10 Tips for Enterprises to ensure secure remote working

10 Tips for Enterprises to ensure secure remote working

With lockdown restrictions seeming to lift slowly over the next few months, securely managing remote workers continues to play a critical role in business resilience. Here are a few top tips to ensure you have covered key areas to secure your business.

  • Installed and updated Anti-virus

Perception has it that when working remotely and accessing the corporate network through a VPN, it means that transferring of data is secure through the firewall. It can help, but it is not the ultimate secure option. A robust anti-virus can perform as the next line of protection by detecting and blocking known malware.

Organisations should look into ensuring that any workforce devices that require updates from the centralised anti-virus server on the network have the option enabled. This will allow devices to reach the providers update server to maintain all devices up-to-date with all security patching.

In most cases these are policies within the software that are enabled from implementation, however, IT administrators or Security administrators should validate that these policies have been enforced for all remote users for newly provided devices since lockdown inception.

  • Operating systems patched with security updates

Although in most cases operating systems are updated by the organisations IT administrators through a centralised database server (WSUS), these policies are relevant to when all devices are connected to the corporate network. As we see a rise in attack vectors during the lockdown, it is recommended by best practice to ensure all remote devices keep getting at least all identified vulnerability patching to warrant that all organisational remote devices maintain the highest level of security.

When planning how the organisation will send updates to remote devices, administrators should keep in mind bandwidth constraints for certain users. After an analysis is conducted to identify what would be a better option that will accommodate all remote devices, administrators should then inform the organisation of the required steps to get the policies enforced on their devices.  Keep in mind that these vulnerability patches or updates are just as important as keeping the anti-virus up-to-date. It’s another layer of being secure.

  • VPN usage policy

In most organisations there will be a set of IT policies providing guided mandates that need to be adhered to, to ensure that the organisation is protected to its maximum levels at all times.  Key IT or Security role-players should iterate or re-iterate these policies to all remote workforce.

Organisations should consider the consequences of remote working concerning what systems and infrastructure may be accessed, and what data can be traversed outside of the organisation. Consider identifying the risk attached to data traversal due to not having the full comprehension of what public networks the remote workforce is utilising.

As administrators or management, this period during the lockdown would be a good opportunity to provide awareness of these policies. Additionally, it is also an opportunistic time to warrant that these policies are validated, are still effective and any updating required can be done to certify that they are fit for purpose.

  • Secure home routers

Since home routers are installed and credentials provided by the ISP (Internet Service Provider)it is recommended that all login and WPA2 passwords should be changed. Additionally, it is smart to try to implement a ‘reset password’ schedule while working from home. This allows for a continuous security measure that will protect the remote workforce from other’s attaining passwords.

If the organisation has IT support teams, it is recommended to provide remote guidance to secure home routers. Organisations would not want to be the victim to the man in the middle, being subject to being attacked externally to the corporate network or being sniffed.

Additionally, organisations should consider that not all remote workforce will have the same conditions and bandwidth to conduct their duties. Provide them with knowledge of the consequences of using public wi-fi and how it should be avoided when conducting their duties.

  • Strong password utilisation

In the given time of lockdown, it is more imperative that we acknowledge strong passwords. Although seen as the first line of defence, it should provide you with the comfort that the man in the middle cannot attain personal login passwords.  

During the lockdown period, administrators should conduct password audits. These audits are conducted in the corporate network used to access all enterprise services. Any form of anomalies should be reset and the identified workforce be asked to change passwords according to policy.

There are many options available, consider implementing stringent policies,  alphanumeric passphrases, and two-factor authentication allowing for strong protection across all remote devices. As administrators, you should also look at continuously changing the internal systems and infrastructure passwords, documented and stored securely if relevant role-players are not available. Consider placing updated and changed passwords in your battle box, should the need arise to move over to DR.

  • Phishing and Scam awareness

Everyone has had the opportunity to receive an inviting email sometime. “You have won $ 1 500 00,00” and our psyche just gets our blood pressure high and excited. However, it was not true. Keep yourself safe from these scammers.

Provide your remote workforce with security awareness. Show them how to be vigilant when reading any emails, reading the email from top to bottom. When new scams or malware is identified by security administrators, share the knowledge with your workforce, so they can be aware of what is prevalent in the external network. Should they not feel safe in opening an attachment or clicking on a link that was meant for collaboration, guide on how to report it to the IT or security department.

Additionally, scammers utilise psychological offense strategies to guarantee that the end-user falls prey. Maintain information for the workforce to “STAY ALERT”.

  • Website visitation

During the lockdown, organisations have to maintain operationally. Remote workforces will need the requirement to utilise websites to research or gear themselves with the knowledge to maintain relevance with what is happening in the world today. In these trying times, it has been identified that hackers and scammers are utilising these news network sites to gain access.

Although attempts have been identified on very credible websites by masking code and rootkits into images and maps, these sites have strong and reputable cybersecurity teams that will analyse and maintain these sites security.

Security administrators should guide the remote workforce to only visit credible sources of information on websites that have been known for keeping it safe to visit and click on links and images that are from reliable sources.

  • Vigilance on work-from-home scams

It has been recognised that we will see in an increase in work-from-home scams and other forms of assistance “working from home” vulnerabilities.

No matter how hard we try to secure remote workforces, the possibility of missing a step along the way is probable. Tell them to be vigilant, don’t accept everything they see to conduct operational duties. Remote workforces should rather ask for help if they are not sure as not to fall victim to attack opportunities.

Vigilance is most of all one of the key front-line defences!

  • Credible conferencing and cloud platforms

We have all been seeing the news providing us with stories that conferencing and collaborative platforms have been compromised, attaining personal information and releasing it. Guide the workforce to take time to do their due diligence and utilise platforms that have ultimate security pastures implemented for safety purposes.

Although some of these platforms require licensing or payment, rather utilise platforms geared by your organisation or pay the platform utilisation fee. This provides the organisation with a sense of comfort that when accessing the paid platforms, they are secured to an extent and the organisation is covered to a certain degree that the provider can be held liable for any security breaches.

  1. Backup, Backup, Backup

Finally, organisations should safeguard remote workforces by backing up their data. Should any incident arise that the workforce encounter issues or breaches, administrators will feel confident to restore the required data. This said administrators should ensure that data can be backed up into backup services in the cloud, alternatively configure onsite centralised systems to conduct backup’s over the VPN.

Conducting backups over the internet to the organisation’s internal storage could pose risks with the man in the middle.  It is rather recommended to provide guidelines to the workforce to use alternate backup measures by conducting backups to external HDD media so that when the lockdown is finalised they can ask the IT teams to transfer the data onto the local storage.