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Remote Work: Hidden Evils Revealed

By Elliot Anderson  |  November 22, 2022

Remote work is seemingly here to stay, with many workers forgoing their commute to work for a nice stroll to their in-home office. The WFH movement provides great flexibility but comes with even greater challenges for cybersecurity.


A 200% increase in cyberattacks has been witnessed following the remote working surge, leading to a greater emergency than most experts expected. Prying eyes understand the immense vulnerability working from home represents as we log into unprotected Wifi networks, access servers away from the safety net of the office, and even take our private data with us on the go. This ability for greater work flexibility works to expand and increase the attack surface for cybercriminals, enabling easier access to potential private data through a multitude of unprotected endpoints. Gartner called this expanded attack surface and increase in public cloud use, a major threat in 2022.


Remote Work's Impact

Remote work can dramatically increase the potential attack surface and according to Gartner, “These changes in the way we work, together with greater use of public cloud, highly connected supply chains and use of cyber-physical systems," Gartner warned, "have exposed new and challenging attack 'surfaces.'“


Working from home increases the use of new technology which may not be detected or equipped with proper security solutions. Many workers now rely on their emails for primary communication, resulting in private information potentially being sent via mobile devices, unsanctioned laptops, etc. Moving this equipment away from the in-office defense can leave unsuspecting users helpless in the event of a cyberattack.


"Those had been protecting the castle, but now, people aren't working inside the castle," said Ed Skoudis, president of SANS Technology Institute. "They're out in the field, so those defenses don't protect them there. We've been saying for years that the network perimeters we built were dissolving because of things like wireless and cloud, but then, COVID came and blew it all up."


Cybercriminals understand the increased opportunity for hacking that WFH brings, as many users are under the impression it won’t or can’t happen to them, even though they had been under an umbrella of security protocols, firewalls, and other solutions to block attacks and thwart criminals for years while in-office.


Most Common WFH Risks


1. Expanded attack surfaces

Security teams are already stretched incredibly thin these days, and the expanded attack surface of remote work can make it impossible to secure each endpoint.


2. Less oversight

Workers are more in the dark than ever before when it comes to remote work, as they don’t have security teams or experts on their home network, to keep an eye on anything suspicious.


3. Poor data practices

Sending unencrypted emails containing sensitive files can be a recipe for disaster and most remote workers aren’t thinking about this layer of protection when they are downloading or sharing private data.


4. Phishing attacks

Phishing continues to see stratospheric growth as sophisticated threat actors become more creative with their attempts at garnering link clicks. Remote workers rely heavily on their emails potentially increasing the likelihood of accidentally clicking on a phishing email disguised as a pertinent request from your boss, for example.


5. Unprotected Networks

The use of unprotected networks for work purposes can be a costly mistake, as unprotected networks, to a skilled threat actor, can be like putting all of your information out for the world to see. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), highlighted the risk of nation-states attacking home routers in 2022, proving that some attacks may very well be out of your control if you do not possess the technical know-how. VPNs are critical, especially if you choose to use public wifi.


6. Cloud misconfigurations

As we all know, the cloud is an essential component to our lives and especially remote work, but still does not go without challenges. Misconfigurations present massive liability on the grounds of failed access controls and accidental provision of too much access to certain users. The “2022 Cloud Security Report” highlighted more than one-fourth of all security professionals experienced cloud security incidents within the past year.


7. Webcam hacking 

At one point, the odds are you have used Zoom or Microsoft Teams for a video conference, interview, chat with friends, etc. but even these platforms can be hacked. Cybercriminals have reportedly sabotaged and disrupted online video chats, some even undetected enough to crawl around, stealing data and corporate emails for future use.


First-Line Defense


1. Keep Your Devices Updated

Any device that connects to the internet is vulnerable to risks. The best defense is to keep device security software, web browsers, and operating systems up to date.


2. Use an Antivirus

Antivirus software acts a shield for your computer against incoming threats such as viruses, ransomware, spyware, and other malware.


3. Separate Work and Personal Devices

The more devices containing private, company specific information, leads to greater vulnerabilities and gaps in protection.  Limit your personal devices for just as it sounds, your personal life. It may be tempting to take work "on-the-go" but refrain from this mentality when you can.


4. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

No matter how strong your password is, a breach is always possible. Make it harder for cybercriminals to access your account by enabling multi-factor authentication which adds another step for access.


Adding MFA to an account greatly increases your security. It may include:

  • A code emailed or texted to an account
  • A biometric identifier like a fingerprint
  • A unique number, yes or no prompt, generated by an authenticator app


Closing Thoughts

Working from home has been a life-saver for countless individuals across the country, but understanding the risks that lie beneath the surface could be the difference between you becoming a victim of cybercrime.  Your organization retains a great deal of responsibility for providing adequate training and implementing security protocols across all sanctioned equipment and servers, but the weakest link can break the chain.  Be vigilant and be smart.

By Elliot Anderson

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