Woman works on laptop in technical department
If your company is transitioning to a hybrid work setting, here are ways to keep your remote network secure. — Getty Images/gorodenkoff

Even after the coronavirus is contained, most companies will be adopting a hybrid workforce model. Their employees will split their time between working in-person at the office and working remotely. While this new type of workflow will give people more flexibility, it could also make their devices more vulnerable. Businesses will need to adapt to the challenges this new work model brings by implementing new cyber security measures across both their in-person and remote workforce.

[Read: New Normal: 9 Lasting Changes Small Businesses Can Expect Post-Pandemic]

4 common hybrid work security challenges

No matter what type of business you are or what your hybrid workforce looks like, there are some common issues that affect every remote setting:

Phishing attacks

Scammers frequently get data for identity theft when they receive responses to their fraudulent emails that contain people’s personal information. Employees may respond to these emails or click on these links thinking they are from their employer, or a personal account such as their bank or insurance agent. When people open or respond to these emails, they unknowingly put their personal and the company's information at risk, and everyone becomes vulnerable to a larger data breach.

Installing security patches

Patches are updates for software and applications that can help fix security and maintenance issues within their systems. Most corporate devices automatically download and install patches when connected to the corporate network. When employees are working remotely, however, they may miss these essential updates while logged on to a personal network and not the organization's network.

Vulnerable home environment

Your home is your personal ecosystem and you likely aren't the only one working within it. Unlike in an office setting, employees aren't limited to using corporate devices exclusively for work. At home, employees might use their personal devices for work, or conversely, allow their children to use a corporate device for school or entertainment purposes. While seemingly harmless, using a foreign device or having another user on a corporate device may lead to a compromise of security controls, rendering home networks vulnerable.

Employee error

An employee’s personal work environment isn't monitored by IT support the same way an office environment is. This can lead to careless mistakes such as not using the company’s virtual private network (VPN), installing malware and reusing old passwords. Every hybrid and remote employee needs to be properly trained in remote working protocols to ensure their home office is just as secure as their corporate one.

[Read: 4 Smart Reasons to Hire in 2021]

While seemingly harmless, using a foreign device or having another user on a corporate device may lead to a compromise of security controls, rendering home networks vulnerable.

6 ways to make a hybrid workforce more secure

Update your cyber security policies

Despite a majority of people working remotely, companies still haven't updated their own corporate cyber security policies to reflect this change. Take a look at your network of employees and write new policies to keep your information secure no matter where they're working. For example, enforce a two-factor authentication policy that requires every employee to provide two pieces of information in order to log on to corporate networks.

Offer digital security training

Employees working remotely have no internal IT support to help them when an issue arises. This means you'll have to train your staff in good digital security habits and how to protect themselves while they're working from home. Offer training and resources to help them understand how to minimize these threats and constantly update them as new information becomes available.

Create a separate network

Create a new VPN for employees to connect to when working remotely. This will enhance your existing security features as well as protect remote employees’ accounts security and accessibility.

Audit work devices for hybrid or remote work

If an employee is going to be using a corporate device remotely for work, update the device on all your network’s security systems. Regularly have these devices audited by your IT support to make sure they are running properly and that the most up-to-date patches have been installed.

Limit employees’ data access

Remote employees are less likely to use their company devices for personal means if they know they only have a limited amount of data they can use. They may log into unsecured locations on a corporate device less often, effectively minimizing exposure to security threats.

Perform penetration testing

Test your corporate devices to see how vulnerable they are to cyber security attacks. Analyze the results and make the necessary updates to make them more secure.

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