Technology has transformed the concept of the workplace. The hybrid workplace, a blend of remote and on-site work, offers unparalleled flexibility and productivity.
However, it has also created a new set of cybersecurity challenges that organisations must confront to safeguard sensitive information, maintain operational continuity, and protect their reputation. Let’s look at nine threats and how organisations can mitigate the risk.
1. Endpoint vulnerabilities
With employees working from various locations and devices, the attack surface widens considerably. The diverse range of endpoints, including personal laptops and smartphones, increases the potential entry points for cybercriminals. Weak device configurations, outdated software, and lack of security patches can expose organisations to malware, ransomware, and data breaches.
Mitigation: First, implement a strong endpoint security policy that defines the responsibilities of employees. Second, choose a robust mobile device management solution, combined with endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities. Third, regular patch and vulnerability management to ensure that all devices connected to the network are not a threat vector. Set the minimum requirements for non-corporate devices and only allow them to connect to the network if they meet them.
2. Phishing and Social Engineering
Social engineering and phishing (which is a broad sub-category) pose one of the most serious threats to an organisation’s security. Employees are a weak link and considered an easy target for cybercriminals.
Mitigation: Regular security awareness programmes for employees are a must; how to look for signs of phishing attacks and how to respond. Also, technical controls such as mandatory multi-factor authentication can stop an attack even if credentials are compromised through social engineering.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim's data and demands a ransom for its decryption. Ransomware attacks can cause significant disruption, damage, and financial losses to organisations and individuals. In the hybrid workplace, ransomware attacks can target both personal and corporate devices and networks, as well as cloud services and applications.
Mitigation: Educating staff to be careful when opening emails, clicking on links or opening attachments is an important step to prevent ransomware attacks. All data should be encrypted at rest and in transit and a VPN should be used if connecting from an unsecured network. Up-to-date antivirus and antimalware software should be installed if not managed at corporate level.
4. Insecure Wi-Fi Networks
Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks can become a conduit for cyberattacks, allowing hackers to intercept data or launch man-in-the-middle attacks. Some criminals use fake access points hoping that users will connect to it. This is known as an Evil Twin attack.
Mitigation: Educate and encourage the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to encrypt data transmitted over public networks. Provide clear guidelines on secure Wi-Fi practices and discourage the use of unsecured networks for work-related tasks.
5. Data leakage and Loss
Hybrid work has made it very difficult for organisations to manage the flow of information between different environments, increasing the risk of data leakage or loss. Whether through accidental sharing, misconfigured cloud storage, or insider threats, sensitive data can fall into the wrong hands.
Mitigation: Every organisation should consider a data loss prevention (DLP) solution to monitor and control the movement of sensitive data. All use encryption for data at rest and in transit and establish strict access controls based on the principle of least privilege. Various forms of access control can be used to prevent leakage at file level as well.
6. Shadow IT and unauthorised applications
Remote work can drive employees to adopt unsanctioned tools and applications to do their work, bypassing IT policies and security controls. Known as Shadow IT, it can lead to unmanaged vulnerabilities and unauthorised data exposure.
Mitigation: As mentioned earlier, only approved devices with approved applications should be allowed to connect to the network. Solutions like Microsoft Entra and Intune allow admins to enforce policies and define the minimum requirements for devices and the applications that can be used when connected to the corporate network.
7. Insider Threats
While remote work empowers employees, it also introduces the possibility of insider threats. Disgruntled employees or those who fall victim to social engineering attacks can compromise sensitive information or disrupt operations. Insider threats are not easy to identify.
Mitigation: Monitor user behaviour, analysing abnormal activities, and maintaining clear exit procedures for employees can help identify and lower the risk of an incident.
8. Human Error
Human error is one of the biggest cybersecurity risks in any workplace, especially in a hybrid one. Human error can include mistakes such as using weak passwords, clicking on infected links, sharing sensitive data with the wrong people, forgetting to lock or update devices, and so on. Human error can lead to various cyber incidents such as data breaches, malware infections, ransomware attacks, etc.
Mitigation: Awareness, awareness, awareness. Prioritise cybersecurity awareness through regular, comprehensive training as part of HR policy. Develop and enforce a cybersecurity policy, alongside implementing security controls and tools to prevent or mitigate human error.
9. Compliance and Regulatory Challenges
Operating in a hybrid workplace model adds complexity to compliance efforts, especially when it comes to data privacy regulations. Data residing in different environments must adhere to regulatory standards, which can be challenging to manage.
Mitigation: Regularly assess and update compliance practices to ensure they align with applicable regulations. Utilise tools that can help monitor and enforce compliance across various platforms.
While the hybrid workplace unlocks numerous benefits, it simultaneously ushers in diverse cybersecurity risks and threats that necessitate attention. A proactive cybersecurity approach encompassing employee training and a comprehensive suite of technical solutions is imperative for every organisation.
Don't leave the security of your organisation to chance. Ensure that you're well-prepared and resilient against the constantly evolving cyber threats. If you have questions, concerns, or need guidance tailored to your specific business needs, we're here to help. Reach out using the form below to get in touch with our cybersecurity experts!