IT Risks and Remote Work: What to Watch For

Cyber attacks are following an unsettling trend, rising to unparalleled heights. Between January and September of 2021, there were more cyberattacks than all of 2020, and we're already on track to surpass 2021's record.

Unfortunately, there's no sign of slowing down, but there are ways to keep your data protected. Luckily, they're easier than you may think, as long as you know the risks. Let's talk about some of the most common IT risks with remote work and how to keep your data safe!

Most Common IT Risks with Remote Work

Before discussing specific risks, let's briefly talk about who is at the highest risk and why. Large businesses like Google, governments and large organizations would have the greatest prizes for a potential attacker. However, they typically have the resources to thoroughly protect their data.

On the other hand, an individual person may have weak (or non-existent) security but a limited reward for the attacker. In the middle, you find small and medium-sized businesses, which often have weak security but a lot more cash or assets than an individual.

Unfortunately, that means that small businesses are attacked at a higher rate than any other person or institution, which means they need to find solutions. Small businesses are also far more vulnerable to the damage caused by these attacks, leading 60% of small businesses to fold within six months of an attack.

Let's talk about some of the specific risks plaguing businesses like yours.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is when attackers use psychological manipulation to convince a person with access to a network to commit a certain action or allow access to the system. The most commonly known form of social engineering is called "phishing."

Unfortunately, with the rise of deep-fake technology, phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated than ever before, and they're becoming more difficult to detect. As a result, the increase in file sharing with remote workers poses a serious threat to businesses. Any one of your staff could find themselves prompted by a similar email to that of their coworker, which could spell the end of your business.

Another common attack for remote workers is called "watering hole" attacks, where they find an online "watering hole" (chatroom, affiliate group, forum, etc.) for industry and infect it with malware, which can spread to different parts of the same system. If all of your employees are using different networks, the chances of one of these attacks sticking are high.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a specific type of malware that infects your system and holds it for ransom. It will lock you and your employees out of your network, and you will be forced to pay a certain fee if you want your data back.

Unfortunately, once ransomware affects your computer, there's little to do. For nearly every modern business, losing all data would effectively mean losing your business, meaning you won't have a choice but to pay. With so many moving parts within a remote work setting, it's easier than ever for ransomware to infect your data.

Password Attacks

Sure, it's annoying to have to remember such a complicated password, but it's more important than you think. Believe it or not, it was a password attack that led to the Colonial Pipeline breach that nearly shut down the US economy.

Once a password is compromised, especially if it's used throughout other important systems, the damage can be irreversible. This could open you up to ransom, theft, and compromised data from customers or employees.

Malware

Viruses and malware cover a wide variety of potential threats, but all of them are concerning. Malware is becoming more sophisticated as we speak, with ransomware as a service (RaaS) becoming more popular in the criminal world.

Malware can enter your system in a number of ways, but there are systems to protect against it. Luckily, most malware can be handled both preemptively as well as after it enters the system. However, not all types of malware are that easy to handle.

How to Protect Your Business

Remember, any attack on your systems that isn't addressed immediately could have irreversible financial effects in the short term. It could also harm employee and customer trust and cause legal issues for businesses bound by HIPAA and other data privacy laws.

Luckily, data privacy and remote work are compatible, but only if you know what you're doing. Here's how to protect your company's data, regardless of your work structure.

Use the Right Remote Work Tools

No matter where your workers are, make sure they're using company computers. This way, you can ensure that web browsers, anti-malware systems, and more are up to date at all times. These systems need to be updated regularly to keep up with newer malware and potential IT risks.

When it comes to cybersecurity with remote work, using a VPN is essential. This will effectively connect everybody and allow for a uniform security system, leaving the fewest open doors possible. If everybody is using a different network, then there are several potential doors to access your data.

Also, tools like remote desktops, secure file-sharing systems, and more can help improve security among your remote workers.

Use the Right Anti-Malware Systems

Up-to-date anti-malware systems are the very least you can do as a business owner. It takes the average business 191 days to notice a breach, and that's largely because those business owners aren't running frequent scans. Every computer in your system needs to be scanned for malware at least once a week!

Secure Data Storage

Cloud-based storage is essential for remote work. You can't have everybody saving their files on various systems and emailing them over every time. It's too risky.

With the right cloud-based data storage, you can access your data from anywhere using two-factor authentication for extra security. This way, you and your employees can safely back up and access your data from anywhere.

Extra Password Protection

There are two ways to keep your business safe from password attacks, and you should do both. The first is developing strong passwords and changing them every three to six months. You can leave prompts on your systems for your employees to reset their passwords.

The second way is to use two-factor authentication on any system you can use it on. This adds an extra layer of protection so that criminals can't infiltrate your systems.

You've seen these on accounts like Facebook where they require a password and a code sent to your phone. It could also involve biometrics, PINs, email verifications, and more. This way, even if attackers get ahold of your password, they still can't get in.

Educate Staff

If you remember anything from this, remember that you can't protect your systems alone. You can become a cybersecurity genius, but if your employees aren't kept up to date, that still leaves plenty of doors open for potential attacks.

Anybody with access to your network and other systems needs to be aware of all new practices and security standards within your business. Without that, you may as well have no security at all.

This is especially true when discussing social engineering attacks. There isn't a cybersecurity system in the world that can replace employee education on that matter. We may all know not to respond to the prince asking for a wire transfer, but we may not know how to identify a phishing scam posing as our coworker down the street.

Hire IT Managed Services

Without a doubt, the best thing you can do for your business is to hire the right cybersecurity team to monitor your systems. By having a point of contact for your cybersecurity concerns and an extra eye on your system, you will be able to protect your systems no matter where your workers are.

An outsourced team is a lot more affordable than an in-house IT team, and it will put your business ahead of most small businesses, deterring criminals from attempting to infiltrate your systems. In the event something happens, you'll be able to isolate and respond to the incident as quickly as possible.

Stay Secure

Now that you know some of the most common IT risks with remote work and how to prevent them, there's no time to waste. The longer you wait, the longer your system stays at risk of attack. Find the right services for your needs right away, educate your staff, and stay protected.

Stay up to date with our latest cybersecurity news and feel free to contact us with any questions or for help with your cybersecurity needs!

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