employees how to create stronger passwords, spot phishing emails, and handle sensitive data to ensure good habits are adopted and practised throughout your organisation.

Continued training will keep your staff fully aware of the latest and most prevalent cybersecurity threats.

Ask any information security specialist or someone trained as an ISO 27001 consultant and they will tell you that selecting and applying controls to your information security management system is essential. In order to reduce or eliminate specific risks related to remote work and any third-party data processing, there must always be a clear protocol and framework in place. With these measures in hand, you can control who has permission to access and house your company’s sensitive data.

The use of public networks

Office environments and the networks within can be safeguarded much more easily than remote working environments where staff members are disparate.

When based outside the office setting and working from home, employees use public networks, not the private networks utilised in more secure office environments. Public networks are particularly vulnerable to cyber security threats. Team this with the use of IoT (Internet of Things) devices and yet more loopholes have to be closed to protect sensitive data from cybercrime.

When using a hybrid working policy, the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is integral to upholding cybersecurity. With a VPN, any information transmitted across networks is encrypted so even if it’s intercepted it cannot put your business, your employees or your customers at risk.

VPNs are great assets for organisations big and small. They can be used whenever and wherever your remote workers set up their office, whether that’s at home, in a shared workspace, in the office, or on the road.

The scope of your incident response plan

Incident response plans are vital parts of how offices operate, or at least they should be! As the name suggests, an incident response plan will set out exactly how IT staff and your wider workforce will respond to and recover from cybersecurity incidents, including cybercrime, data loss or theft, and service outages.

Your incident response plan has to move with the times to accommodate your remote workforce. Communication is the key to any effective incident response plan, which means you’ll need a plan B for contacting staff that are not located on-site in the event of a breach. In the same breath, you’ll also need to make sure workers based in the office full-time and those hot desking on certain days of the week are kept up-to-date as the incident unfolds.

Hybrid work settings are complex, and your new incident response plan will have to be equally as multifaceted.

Remember, your staff are always your first line of defence, which makes a solid training programme throughout your workforce – not just amongst the people responsible for creating and executing your incident response plan – crucial.

Want to know more about how you can overcome the cybersecurity challenges that could hold your hybrid work environment back? Why not get in touch with the team at Security Risk Management today by visiting www.srm-solutions.com.


Debora Franks

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