Remote Work's Hidden Dangers

Ten cybersecurity strategies for enterprises to keep remote work safer.

Victor Zyamzin, Chief Business Officer, Qrator Labs

June 5, 2024

6 Min Read
May works on laptop at home with pug on his lap; houseplant in background
Source: Евгения Матвеец via Alamy Stock Photo


The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reshaped the global work landscape — the remote office has become the new norm. Employees are relishing a more flexible schedule and extra hours of freedom, embracing a new quality of work-life balance, while employers are appreciating the cost savings from ditching office leases and other expenses. 

However, navigating the digital workspace from the couch comes with its own set of threats: phishing scams that dress up as legit emails, ransomware that steals private files hostage for money, and hackers listening in on Wi-Fi chats over that not-so-secure home network. 

The foundation of a company's data security, whether it's being transferred or stored, is a solid remote-access policy. This set of guidelines, usually established by the company's IT or data security team, acts as a road map for remote employees and their devices, ensuring safe access to company networks. 

It covers essentials like using a virtual private network (VPN) for secure online navigation, installing anti-malware software on all employee devices, and implementing multifactor authentication (MFA) to verify user identities. 

While developing a comprehensive remote access policy can seem daunting at first, focusing on core security strategies helps build a flexible framework tailored to your company's needs. Keep the approach straightforward — aim for essential elements like access controls, data encryption, endpoint protection, and user education. With sound foundational practices in place, you can then customize policies as your business evolves. 

10 Cybersecurity Strategies for Remote Workers

1. Secure Data in Transit

The primary goal of securing data in transit is to protect sensitive information as it travels across networks from being intercepted by cybercriminals. This is crucial for maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of corporate data, personal information, and intellectual property.

This strategy employs encryption protocols such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) to create a secure and encrypted channel between two systems. Through the exchange of encryption keys, these protocols ensure that data is encrypted before it is sent and can be decrypted only by the recipient's device, rendering intercepted data unreadable to unauthorized parties. 

2. Protect Data at Rest

Encrypting data at rest aims to safeguard data stored on devices — especially critical in scenarios of device loss or theft. This measure is fundamental for protecting sensitive information and complying with various data protection regulations.

Built-in encryption tools, such as BitLocker for Windows and FileVault for macOS, encrypt the storage media of a device, such as hard drives, using strong encryption algorithms. This process makes the data on these devices inaccessible without the correct encryption key or user credentials, effectively securing the data against unauthorized access, even if the physical security of the device is breached. 

3. Adopt Identity and Access Management 

IAM systems are designed to control and monitor user access to company resources, ensuring that employees have appropriate access levels based on their job requirements. This is vital for preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information and for the overall security of the company's digital environment.

IAM solutions like Okta or Microsoft Azure Active Directory provide centralized management of user identities and permissions. They offer features such as single sign-on (SSO), multifactor authentication (MFA), and automated provisioning of user accounts. By managing digital identities, these technologies ensure that only authorized users can access certain data and applications, enhancing security and facilitating compliance with regulatory requirements.

4. Secure Endpoint Protection for Remote Employees

The aim is to protect endpoint devices (laptops, smartphones) used by remote employees from malware, ransomware, and other cyber threats. Secure Web gateways are also utilized to safeguard Internet access and prevent access to malicious websites, enhancing overall cybersecurity posture.

This involves installing reputable antimalware and antivirus software on all endpoint devices to detect and eliminate threats. Secure Web gateways further protect users by filtering unwanted software/malware from Internet traffic, ensuring safe browsing and Internet usage.

5. Implement DDoS Protection Measures

In an office environment, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which overwhelm the network with excessive traffic, may result in minimal disruption. However, for remote teams, a DDoS attack on the VPN can significantly affect operations, crippling the ability to access critical corporate resources. 

To safeguard against these attacks, consider employing DDoS mitigation services that can detect and filter out malicious traffic before it reaches the network. [Editor's note: The author's company is one of many that offer such services.]

6. Deploy Guard Against Phishing and Account Takeovers

This strategy focuses on minimizing the risk of phishing attacks and unauthorized account access by educating employees on recognizing phishing attempts and enforcing strong security measures like MFA.

Regular cybersecurity training sessions informing employees about the latest phishing techniques and how to avoid them can reduce the risk of successful attacks. Strong password policies and the enforcement of MFA add layers of security, significantly reducing the risk of account takeovers.

7. Utilize User Behavior Analytics (UBA) and Zero-Trust Framework

UBA aims to detect anomalies in user behavior that may indicate a security threat, such as compromised credentials or insider threats, by analyzing normal activity patterns.

Tools like Splunk or Exabeam use machine learning to analyze user access patterns and identify deviations from the norm. These anomalies are flagged for further investigation.

The zero-trust framework operates on the principle of "never trust, always verify," which requires verifying the identity of users and the integrity of their devices before granting access to company resources. 

8. Secure Cloud Settings and Manage Access

Correcting and securing cloud configurations is essential to protect against breaches due to misconfigurations or vulnerabilities, especially with the increased adoption of cloud services.

Regular audits and the use of cloud security tools from providers like AWS or Azure help in identifying and rectifying insecure configurations. Effective user access controls ensure that only authorized users or user groups can access specific cloud resources, reducing the risk of data exposure.

9. Implement Regular Software Updates and Patch Management

Keeping software and systems up to date is important for protecting against known vulnerabilities and exploits, which are frequently targeted by cybercriminals.

Automated tools like WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) for Windows or Jamf for macOS ensure that all devices in the network receive the latest security patches and updates, closing off vulnerabilities and enhancing security.

10. Introduce (or Update) Incident Response Plans

Having a robust incident response plan in place helps minimize damage during a cybersecurity incident and facilitate a swift and organized recovery.

This involves regularly reviewing and testing the incident response plan through simulated cyberattacks, then refining and updating it based on the insights gained and lessons learned, ensuring preparedness for real-world incidents.

One More Piece of Advice 

If your company operates within the European Union (or processes the personal data of individuals residing in the EU, regardless of location), then it's crucial to check your compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — the comprehensive data privacy law that outlines the rules for managing personal data and introducing potential fines for noncompliance. 

About the Author(s)

Victor Zyamzin

Chief Business Officer, Qrator Labs

Victor Zyamzin is the chief business officer at Qrator Labs. Previously the global head of business development in cybersecurity corporations and international data center solutions companies, he has extensive experience working with leading telecom, IT, and security brands, specializing in IT, industrial cybersecurity, traffic monitoring and management, network security, and critical infrastructure solutions.

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