The global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has had a notable impact on workplaces worldwide, and many organizations are encouraging employees to work from home. What are the cybersecurity implications of this shift?
Having a sizable amount of employees suddenly working remotely can be a major change for organizations and presents numerous problems with regard to cybersecurity.
One issue involves a lack of authentication and authorization. Because people are not seeing each other face-to-face, there is an increased need for two-factor authentication, monitoring access controls and creating strong passwords. There’s also a risk of increased attacks like phishing and malware, especially since employees will now likely receive an unprecedented amount of emails and online requests.
Moreover, remote working can effectively widen an organization’s attack surface. This is because employees who use their own devices for work can introduce new platforms and operating systems that require their own dedicated support and security. With so many devices being used, it’s likely that at least some will fall through the security cracks.
Finally, these same security considerations apply to an organization’s supply chain. This can be challenging, because often smaller companies lack the necessary know-how and human resources to implement necessary security measures. Hackers are aware of this and can start targeting third-party suppliers with the goal of penetrating upstream partners.
What are the hidden implications of human error?
With less effective communication, organizations are unquestionably more prone to human error. When you’re not sitting next to the person you work with, the chances of making configuration mistakes that will expose security gaps are much higher. These cyber gaps can then be exploited by malicious actors.
IT departments are especially prone to error because they are changing routine and must open internal systems to do external work. For example, because of the shift to a remote workplace, IT teams may have to introduce network and VPN configurations, new devices, ports and IT addresses. Such changes effectively result in a larger attack surface and create the possibility that something may be set up incorrectly when implementing these changes.
The fact that people are not working face-to-face exacerbates the situation: Because it’s harder to confirm someone’s identity, there’s more room for error.
What are the potential compliance implications of this huge increase in mobile working?
There’s greater risk, because employees are not on the organization’s network and the organization is not fully in control of their devices. Essentially, the organization has lost the security of being in a physical protected area. As a result, organizations also open themselves up to greater risk of not adequately complying with regulations that demand a certain level of cybersecurity.