Millions of Americans Are Working From Home – Are There Any Security Risks?

Fast Facts

  • 71% of security professionals reported an increase in security threats or attacks since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The leading threat cited was phishing attempts (55%), followed by malicious websites claiming to offer information or advice about the pandemic (32%), and increases in malware (28%) and ransomware (19%).
  • 61% of respondents were concerned about the security risks of having to make rapid changes to enable remote working.
  • 55% believe that remote access security needs improvements.

MSSP Alert

The new work normal

Millions of Americans are in an unprecedented situation. Specifically, Californians have been ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we normalize working from home – the thought of cybersecurity comes to mind. For example a change in routine can create new opportunities for more relaxed habits. We’ll elaborate. As workers increasingly log on from home, employees are having to merge personal technology with business devices. For employers, the concern isn’t about capacity, but about workers introducing new potential vulnerabilities into their routine — whether that’s weak passwords on personal computers, poorly secured home WiFi routers, or a family member’s device passing along a computer virus.

To point out another example, imagine a kid’s device infects the network. The same network the work from home employee is working on. Unbeknownst to the employee – the workstation has exponentially become vulnerable to whatever malicious software is on the network. As routines change, companies adjusting to remote work, and businesses testing their security systems, organizations may be a security risk.

Changes in routines creates opportunities for hackers

As workers begin the journey to work from home – how can employers help workers remain safe? For instance – when was the last time you really thought about the WiFi password? In other words, how secure is your password for your entire system? We’ve touched on the subject to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Whether these be websites, streaming services, or a personal computer. A strong password will always be a good starting point for cybersecurity.

Getting back to a work routine – we recommend brushing up on digital hygiene. In fact, implementing a healthy routine will keep all more secure. One example is to run Windows security updates. Whenever a Windows security patch is notifying a user to update – chances are these are to fix security holes. In addition here are some safety tips as opportunistic criminals seek to exploit individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Increase the complexity of the PC’s password. Don’t use easy to guess passwords such as a pet’s name, password as the password, or a recycled password. We recommend a minimum of 12 alphanumeric and special characters.
  • Reach out to the internet service provider and confirm all firmware and patching on the router/modem have been performed within the last month.
  • Run all software updates. Keeping software up to date is good practice to plug up any security holes the developers find within their product.

A big test for home & company computer systems

As a result of the present COVID-19 epidemic, more and more business’ have instructed employees to work from home. Tech giants, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook, are asking workers to telework for the time being. With that said, workers are relying more on their own internet connection as well as the company’s computer infrastructure. We’ll discuss best practices for a home internet connection and how a business can benefit with a virtual private network strategy (VPN).

Home networks have become bombarded over the last couple of weeks. As a result of school closures and work from home initiative – parents have to combat with kids on bandwidth. In other words, kids may be performing remote school work online, while parents use the internet for work related tasks. The home network will be relied on more than ever. What are some techniques for combating bandwidth hogs? For instance having an up-to-date modem/router is a big plus. Check when the internet service provider (ISP) last updated the router/modem. An updated network device will help patch security holes.

There’s no secret we’ve been proponents of a VPN connection strategy. A VPN is a virtual private network that allows businesses to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. In addition, the network traffic is encrypted to prevent any malicious attackers interpreting a user’s traffic, passwords, and so forth. How can a business benefit from a VPN connection?

For starters, a virtual private network provides a layer of security. A user logs into a VPN client to initiate the secure network connection. Second, after the VPN connection becomes successful, the user can can connect to their office workstation or work on their laptop accessing network files. Lastly, while on a VPN connection all traffic remains encrypted.

How companies are adapting to working from home

In today’s ultra-connected business world that demands 24/7 attention, organizations are adapting to employees working from home. As a result company employees are relying on personal devices to perform day to day tasks. How can company’s help keep associates efficient? First organizations can implement a chat service. For example when working within an office verbal communication is the norm. For remote workers, one-on-one communication can become cumbersome. Installing a chat service for employees to talk with one another will help with quick communication. A variety of service providers offer chat functionality, such as Google, Microsoft, & Zoom to name a few.

Second businesses can provide work from home employees company hardware. In fact providing work from home employees company hardware will help maintain a secure device. How you ask? A good managed IT service provider will have remote access in place, anti-virus running in real time, and can deploy security updates in a snap. In the event an employee were to obtain a virus on their computer the managed IT service provider will be able to remote in quickly. Inspect the PC for said virus and remedy the issue.

Lastly, organizations are not alone. We’re working with numerous entities to ensure all computer systems, internal and external, are working as expected. Implementing a work from home strategy is essential and we can help. No matter what size the business – we’ve partnered with entrepreneurs to organizations of hundreds of employees. Stay safe and healthy during this time.

Andrew Lopez
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