A wealth of data regarding remote workforces points to a high percentage of employees continuing to telecommute long after the pandemic subsides.
Statistics indicate that remote workforce growth topped 159 percent over the last 12 years, and the COVID-19 crisis blew the roof off that trend. Digital workspace platforms such as Microsoft Teams surged to 44 million daily users, and video chat apps such as Zoom increased by more than 60 percent, according to reports. But cybercriminals continue to represent the dark side of remote connectivity solutions.
Hackers have exponentially increased their efforts to target new work-from-home employees because many lack the cybersecurity training and awareness to deter sophisticated schemes. Consider whether the following question causes industry leaders such as yourself sleepless nights. Do your employees have sufficient cybersecurity training to stop a hacker from using a remote connection to breach your business network? If that thought isn’t enough to cause creeping anxiety, consider the following.
Displaced Remote Workers Rarely Focus on Cybersecurity
Put yourself in the position of a recently displaced employee who was accustomed to the structure of a brick-and-mortar facility. They enjoyed a defined desk, set hours, and routines that involved formal and informal communication. The workday was typically a blend of task-driven efforts and professional interactions with colleagues. A work-from-home landscape can be quite foreign.
Employees with children are now juggling their productivity with remote learning that feels a lot like digital homeschooling. Many find themselves sitting at kitchen tables with laptops as common home distractions interfere with their focus. Although many transitioned nicely to the work-from-home environment, others hope this is merely a stop-gap solution. Those struggling with the change of scenery represent a significant cybersecurity vulnerability. That’s because getting hacked is about the last thing on their mind.
Hackers Are Targeting Remote Workers
Digital scam artists deployed widespread emails laced with malicious software, files, and links, as COVID-19 spread. Their strategy, in this instance, highlights an overarching methodology used by cybercriminals to prey on human frailty.
This criminal strategy is routinely called “phishing,” and it typically involves an emotional or incentivized electronic message being used as bait. Your employee usually plays the part of the catch. Organizations such as the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, among others, have issued warnings about COVID-19 phishing and other digital scams.
Hackers understand that recently displaced workers are less likely to identify phishing schemes because they sorely lack rigorous cybersecurity awareness training. Work-from-home employees are anxious about the contagion, as well as their jobs. Couple those factors with a persuasive email that includes confidential information and a remote worker may be inclined to click on a seemingly harmless link.
Once the worker’s device has been breached, hackers can use it as a pathway to access an entire business network. The results are crippling.
Respond with Determined Cybersecurity Training & Awareness
Although Cloud-based business networks can enjoy the same enterprise-level cybersecurity as in-house systems, training, and awareness training will need to be conducted quickly and remotely.
This tends to be a boon for organizations that already have video conferencing applications in place. Decision-makers can schedule online meetings with a third-party cybersecurity expert to run through best practices consistent with company policy. Once a remote workforce understands the fundamentals of determining cybersecurity, follow-up digital meetings, or instructional videos can refine employee knowledge, awareness, and even highlight emerging threats as needed.
It’s essential for industry leaders to keep in mind that hackers come up with clever ways to outflank remote employees once their nefarious methods are well known. In many ways, cybersecurity training and awareness is like a digital chess match. It’s in every organization’s best interest to avoid your workers get used as pawns.