Written by: Daniel Haurey on 04/18/24

Alongside the flexibility and employee productivity gains of remote and hybrid workplace options come significant cybersecurity obstacles. If your organization decides a remote or hybrid stance is the best choice, be prepared for an operational gauntlet as you strive to protect your people, equipment, and data. Remote security best practices range from mobile device security to secure communication tools, and threat detection for remote workers to secure file sharing. Wrapped around all of that is cybersecurity education and training that is essential for remote employee protection.

In 2022, cloud vendor Workspot researched concerns about remote work, and not surprisingly, 71% of business leaders considered security as their top challenge, followed by ensuring compliance with new security controls and supporting remote workers with technology resources. To resolve distributed workforce security issues, organizations turn to managed IT services providers (MSPs). Those experts are not only experienced with remote support but the specific challenges of security in hybrid environments.

Why are Hybrid Workforces a Cybersecurity Risk?

It won’t surprise anyone that having employees working in the field or even from their homes creates cybersecurity risk. Not only does a dispersed workforce widen the attack surface by expanding the number of endpoints, devices, and applications needed, the very nature of a remote or hybrid workforce makes it more difficult to monitor and manage. Some considerations of remote workforce cybersecurity:

  • Phishing scams: In hybrid or remote working situations, employees rely more on email and can be more susceptible to a sly, well-designed phishing attack and less able to verify instructions or ask quickly to avoid a misguided action.
  • Device management: The capacity to actively monitor, manage, and secure multiple devices to ensure security, app usage, patching, and other critical maintenance can be challenging with a dispersed workforce, especially if your organization allows bring your own device (BYOD).
  • Risky Behavior:  When employees work outside the office, they often leverage risky networks, such as unsecured home networks and public Wi-Fi hotspots, can be lured by public charging stations at hotels and airports, and use personal devices outside of your organization’s security net. Something as simple as a new mobile phone can expose your network.
  • Data Exposure: When sensitive data travels through or resides on personal devices or in networks outside of your secure business environment, it is more vulnerable. Not only can that mean higher risk, but it can also impact your organization’s ability to comply with regulatory standards.
  • Limited Visibility: In-house IT teams typically lack advanced monitoring and management tools that can keep hybrid or remote employee devices in compliance with business and security policies. That lack of visibility into the activities of employees can limit in-house tech staff from monitoring for suspicious activity and enforcing security policies, adding another layer of complexity to cybersecurity for remote teams.
  • Thorough Crisis Planning: Managing a security breach or other unexpected disruption to your business operations can be challenging enough inside the four walls of your office. When remote workers are involved, it becomes more complex. Be certain your incident response plan accounts for the data and people outside your network perimeter.

[Download our incident response template for guidance]

Best Practices for Securing Your Remote Workforce

One of the first steps to creating a more secure environment while supporting hybrid or remote employees means tackling policies and procedures for your team. Policies are fundamental to building a culture of cybersecurity in a remote team, particularly when your organization allows BYOD or has a high number of workers who travel or work from home. Policies to consider: Acceptable Use, BYOD, Data Management/Data Classification, Remote Access, Remote Work Security, and detailed Access Control and Password Management policies.

[Learn what these policies entail and tips on writing them]

In terms of technology, your organization is best served by partnering with an experienced MSP with cybersecurity expertise and a deep understanding of the particular needs of hybrid or remote workforces. Many MSPs are remote themselves, so selecting a partner that has solved these challenges within its own business can be an advantage. Work with your MSP to tackle issues such as:

  • Determining the best solution for securing remote access. Businesses have traditionally used Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to enable secure access from remote devices into the organizational network, but newer technology – secure access service edge, or SASE – offers significant advantages.

[Read our blog on VPN vs. SASE]

  • Migrating to a Zero Trust approach to network access. In this model, sophisticated solutions assume every ask for access could be a bad actor and require user identification confirmation accordingly. Paired with multifactor authentication (MFA) for remote access, taking this stance can help secure your network at a much higher level.
  • Leveraging cloud-based solutions to lessen reliance on organizational infrastructure access points. By taking advantage of cloud-based solutions, or software as a service (SaaS) applications, your company lessens the traffic into and out of its network, lowering the chances of a security breach.
  • Outsource and automate monitoring and management with a trusted provider. Remote monitoring and management of networks, devices, maintenance, and are a fundamental part of the managed services business model. Leverage the expertise of an MSP to take advantage of their expertise around network security for remote work.
  • Creating a cadence of security awareness training. Keeping cybersecurity top of mind for remote or traveling employees is a key step toward avoiding innocent mistakes that can open the door to cyber criminals.

[Learn more about Security Awareness Training]

Best practices for remote work security can be complex, which is why so many organizations opt to partner with an MSP to create a reliable, dispersed workforce cybersecurity strategy that incorporates technology, policy, and training to secure remote work environments and protect data, assets, and employees from the many cyber threats faced by remote teams.

Request a consultation to learn more about how Exigent can enable your dispersed workforce