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3/30/2020
10:00 AM
Lance Spitzner
Lance Spitzner
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Securing Your Remote Workforce: A Coronavirus Guide for Businesses

Often the hardest part in creating an effective awareness program is deciding what NOT to teach.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, organizations worldwide are implementing work-from-home policies. Yet for many businesses, managing an entirely remote workforce is completely new, which means they may lack the processes, policies, and technologies that enable employees to work from home safely and securely. In addition, many employees may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the idea of working from home. As a result, organizations are scrambling to quickly roll out security awareness initiatives that enable their workforce to work from home safely and securely.

Scanning the news over the past several days, most articles are focused on the end user (that is, the employee) and helping them deal with this unexpected transition to a work-from-home environment. While an important component, we must not forget about the organization. For many, this is uncharted waters, deploying a workforce at this large of a scale. Enabling organizations to secure their end users is key. Afterall, they are the ones that best understand the culture and risk (of their organization). Therefore, it is the organization that is in the best position to secure their users.

After helping hundreds of organizations do this over the past 10 years, and having authored two courses on human security, here are some key takeaways to consider.

Ultimately, your goal is to make security simple for people. They are overwhelmed right now with a tremendous amount of change, chaos, and anxiety. Whatever we do, simplicity is the key. There are two key elements this. The first is enabling people, we do this by focusing on as few behavior as possible. The more processes, policies, and procedures you throw at people, the more likely they will be overwhelmed and fail. You need to work with your security team to identify the fewest risks that have the greatest impact, and the behaviors that manage those risks. We recommend you start with these three risks:

  • Risk 1: Social engineering
  • Risk 2: Passwords
  • Risk 3: Updating

Often the hardest part in effective awareness programs is deciding what NOT to teach.

On the flip side, we must communicate to and engage your workforce, this is where your communications team comes in. Our goal is to motivate people for change. In many ways, this is similar to marketing — we have to sell people on why this change is important, and then make that change as easy as possible. Use clear, simple, and engaging materials that people can relate to, and in their native language. One of my favorite communication/marketing models to do this is the AIDA (attention, interest, desire, and action) marketing model.

Finally, I recommend creating some type of channel where employees can ask questions and/or report incidents in real time, such as Slack, Zoom, or Skype channels, or online forums. Security teams need to be approachable and helpful in this time, not aloof or highly technical. Ultimately, this is a people problem, which means it's a people solution. The key to executing any effective program is partnering with others, such as security incident response/security operations center teams, HR, and your communications team.

If you wish to learn more, SANS Security Awareness has created the "Securely Working from Home" Deployment Kit. This free kit provides security awareness professionals with a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to rapidly deploy a training program for their remote staff and all the training materials they need in multiple languages. You can also research this topic online.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's featured story: "What Should I Do If Someone Is Impersonating My Company in a Phishing Campaign?"

Lance Spitzner is an internationally recognized leader in the field of cyber threat research and security training and awareness. He sits on the board of the National Cyber Security Alliance and helped develop and implement numerous multi-cultural security awareness programs ... View Full Bio
 

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