Is My Remote Workforce Secure?

Any business managing a remote workforce could fall victim to a cyberattack either from external malicious attackers or from insider threats. Your remote workforce needs to be secure enough to protect your company assets even when a remote team is navigating in and out of company files on their own personal networks. 

From unprotected personal networks to lax security on a personal device, your remote workforce could be at risk and you would have no way of knowing. 

Key Ways a Remote Workforce is Unsecure

A single company may work with remote employees all over the world. With the perks of operating a large and diverse workforce, there are also disadvantages that come with this type of setup. Unless you are able to coordinate work computers, enterprise-level secure networks, and other on-site surveillance at remote locations, you must rely on your employees’ capabilities to secure their personal devices. 

Largely, a remote workforce is unsecure because each member of your remote team will use their own personal computer on a personal network for remote work. This means that at any given time, a single company using at least 10 remote workers will have about 20 different endpoints where hackers can gain access to your company files. For each remote employee, there are two access points, the personal computer and the personal network, which can be hacked and infiltrated in their own way. 

Through each of these remote access touchpoints, a hacker may take advantage of your employee’s disregard for security, such as not having a firewall, antivirus software, or malware software operating on their computer network. By neglecting this aspect, the hacker then only needs to get past standard security protocols that are defaulted on the device. 

If your remote user is not tech-savvy, they might not realize that their router will be accessible by the default admin username and password. They might not use multifactor authentication to access their computer and use the same password on their computer, internet network, and email. 

If your remote workers access the company cloud app on this unsecured network, then there could be an additional risk. For example, if malware got onto an employee’s computer because they clicked on a phishing email, then their computer could be harboring a keylogger without the user knowing about it. 

Additionally, with remote workers who are not connected to a company, such as a contractor, subcontractor, or third-party, they could feel like they could take advantage of a company’s trust. Let’s say they have access to secure data. They can access this data and download it at any time. Since they are remote, getting these files off the server is far easier than when working on-site. 

Ways a Company Can Improve Remote Workforce Security

It is clear through the detailed issues above that a company’s remote work security may be lacking. However, there are ways that a company can make improvements. The amount of control that a company has in improving security measures will depend on the rank of the employee (i.e., are they a freelancer, contract, or salary?) and the budget that the company has. 

For example, if your company had to switch to a remote workforce due to COVID-19, you might find your salaried employees are working from home networks as opposed to a corporate network. You could issue that the computers from work be sent to your employees to enable a secure remote workforce. If this cannot be done, then you could also consider purchasing computer laptops (and ultimately, this counts as an operating expense where you would be saving money since you aren’t operating out of a physical location). 

However it can be secured, a work-issued computer allows management a lot more control. With a work-issued computer, you will then be able to ask some things of your employees. A work-issued computer can be taken over by a security team or your management team and the security and processes can be updated regularly. This capability is the best way to control remote computer security. 

Here are some additional ways that your company can improve your remote workforce’s security:

  • Security software: If you can, try to require that security software is downloaded onto your employees’ computers. You can purchase this and walk each employee through how to do it. The time to install it could also be paid by the company. However you get it to work, make sure that this software is installed so that you know antimalware software is on the computers that access your company’s sensitive assets. 
  • Cybersecurity training: Cybersecurity training is when a business educates and trains its staff and employees to understand basic cybersecurity threats so that they know what they look like and how they can be avoided. This might involve training against phishing attacks, changing passwords, multi factor authentication (MFA), and education around operating using a negligent workspace, as well as providing this information as corporate resources.
  • Access controlled cloud services: Access controlled cloud services means that all the files and sensitive information are only accessible via a cloud service. Cloud security is extremely improved as well, so you may have additional security based on the cloud service you choose. There are tiers to who can access which aspects of the company data, so you will be able to control who can go in and out of a folder. Don’t give access to any employee if you’re not sure that they need to access it. Even if you trust your remote workers, it is safer to avoid a potential security threat by not allowing access.

Whether or not you can afford to send work-issued devices to your employees, you need to try to implement a security strategy of sorts, including access-controlled cloud applications, security software, and cybersecurity training. 

Consider the following as part of your remote work security strategy:

  • Purchasing company computers
  • Purchasing and installing security software
  • Training employees on VPN use, securing their personal network, multifactor authentication (MFA) protocols, and creating strong passwords
  • Developing a data breach plan, including data breach mitigation, business continuity, and more

In addition to this, you should consider purchasing employee monitoring software and installing it remotely on your employees’ computers. 

Improving Remote Workforce Security With Employee Monitoring Software

Employee monitoring software is software that can be secretly and remotely installed on an employee’s computer, allowing a company’s IT department or management department a birds-eye-view on an employees’ personal computer activities. 

This type of software will monitor certain user activities, such as the applications and websites that an employee visits, information and data in communication clients (such as messenger and email), time spent on certain applications, and other features. It can also do time tracking, keystroke logging, screenshots of the computer screen, and live filming through the webcam.

There are numerous reasons to adopt employee monitoring software and therefore a number of ways that this type of software can keep a company and remote workforce secure:

Insider threat protection 

One of the biggest threats that remote working can pose is the insider threat. An insider threat can be anyone that is connected to a company and its assets that can gain access to sensitive documents, files, and data and use it against the company. 

An insider threat might be an employee, trusted business partner, third party secure software, or contractor. They might do it intentionally (maliciously) or unintentionally (negligent) and allow a malicious hacker inside the company network. 

Insider threat protection in employee software typically uses user behavior analytics (UBAs) to identify trends of user behavior and to track when the user does something abnormal or when abnormal activity is detected on the computer. It can also alert management to risk behaviors, negligent behaviors, security breaches and risks, and faulty protection methods. 

Keystroke logging

If you are worried about malicious insider threats, adopt employee monitoring with keystroke logging capabilities. With keystrokes being monitored, you can see the details about conversations and any fishy behavior taking place on the back end. 

Keystroke logging can run silently in the background of a computer so it can secretly record everything that your employees are typing. Be sure to establish when your employees are actively working and indicate that employees should not be using this computer for personal use.

Communication monitoring

Communication monitoring allows management and IT teams to monitor all the communication that occurs on a single computer. The communication monitoring feature in employee monitoring software will record the conversations on messaging apps, email clients, and other communication software so that you can be aware of any plans to steal from the company. 

You can also monitor when your employees are sharing information that they shouldn’t be like, client credit card information or other sensitive data. 

Time theft

Time theft is when an employee or company insider uses work time to do non-work-related tasks. Time theft is extremely prevalent and often hard to catch. Time theft can waste a company money, result in negligent workforces, neglected tasks, and can increase the risk for security breaches. 

Time theft can be managed with employee monitoring software. Enforce time-tracking, wasted time reports, and application and web page tracking so that management can truly see what their employees are doing when they are said to be working. By monitoring for time theft, you are also monitoring your employees’ behaviors and keeping your business secure.

Is my Remote Workforce Secure?

If you don’t have access to your remote workforce’s computers and networks, you need to ensure somehow that your company assets are secure. Integrate secure file share, communication clients, and task management to provide secure remote access for your team. 

By using remote employee monitoring software in conjunction with protected software, you can keep tabs on fishy behavior and minimize the risk associated with operating a remote workforce. 
Your distributed workforce will be a lot more secure if you follow this advice. Employee monitoring software is truly the only way that you can get a glimpse of the activities that your remote employees are doing while on the clock. Protect your company assets from potential threats with SoftActivity Monitor for workstations and terminal servers.

November 30th, 2020