THE GOVERNMENT FORCES EVERYONE TO WORK AT HOME. HOW TO SECURE YOUR HOME OFFICE?
During the last weeks of the emergency situation due to a COVID19, Estonia as well as all other counties are experiencing a significant impact on their population’s daily lifestyle, schedule, and routines. Undoubtedly, the COVID 19 will change the world and changes can already be observed now. Many organizations have temporarily closed their offices because of the quarantine and isolation requirements and forced their employees to work from home. For many companies, remote work is a common practice, but for the majority of organizations, it is a serious and unexpected challenge, putting their business viability and stability at risk.
I assume that only 30-40% of the companies were able to switch from normal operations to a mobile home office workplace without any issues, considering cybersecurity as a key element of their business success. The majority, i.e. 60-70% sacrificed security protections and countermeasures without even noticing it, in order to allow employees to work from their homes as fast as possible.
What could be easier than a home office? All people have access to the Internet, they can use publicly available cloud services like DropBox and Microsoft OneDrive to store and share corporate data with their colleagues, use personal emails and applications like Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp to communicate and exchange information, with now their office being only one step away from their fridge and couch.
Cybercriminals are actively using this situation to steal your commercial secrets, passwords, and credentials without even being detected! Furthermore, attackers are taking an advantage of security weaknesses by encrypting all data on employees’ workstations and corporate servers, offering the decryption key to restore the data for a solid reward, also known as ransomware. Alternatively, they are stealing credit card details or bank account credentials to use them on a grey market. Cybercriminals don’t have any conscience or morale in pursuing their goals and objectives, and absence of proper security controls makes their life even easier than before! But how to avoid such issues, while still allowing your employees to work from home and keep their life safe in given circumstances?
A remarkable example of a violent and barbaric cyberattack was revealed a few weeks ago in Czech Republic, when one of the biggest hospitals in Brno was not able to proceed with COVID19 tests and stopped the surgery of an 89–year–old patient. Hospital’s personnel turned off all devices, sensors, computers, and servers to mitigate the impact of this cyberattack. The recovery from such an incident was not possible in a short period of time and many patients had to be transported to other medical institutions nearby. What would happen if someone attacked our e-health system during this critical time, would our institutions be able to withstand a cyberattack, how big would be the impact?
Unfortunately, only 10% of companies in Estonia are taking cybersecurity seriously, even though our country is recognized as most advanced in the area of digitalization and IT technologies. Right now, when COVID19 forces everyone to work from home, this situation is even worse than it was before! What actions do you need to take to protect your business against cybercriminals?
Digital hygiene is as important as hand hygiene! It all starts from risk assessment.
Each organization should consider what kind of risks they would have in case of a cyberattack. What are your assets, where are they located, which employees, information, and objects are crucial to run your business? What would be the impact and the consequences if your business did not function, if you were under attack? For how long could you tolerate a downtime? Is having a regular antivirus and firewall enough to protect your assets and business (the answer is usually not enough!)? Here are some tips for you to consider making remote work secure.
Tips For home office employees
- Install all operating system and security updates on your PC or laptop.
- It’s crucial to have the latest updates in your computer or smart device.
- Strengthen your passwords.
- Don’t reuse your passwords in multiple places, use one-time passwords or PIN calculators, use long and complex passwords.
- Pay attention to phishing attempts.
- Do not click on links that somehow look suspicious. Only download content from well-known sources. Don’t open any attachments from unknown senders. Currently cybercriminals are using COVID19 MAP to spread the malware which steals all your personal passwords and encrypts all your data on workstations and servers.
- Be careful with your PC, laptop, or smart device.
- Many employees use their work PC for personal matters, which poses a security risk. The risk is even greater if one uses a personal computer for work purposes, because no one can guarantee that a personal PC is not infected nor properly protected against an intrusion. Consult with your cybersecurity partner on how to avoid cyberattacks and breaches.
- Don’t use your private email for work purposes.
- Cybercriminals can easily compromise your email account and gather access to all information exchange with your family members, friends, service providers, and colleagues as well. By using your private email for working purposes, you are potentially exposing company secrets and introducing a severe risk to your organization. Ask your IT-security partner about how to properly setup your corporate email without compromising the security.
Tips for employers
This is the starting point for your business and organization, whether your data is stored in cloud datacenters, Dropbox, OneDrive, or other SaaS applications.
Don`t trust anyone.
- Build your network, servers, applications, and integrations based on the zero-trust model. Zero–trust strategy, which is often only associated with cybersecurity, has a larger impact on business than people normally realize. Avoidance of unexpected costs related to a cyber breach, better user experience, and accelerated adoption of cloud services are natural byproducts of the model, as well as being the key drivers to business success.
All endpoints require full attention.
- Pay special attention to situations where your employees are working remotely using their private endpoints (PCs, laptops, smart devices). You need to have full control over your business data, wherever it is located. How will you protect your network from the attacks by these potentially infected devices?
Protect your infrastructure.
- To have remote access to your internal “office” network, you need to use a VPN solution with strong encryption to avoid situations where an attacker could steal your data during transit. This infrastructure should be capable of handling remote access by all your employees simultaneously during peak hours to avoid decrease in user experience and employee productivity.
Know your data.
- Your organization should have an assigned data protection officer, who will be responsible for identification of corporate data and its location. He or she will be responsible for defining requirements for identification, protection, and control of your data to mitigate the risk of a data breach in your organization.
- When employees are working remotely, it’s crucial for your systems and assets to a have proper access rights management. Access rights must be provisioned only to specified data and only to employees, who require access based on their functions and needs.
Know your weaknesses.
- If you have external services available over the Internet, use penetration testing services from a 3rd party company. Conduction of periodic penetration testing and red team exercises by certified professionals helps to reveal your weaknesses and vulnerabilities before bad actors will do. Ethical hackers won’t break your business – they will provide you with a report about your weaknesses and give you recommendations on how to fill your security gaps.
Gather visibility and monitor activities.
- In the current situation, when employees are working remotely outside of your safe perimeter, it’s crucial to monitor everything what is happening in your network, servers, infrastructure, endpoints, workstations, and smart devices from a security perspective. Without having proper visibility, it is impossible to detect a cyber breach in your environment.
The most important thing to remember now is that stopping investments into cybersecurity will have significant consequences for your business in no time, similarly like avoiding washing your hands.
Contact our firstname.lastname@example.org to request cybersecurity consultancies to protect your environment and ensure that your data, infrastructure, and business are well protected.