Cybersecurity concerns and every single employee in your company. Everyone matters, there’s no person too small or too big for cybersecurity, precisely because cybercriminals will target everyone, until they find the weakest link in the security chain. And while cybersecurity for in-office employees can be complex, cybersecurity for remote employees can be even more challenging.
How to maintain security when employees work remotely? Building and maintaining a cybersecurity culture is, most likely, your best bet. Here’s everything you need to know about creating a cybersecurity culture and changing behaviors among the people in your company.
What Is a Cybersecurity Culture?
Simply put, a cybersecurity culture is a type of company culture that proliferates the idea that cybersecurity is everyone's responsibility. It is not enough to have a security policy, to notify your employees about the risks, and to describe the consequences of cybersecurity violations.
A cybersecurity culture must be crafted, through processes and procedures set up by individuals who trust one another and who know each other well. When a person understands that the entire team stands in solidarity with him or her, accountability increases.
Following, we will introduce you to some essential remote working security best practices for employees you should keep in mind.
Cybersecurity Culture Means Support
Building a cybersecurity workplace culture is not only about telling people they should be careful with their internet behavior, how they access public wi-fi, how to stay away from malware, and how important platforms, endpoint, and security protocols are for the security of the entire company. Yes, awareness programs and security training are definitely important.
Beyond that, however, building and maintaining a remote work cybersecurity-focused culture in a company is very much connected to how much support your employees are getting as well. Some of the essential things you can do in this respect include:
- Support your employees so they can protect themselves. Encourage your employees to work with an antivirus, encourage them to use encryption, and encourage them to use two-factor authentication wherever it’s possible.
- Inspire ownership. Show your employees they can make a difference in protecting the security of the company. Encourage them not only to protect their own environments but also to develop a sense of ownership when it comes to protecting company-wide security.
- Employees are the first line of defense. Explain to your employees that they are the last line of defense. Companies can indeed lose sensitive data to cybercriminals, but the real work will be done by employees. Motivate them to not only take security seriously but also to take ownership of the safety of the company.
Cybersecurity at Work Starts at the Top
Indeed, cybersecurity is related to each and every single person who works in your company. But the truth is that it frequently starts at the top -- not just in terms of how you inspire other people's mindsets with your own, but also in terms of how you provide employees with all the tools they need to succeed in staying safe.
When you make security the easy choice for your team, you will lower the chance of a cyberattack. Some ways you can do this include providing them with secure hardware and software, making it so they never feel the need to install extra tools on their laptops, and so on.
Set Up a Remote Work Cybersecurity Policy
Can cybersecurity be done remotely?
Well, while remote work is definitely advantageous both for employees and for employers, it does come with a unique set of challenges. We have already discussed how remote and hybrid teams are, for example, more likely to be victims of cybercrime.
Practice a Zero-Trust Policy
Let's be honest here: every single device that connects to your network is a potential threat. This includes laptops, smartphones, and tablets. It includes printers, fax machines, and even micro-SD cards used in your company's digital cameras.
That is why we say zero trust policy: any incoming or outgoing connection must be considered a potential threat and handled accordingly. Setting up proper, secure authorization and authentication processes is not about not trusting your team -- it's about making sure your team is secure (and, alongside with them, all the data your company stores).
Train Constantly for a Culture of Cybersecurity
Encourage hackers to attack your company, remind your employees about cyberattacks, and train them on how to protect themselves. But make sure they are doing it at the right time. If you train your employees on what they can do against hackers, for example, whilst everyone is still skiing on their holidays, there is a huge chance that they will be less prepared when it comes to securing themselves against criminals.
Instead of training them only once a year during an organized event, you should continuously work with them as much as possible. This will help you make sure the cybersecurity information is fresh in their minds, as well as help them set up a security-oriented mindset through awareness programs. This doesn’t have to feel like a chore, though. For example, gamifying constant training in cybersecurity measures is a good way to build a culture around data and company security without making it feel like a burden for your employees.
Be Smart About Networks
Another way you can protect your remote workers is by ensuring they have a secure network to work on. This is about segmentation – or, in other words – protecting different parts of your company from one another. In a remote environment, creating a solid boundary between the internal network and the internet is essential.
Basically, you want to "isolate" your company from the outside world by creating strong boundaries between those two places. Secure virtual private networks (VPNs) are a good option when it comes to this because you can establish a secure connection between two devices, even if they are connected to different networks.
This means you can allow your remote employees to work on their laptops connected to the internet, while still creating a secure boundary between the company's internal network and the outside world.
Regulate Personal-Device Use and Apps
It's not enough to simply block malicious IP addresses and data centers. There are also great tools that can limit access based on your location or region, for example. You might want to consider this option as well.
Personal mobile devices should only ever be used for work purposes when it comes to remote workers, and should never be used for accessing corporate data anywhere outside of work. Moreover, access to all company accounts and files should be properly regulated by internal policies and processes, so that in the event of losing or breaking a personal device, the company data will stay secure.
Employees must understand that the use of personal devices for work purposes could lead to loss or theft of company data or intellectual property. If you do allow them to use their own devices, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are an absolute must.
Make Your Employees Alert for Phishing and Malware Attacks
Many companies still have a fundamental lack of awareness around the risks related to phishing and malware attacks.
In this respect, explaining your company's policies clearly and repeatedly to employees is a great way to prevent them from falling victim to cyberthreats. Believe it or not, even people who work in IT or who are very computer-savvy can fall victim to a wide range of types of phishing and malware attacks.
From emails that look like they're coming from a legit financial institution to cat videos on social media and vulnerable public wi-fi, cybercriminals use a wide range of tricks to attract people into their traps. You and your employees need to be fully aware of these matters, so that you stay secure.
Secure Communication and Collaboration Channels
It's essential that your IT department secures the communication channels that allow remote employees to collaborate effectively with one another. This includes things like video and teleconferencing apps, email, mobile messaging tools, and the like.
With regard to collaboration apps, for example, you may want to consider using natively encrypted tools for real-time communication. Secure encryption ensures that unauthorized parties cannot decipher information being exchanged on these channels by reading or listening in on them.
Likewise, using an office booking management tool can also help you avoid data breaches by making booking information available only to employees (rather than allow it to be leaked and putting your physical offices at risk of being broken into, for example).
Provide Vigilant IT Support
IT support is very important for remote workers (and not only), especially if they are responsible for managing or safeguarding sensitive data. Even if your remote employees have a lot of IT experience, there will always come a time when they need to ask someone else to help them solve a problem.
In this respect, making sure that your IT department is always available and has a solid response time is a must. Responding to emergency situations as soon as possible is crucial, especially if your systems have been compromised and attackers start making a mess in your data.
Furthermore, you also want to make sure that your IT department is readily available for emergency situations at least during the "normal" working hours (or that there is someone available in the IT department permanently, around the clock, if your employees work in shifts). Many problems can be avoided by having a good direct communication channel with IT support.
Cybersecurity for remote workers doesn't have to feel like rocket science. A good company culture focused around data security, continuous training, and good tools (both hardware and software) can make remote and hybrid work a safe environment for pretty much every type of business. Yes, it does take a bit of effort to set all the processes and best practices in place, but the advantages of the hybrid working model definitely make everything worth it!