Remote work increases cybersecurity risks for organizations

In the last two years, we've seen a swift and massive shift away from on-premise work as countless organizations embrace hybrid and remote models. According to a McKinsey survey of C-level executives and senior managers across various industries, respondents reported that their companies implemented these models nearly 40 times faster than they would have prior to the pandemic. But this rapid and widespread adoption has left many businesses more vulnerable than ever.

In a recent IBM study on 537 organizations, researchers found that data breaches cost over $1 million more for organizations using remote work models. This equates to an average cost of $4.96 million in cases where remote work was a factor, compared to $3.89 million for organizations using traditional work models. So what are the threats associated with remote work, and how can organizations mitigate the risks?

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks
Home wireless networks often lack the security features and precautions that many enterprise networks utilize, making them a prime target for threat actors. Additionally, when employees work on unsecured public Wi-Fi, hackers have a much easier time tricking the routers into revealing credentials and intercepting sensitive data transmissions. Breaches originating from these unsecured networks and devices also take much longer to identify and contain, allowing hackers more time to wreak havoc while undetected.

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies
Many companies using hybrid or remote models have a BYOD policy, in which employees are encouraged to use personal devices for work both at home and in the office. This practice compounds the challenges IT teams face in securing devices across the organization as it relies on individual employees to keep their software up to date. Using personal devices for work-related matters also increases the risk of confidential data leaks as this information is stored on computers outside of the company and can be lost or leaked when an employee leaves the organization.

Physical security
Remote work also increases the physical security risks of an organization. For instance, if an employee speaks about private company matters in a public space or leaves their laptop open and unattended, anyone can hear or access the sensitive information. Regardless of whether the device is personal or company property, taking it out of the office increases the risk of it being lost or stolen. If it falls into the wrong hands, hackers can download all of the stored data and use the endpoint to breach the organization's network.

What can organizations do?
As remote attacks increase in complexity and frequency, organizations must invest in their cybersecurity and compliance for employees working outside of the office. This might include requiring remote workers to use a company VPN or training courses on how to respond to ransomware attacks and protect their devices. Ultimately, a business's cybersecurity depends on having the right CIOs and CTOs driving decision-making.

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