Though some industries have been operating hybrid or fully remote work models for several years, the 2020 pandemic has brought a lot of attention to the benefits of implementing flexible schedules. From surveys indicating 65% of workers feel more productive in hybrid roles, to data suggesting 60% of Americans would leave their jobs in favor of a remote position, flexible work is growing in popularity.
Of course, pivoting towards a hybrid workforce can also be beneficial to employers, primarily by helping to reduce operating costs and by widening available talent pools to recruit from, though that’s not to say that designing and implementing an effective hybrid work schedule comes without issue.
With more employees requiring access to sensitive company data and work platforms from remote devices, business owners are faced with new challenges concerning cybersecurity and privacy, with 62% of organizations reportedly affected by data breaches directly related to remote work. To help teams to develop safe and secure hybrid work models, here are some key security implications to consider.
Common security risks for hybrid teams
Unsecured data networks
On-premises office networks will typically be developed with complex and trusted security measures designed by professional security teams, though the same cannot be said for home or public internet connections utilized by hybrid workers. To ensure that business data does not become exposed to cybercriminals when accessed by remote workers, efforts must be made to encrypt communications.
Remote access controls
To ensure that hybrid staff can access essential programs both in and out of the office, as well as manage their own building access in line with flexible schedules, remote access controls should be developed. By combining permissions for digital programs and physical hardware like wireless access control system readers, staff can be issued unique access credentials to create converged business security systems.
Social engineering attacks
Staff engaged in hybrid work will typically be dependent on digital chat tools to communicate with their teams, though this can lead to an increased risk of social engineering threats such as phishing and ransomware attacks. Staff must be taught how to identify fraudulent messages and security teams should develop advanced password protections like multi-factor authentication to prevent data breaches.
Device security exploits
If hybrid workers are permitted to access company data using personal devices, businesses face an increased risk of data breaches as cybercriminals can target unsecured applications to access active devices. 88% of IT professionals share this concern, so it’s imperative that hybrid workers are denied access to personal email and social media accounts from any devices with access to company data.
Hybrid work security best practises
To ensure that all communications with company programs and files are appropriately encrypted and protected from potential cyber-attacks, security and IT staff should inform hybrid staff to use VPNs when working remotely. Implementing this policy means that all browsing data and communications from remote devices will be encrypted at the source, preventing sensitive data from becoming visible.
Regularly update software
Research suggests that businesses running outdated software are 65% more likely to suffer a data breach than those that regularly update essential systems. New exploits for common programs are frequently uncovered by cybercriminals, meaning security and IT teams must enforce policies that request both on-premises and remote-access devices are updated, upgraded and assessed on a regular basis.
Utilize cloud-based management
Scaling and securing a hybrid workforce is made much easier and more secure by transitioning from physical infrastructure towards cloud-based platforms. By hosting all programs and data within a cloud server, teams can ensure that software is always accessible and implement automatic updates alongside advanced password security policies like multi-factor authentication to further protect data.
Adopt a zero-trust security policy
Adopting a zero-trust policy with regard to accessing all company programs and files means that both on-site and remote workers will be required to continually verify their identity when using all IT systems. This means that users are only able to access the systems they require to perform their roles and are continually verified to reduce the number of access points susceptible to breaches.
With remote and hybrid work models continuing to become more popular amongst both employers and employees, security and IT teams must work to develop and implement adaptive policies to protect sensitive data from being intercepted when accessed from remote devices. This means ensuring that all communications are fully encrypted, secured and regularly monitored by admins.
Staff should be trained to identify and avoid cyber-attacks, as well as restricted from accessing company resources using personal devices, with additional efforts made to frequently update and evaluate IT systems to prevent new exploits from being uncovered. By following these best practices, modern businesses can continue to benefit from the flexibility of hybrid and fully remote workforces.