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Managing cybersecurity risks in diverse remote working environments

December 2023 by Robert Haist, Chief Information Security Officer, TeamViewer

Whether you work in a small/medium-sized business (SMB) or a large enterprise, technology company, finance organisation, or anything in between, the chances are you and your colleagues work remotely at least part of the time. In fact, 99% of respondents in a recent TeamViewer survey said their employees work entirely remote (2%) or hybrid (97%).

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It’s widely recognised that these diverse working environments offer employees flexibility, foster productivity, and open the door to a broader pool of talent. However, we also know that they diversify and extend cybersecurity risks.

What are we up against?
To better understand the threats, let’s compare what the standard organisation looked like four years ago versus today. In 2019, most staff worked full-time at the office, five days a week, with only a handful of freelancers or individuals in certain functions requiring partial remote access to systems. Today, all employees, regardless of role or function, require a certain degree of remote access and support. This is difficult to manage, even when all your staff are in the same time zone or country, and you have a central IT team. But this is vastly more challenging to manage if your workers are spread across the globe and using a plethora of devices, solutions, and systems. In addition, for large enterprises, the scale of the company itself can attract malicious threat actors who see hacking big players as a challenge and like the potential of a big payday. However, this doesn’t mean SMBs are off the hook, as other cyber criminals will choose to target them, believing they’ll be easy prey. In either instance, businesses are often not as prepared to defend against these threats as they should be.

For instance, many companies will be familiar with email and phishing scams and their consequences. However, they may think less about the impact of bring your own devices (BYOD), which adds complexity to the network, including a lack of visibility over distributed software and hardware. The impact of this issue has been exacerbated by under-resourced IT teams, and businesses running lean, meaning less specialised personnel are available to manage the threats. To tackle this, a solution is required that can meet demands for hyper-efficiency, high levels of compatibility, and protect diverse, decentralised working environments.

Enter remote management tools
A growing number of organisations have embraced remote management tools as the solution. They offer connectivity, along with the ability to deliver real-time access, monitoring, management, control, and device repair. In fact, our research found that 90% of respondents agree a sophisticated remote connectivity platform is vital in our increasingly hybrid economy.

However, by enabling employees to access valuable databases and sensitive business data from remote locations, these tools can themselves expose the organisation to malicious activity if improperly managed. Thankfully, there are several steps businesses can follow to secure remote connectivity and management and therefore protect both company and employee data from threats.

The keys to securing remote connectivity and management
The first stage in mitigating remote connectivity and management risks is recognising the importance of this. Companies need to acknowledge that shifting working models have made them more prone to attacks and then build a security stance based on this. This will involve defining clear security expectations and raising awareness of these, and how they relate to access control and privacy threats, amongst staff and company partners. Armed with this knowledge, all stakeholders will be empowered to work together to ensure the security of the business.

The crucial next step is investing in remote management tools that have security at their heart, rather than as an afterthought. Businesses should look out for solutions that will enable them to centrally oversee and manage their IT inventory at a glance. In addition to offering password randomization, device authentication, multi-factor authentication, and Conditional Access. All of this will minimise the pressure on time-strapped IT teams who can then redirect their efforts to high-priority management and security challenges. What’s more, companies must select a platform that keeps them ahead of the security curve through compliance with existing and upcoming regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and ISO 27001.

Beyond this, companies should look out for providers who are transparent about potential security vulnerabilities and encourage ethical hacking within bug bounty programmes to strengthen their services. As well as engaging with the wider security community to remain abreast of the latest developments before reflecting these in product updates.

Diverse work environments don’t need to mean reduced security

Remote working is here to stay, meaning remote management tools are too. When introducing and utilising these solutions, companies must remember that they can only serve the business properly if they’re coupled with strong security measures. Get this nailed down, and your business can enjoy the benefits of diverse remote working environments without the cyber risks.

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