New WFH Era, New Cybersecurity Arena

Image credit: iStockphoto/Jae Young Ju

As the world races to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, working from home (WFH) continues to be the default arrangement to guard against further transmission. However, it has created a greater need for protection against data and security breaches.

Having employees in the office meant having a substantial amount of control over data security, privacy, and minimizing threats. With 60% of employees working remotely from personal devices, they become sitting ducks for cyberattacks. According to a report from IBM, the average organizational cost of a data breach in ASEAN was USD 2.62 million last year. The Singaporean government warns it would only worsen as the virus progresses. In uncertain times, companies cannot afford to lose more. Here are some steps businesses should take to minimize a data breach when a team isn’t directly under the company network.

It’s not always “stranger danger”
Many businesses spend a lot of time protecting against external threats. However, insiders are often the perpetrators in many data breaches, whether accidental or out of malice. In fact, according to SolarWinds® 2019 APAC Cybersecurity Survey, 65% of cybersecurity threats were due to internal users. This underscores the importance of safeguarding employee touchpoints to prevent the business’ proprietary data from falling into the wrong hands.

You should ensure controls and safeguards are in place to prevent insider threats. One option includes policing access rights to make sure no one in the organization has excessive privileges. This can help prevent sensitive data loss if someone starts trying to maliciously harm the organization or if accounts are compromised by external threat actors. Sending everyone home with a secure laptop means not having to worry as much about data breaches. With security software pre-installed, organizations can see threats coming in and fix them remotely before causing any real damage.

Tool up, shields up

According to another research report, 60% of employees globally, including four Asia-Pacific markets (Australia, India, Japan, and Singapore), use their personal devices such as mobile devices and laptops when working remotely. While it’s not realistic to expect businesses to supply every employee with a protected device, companies should at least provide the following software to monitor and protect those personal devices.

  • Network performance monitoring tools help corporations monitor and protect employees’ devices. With remote software, companies will monitor their network from afar and receive any alerts for potential threats. Since the remote software is cloud-based, businesses can install them online without the hassle of hands-on installation.
  • Endpoint protection can also be a great way to keep businesses’ remote devices safe while allowing a small amount of access to those who need it. This protection helps manage remote devices and even offers offline protection by enabling businesses to recognize malicious activity in code. By installing endpoint protection, corporations can actively and automatically work to detect and prevent cyberattacks.

Mapping your network

In the same SolarWinds APAC Cybersecurity Survey, almost a third of cybersecurity exposures are caused by poor network system configurations and/or system security. It illustrates the urgent need for organizations to review the current network and system infrastructure to ensure employees have adequate access to business-critical information securely.

  • A virtual private network (VPN) is another common way to protect a business’ data remotely, allowing teams to access secure company networks without putting information at risk. VPNs can be accessed from remote or personal devices, giving companies flexibility without providing each employee with work devices. It also protects employees who may need to use public Wi-Fi or those who don’t have access to the in-office network.
  • Network segmentation can be leveraged to ensure in the event an unrecognized IP address tries to log in to the VPN or company system. Instead of completely denying the device access, it can be segmented to a restricted access area, keeping sensitive data out of the wrong hands.

Defense is the best offense

SolarWinds APAC Cybersecurity Survey found 43% of threats leading to security incidents were from external threat actors infiltrating organizations’ networks and/or systems. Just four months into the COVID-19 outbreak, cyberattacks exploiting the pandemic increased more than 100 times across all industries. Hackers are swiftly adapting their strategies to a fast-changing environment, with phishing lures and hijacking home routers to redirect victims to fake COVID-19 websites as some of their methods.

To eliminate service downtime due to information loss or data breaches, businesses need to promptly ensure data changes in their IT environment are backed up promptly. Databases, domain controllers, file servers, and configuration tools need to be backed up. Critical systems should have these backups regularly restored for test purposes, and most importantly, these backups need to be stored in a second location, nearly inaccessible from your network. You can’t ransomware a metal case full of backup tapes.

Defeating cybercriminals also means knowing how to adapt to their threats and tactics. Whether it’s common issues like email threats, old standards with new twists like ransomware leaving behind additional malware to extend an attack’s shelf life, or emerging issues like living-off-the-land attacks, it’s essential to stay in the loop by following the security press. Additionally, consider employing vital security information and event management tool, which incorporates threat intelligence to help you detect and respond to emerging threats.

While we cannot predict when WFH mandates will be fully lifted, it’s always better to be safe than sorry by creating business-wide cybersecurity awareness, conducting regular cybersecurity assessments, and implementing the appropriate tools.

Thomas LaRock, head geek at SolarWinds, authored this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Jae Young Ju