The spread of remote work is not without challenges. There are risks and threats, including those that are viral but not exactly of the microbial sort. Cybersecurity cannot be neglected, because as businesses scale up the infrastructure and processes required for remote work will reveal more vulnerabilities. And bad actors can exploit these. Or these vulnerabilities can lead to unintended breakdowns that can be just as harmful. So, ideally, workplaces must be ready to prevent these vulnerabilities from emerging in the first place rather than taking action after things have gone south.
Here are a few basic tips for workplace cybersecurity:
To Err Is Human
As with PPEs, the best cybersecurity technology is only as effective as the people using them. An N95 mask won’t do much good if someone wears it the wrong way. And the latest anti-hacking software won’t mean jack if someone is writing their passwords on post-it notes on the monitor or, heaven forbid, typing “password” as their password.
This means that people are the biggest risk factor. Conversely, this also means properly training people is the most important security measure an organization can take. So everyone in an organization – from permanent staff to outsourced Virtual Assistants with access to systems with data – must be oriented on security basics. This type of due diligence will go a long way in reducing human error.
Don’t Skimp Out On Anti-Virus Software
Be sure you are using “paid for” antivirus software. There are free versions available, but they are not updated as promptly as their paid-for counterparts. Businesses cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to cybersecurity and their security measures must not fall behind the latest threats.
Keep Your OS Updated
Likewise, operating systems must be up to date as the most successful hacks exploit known weaknesses. Patches are issued to fix these vulnerabilities and machines that have not been updated will remain vulnerable. With Microsoft, updates are on a monthly schedule, usually on the second Tuesday of the month.
Same Goes for Other Software
Vulnerabilities can also occur in other software, from Adobe to Google Chrome, Java, etc. These must be up to date as well. Websites are not exempt from this. WordPress and other platforms are also vulnerable so update them regularly to protect your site from hacks.
Be Careful With Emails
While this is something millennials nag their parents about, reminders are always helpful. Remind employees to be diligent with their emails. Never open attachments and links from senders you don’t recognize. If you aren’t expecting an attachment from a sender, such as a colleague, send a message and verify it with them because their accounts might have been hacked.
Maintain a Firewall
Firewalls are a must have for any business because otherwise, sensitive information will be ripe for the picking. Bank account details, passwords, client data and other sensitive company information will be open to hackers if a firewall is not in place.
As mentioned before, passwords that are overly simple can just be brute force hacked. So reduce the risk of this by using complex passwords that are not just words but also have non-alphanumeric characters, symbols and such. Moreover, passwords should never be written down or stored in insecure mediums like spreadsheets or shared documents.
While it is really useful to stay connected when you are on the move, in hotels or coffee shops, just be aware that these networks might not always be secure.
Beware of Gifts
Conferences and events might give away gift bundles, and these might include USB flash drives. The FBI even warned about hackers sending malicious USB drives and teddy bears via USPS. According to the agency, “These USB drives are configured to emulate keystrokes that launch a PowerShell command to retrieve malware from server controlled by the attacker. Then, the USB device contacts domains or IP addresses in Russia.”
Backups and Redundancies
Always have a backup plan. Be prepared and consider what your organization should do if it experiences an attack. How should the business respond and what can it do to continue its operations? Just like how organizations adapted to COVID-19 by shifting to remote work setups. Be sure your IT department is adequately equipped. Or maintain contacts who can bring in the big guns. Likewise, set up backups for crucial files and systems. With cloud-based systems your backups have the added benefit of being accessible from anywhere.
As we have touched on before, COVID-19 has resulted in a paradigm shift to remote work. And we also elaborated on how the Virtual Assistant industry has always been way ahead of the curve, working off-site and meeting clients’ needs years before the current crisis changed everything. This gives VAs a wealth of knowhow on the subject, making them lifesavers replete with remote workplace management tips. And their wealth of experience includes ensuring the cybersecurity of their client businesses and organizations, knowhow that will prove essential as workplaces scale up their remote operations.