How to Secure Remote Work by Managing Endpoint Security

remote work security

With the coronavirus still rampaging, many businesses worldwide were forced to adopt work from home culture.

In lieu of this change, remote work security became a big concern. Organizations have come to realize how loopholes within a system could damage the integrity of the work we do on a regular basis.

Without a robust security system, much of the valuable and volatile information is put at stake. It can make our systems vulnerable to exploitation from cybercriminals.

According to recently compiled statistics published by Wandera, 59% of employees felt more cyber secure working in the office as compared to from working at home. Around 51% of organizations lack any visibility into file-sharing apps, while 45% of employees expect a company level data breach to occur during the COVID-19 crisis.

Furthermore, 71% of those working from home believe that the shift had increased the likelihood of a cyber-breach by as much as 100% when the shift was originally made.

In light of this information, let us take a quick look at some of the ways through which managers and IT executives can augment remote work security.

1. Advanced Security Controls

Advanced Security Control

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While the establishment of security controls is indeed important, managers and IT executives need to consider better approaches with time. The state of cybersecurity at present is a daunting predicament.

In order to boost remote work security, additional layers of security have to be deployed. These layers may include:

  • Implementing 2FA for all users is generally known as a subtype of multifactor authentication in electronic systems. Two-factor authentication usually involves not only just the password or credentials for an account login but may also contain a combination of other pieces of knowledge or evidence. These can range from PINs, secret questions, phone numbers, or any other information to validate access or system logins.
  • You can also use Transparent Data Encryption or TDE, which is actively deployed by IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle to encrypt their database files. TDE can be used to prevent possible cybercriminals from circumventing the databank and interpreting delicate information right from the storage. There is a complete guideline available online on Microsoft’s website that offers you a step by step process to apply TDE for your organization.

The aforementioned are just a few of the tactics that your organization can implement for additional security levels for remote workers.

However, there are also various other techniques that managers and IT professionals can look into, such as signing out users when browsers are closed, preventing password autocompletes, session timeouts, and restricting access on local networks.

2. All-Encompassing Data Policy

As a company that is currently managing employees through a remote work policy, it is an absolute must that your managers and IT technicians devise an all-inclusive and comprehensive data policy for remote workers to follow.

Data protection policies ensure that concerns related to the privacy of a company’s information are important and can even lead to termination if one is found acting against compliance requirements. As such, a data policy should include:

  • Acceptable use of IT systems and devices.
  • Duty and responsibility for the confidentiality and safeguarding volatile information.
  • General practices, rules, and regulations to maintain information security.
  • Risk management, records management, and retention.
  • Reviewing data processing practices and accountability of each employee.
  • Training and supervision of staff in handling personal data.

In the EU, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and PECR (Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulation) govern data protection and privacy in the European Economic Area. However, there is no single but numerous data protection legislation that is jumbled up and enacts data protection on both federal and state levels in the US.

The Federal Trade Commission can be considered a good source of information pertaining to current data laws that are being regulated and considered under the jurisdiction of legislation. However, it is imperative to note that remote work security for each organization may differ from one another. Hence, each data policy should consider the organization’s culture, operation, and size to be appropriate for the staff to follow and be easy to implement.

3. Asset Management Tools

Asset Management Tools

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Before we dive into some of the best asset management tools available, let us first understand what they are actually and what they can do for your organization. In general, asset management tools are applications that can help you record and track an asset through its entire lifecycle, starting from its procurement to its final disposal.

Hence organizations can not only locate assets but also figure out who is currently using them as well as how they are being utilized along with additional details about the asset. In case of remote work security, it is important that your company implements an asset management tool as it offers you effective tracking of the company’s assets and thus offering your supervisors and management with greater visibility of company-owned assets.

Some of the best asset management tools are:

  • AssetExplorer, by ManageEngine, offers a web-based ITAM (IT Asset Management) software.
  • IBM Maximo EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) that is more than a CMMS (Computerized maintenance management system).
  • Infor EAM is a 21st-century solution for industry-specific concerns.
  • Oracle EAM is a part of Oracle’s E-Business Suite.
  • SAP EAM for maximizing the value of physical assets for an organization.

This is neither a complete nor an exhaustive list of asset management tools. Nevertheless, IT asset management is undoubtedly key to cybersecurity. Since it can not only help you mitigate risk, ensure that all assets are updated, but it can also help IT administrators, to take control of hardware assets.

In fact, with the help of asset management tools, your security professionals would also be able to map software assets, locate company-owned devices, and even track down traditional and non-traditional IoT devices.

4. Beyond the Firewall

The basics of having a firewall allow you to monitor and control incoming and outgoing traffic, and as such, it is a network security system designed to prevent unauthorized access. While I am not stating that a company should not use a firewall, I think that its high time enterprises start thinking beyond firewalls.

Firewalls are no panacea, and therefore vulnerable systems can allow hackers to bypass firewalls and put companies at risk of being hijacked. For a small business, a firewall can be described as an industry standard for protection.

However, if you seriously want to improve remote work security, you have to seek additional protection. Some of the basic problems for relying heavily on simple firewall protection include:

  • Becoming a suspect to social engineering, including phishing attacks.
  • Coming across malicious websites that are disguised by an SSL certificate
  • & lastly, there is always the probability of human error and insider threat.

In the wake of such concerns, your company needs to act proactively. A UTM (Unified Threat Management) is costly and may be cumbersome to implement that is why additional measures have to be taken to support your firewall protection.

Consider using SSL VPN to access internal resources and only open ports that are 100% critical for business. You can also add DNS-layer network security. OpenDNS is an American company that deals with Domain Name System resolution services that come in handy.

5. Carry Out Risk Assessments

Risk Management

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Another practice you can follow to supplement your remote work security is to carry out risk assessments. Here is a simple guideline to help you in managing cybersecurity risk for your organization’s critical assets:

  • Identify critical information technology assets for your company and its impact on business operations.
  • Pinpoint the top five business processes that require or utilize information.
  • Categorize threats that adversely affect those business functions and halt their operations.
  • Tackle the highest priority security risk by prioritizing the most hazardous risk first. Prioritizing assets can include data, functional requirements, hardware, information storage, interfaces, software, users, and so on.
  • Prepare for threats such as accidental human interference, malicious interception (classical hacking), natural disasters, social engineering attacks or impersonation, and system failure, to name a few.
  • Recognize vulnerabilities through audits, automated vulnerability scanning tools, information ST&E (security tests and evaluation) procedures, penetration testing techniques, and system software security analysis.
  • Scrutinize and analyze security controls where both technical and nontechnical controls can be further classified as a detective or preventive controls.
  • Regulate the likelihood of an incident where you can assess the probability of a vulnerability that can be exploited.
  • Gauge the impact of a threat considering the sensitivity of the system and its pertaining data.
  • Recommend applicable regulations and organizational policies along with their feasibility, reliability, and overall safety.
  • Maintain documentation of all results in the form of a risk assessment report for management to make informed decisions regarding budget and other policies.

6. Data-Centric Security

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In short, data-centric security is defined as an approach that emphasizes data itself rather than the security of applications, networks, or servers. Now the question may arise as to why data-centric security should be applied for remote work security; the answer is pretty simple.

Data-centric security helps you eliminate gaps and keep sensitive information protected wherever it’s shared or strode. However, some key areas have to be checked before a comprehensive data security strategy can be implemented. These include:

  • Data discovery tools can help organizations gain visibility to sensitive data, both on-premises and in the cloud. It is a business user-oriented process for detecting patterns and outliers through applied and guided analytics.
  • Data governance allows organizations to monitor the access of their structured and unstructured data, which then provides a point of validations for a company’s compliance and regulations and identification of violations against company policies.
  • Tools and policies that facilitate data classification to separate valuable information from less valuable information.
  • Data watermarking and tagging are for the purpose of security classification as well as protection of intellectual properties owned by the company
  • The protection of data can be carried out through data loss prevention systems. DLP systems can then act as enforcers for data security policies.
  • You can render protected data useless in the event of a breach through encryption strategies.
  • Limiting unauthorized data exfiltration through enhanced gateway controls.
  • You can ensure that only the right people can access the right information through IAM (Identity & Access Management)
  • Providing better access control and authentication through CASBs (Cloud Access Security Brokers).
  • Stressing the importance of continuous education of staff and workers in regards to data protection strategy as humans are often the weakest link in overall security systems.

7. Data Encryption for Remote Work Security

With all that being said about data encryption, let’s take a closer look at how this method converting plaintext to ciphertext can help you increase remote work security for your ventures.

Data encryption can be simply defined as translating data into another form, which can be a code, and thus only those who have access to a security key can read it.

Data encryption can be carried out across a variety of devices, plus they’re both paid and free options available for encrypting devices. Therefore for companies that are working remotely, data encryption is becoming increasingly popular. Some of the best data encryptions in the world include RSA and AES encryption. RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) encryption algorithm is considered incredible due to the fact that it supports incredible key lengths such as 2048 and 4096-bit keys.

Plus, it’s an asymmetric algorithm, which means that are two separate encryption keys. On the other hand, AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is widely considered invulnerable to all attacks except brute force, which consists of an attacker submitting many passwords or passphrases for eventually guessing the correct answer.

However, businesses can also apply for both free and paid encryption software and tools, including AxCrypt, CertainSafe, CryptoExpert, Folder Lock, and VeraCrypt, to name a few.

8. Device Security Measures

Device Security Measures

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It is relatively common knowledge that companies might have to undertake device security measures or otherwise face remote work security issues for employees working remotely. That is why, in many cases, a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy can pose some serious threats. As a company, you should consider providing encryption protected devices for your employees.

Since these devices can be kept secure and maintained by the company, thus eliminating considerable security risks. 

You can also maintain a black-list and white-list of applications to keep your workforce aware of what software they are allowed and permitted to use. Secondly, your IT department must carry out periodic or even regular device scans and updates.

Furthermore, you can obligate employees to always stick to private and secured Wi-Fi networks. A DMS (Document Management System) can also be implemented so that your workforce can keep their files on the cloud, thus lowering the risk of loss from a local network attack.

However, there is still much room available for keeping devices secure in a remote work culture that your IT personnel can further identify.

9. Educating Employees

In a recent study published by Small Biz Trends, only 31% of employees receive annual company-wide training or updates regarding cybersecurity. Hence this can be taken as a matter of grave concern since educating employees should be given its due importance.

As a company, you should invest in their training since your workforce is an undeniable asset, and without their proper training, there will always be vulnerabilities within the system. Hence cybersecurity has to be taken up as a priority so that they can recognize phishing and social engineering attacks. For starters, here are some tips:

  • Teach employees to check for name spoofing and the email address whenever a sender is making an unusual or unexpected request.
  • Make sure that the email format is correct and see if there is anything off about it.
  • Instantly inform managers and IT professionals if someone is asking for key information like logins or credentials.
  • Always scan attachments before opening them.

It would be best if you considered making cybersecurity as part of your onboarding process. Conducting a ‘Live Fire’ practice attack will also train them as well as strengthen your remote work security a great deal.

This exercise can be performed every once in a quarter. It will help make employees understand the importance of cybersecurity as well as keep them on their toes to remind them of new attacks.

You should also educate employees about best password practices, the potential cost of a data breach as well as recognize phishing attacks and social engineering attacks.

10. IoT & Remote Work Security

To establish healthy remote work security, you need to focus on IoT. These connected Internet of Things and devices have to be secured. Each device must be granted a unique identifier so that it gains the ability to connect and transfer data over a protected network. One of the basic issues with IoT is that many of them are not built to handle or manage advanced security features.

Then there is also the lack of industry-accepted standards, which makes the use of IoT even more alarming. To combat this, several services out there offer you solutions to make your IoT more secure. Some examples include Thales and Kaspersky etc.

11. Keeping Systems Updated

We are riding on an ecosystem that is powered by software for various categories and purposes. Hence it becomes extremely important to keep these systems updated. Many harmful attacks often seek to take advantage of vulnerabilities in common applications, including operating systems as well as browsers.

System updates allow bridging the gap and closing down such loopholes, thus making them less vulnerable. This is why you must deploy best practices for employees to always keep their software up to date.

Software updates also include additional features that are enhanced from the previous release.. It can make your employees more productive and improve their user experience. It would also help you manage your remote employees and see that everything is followed through set rules and regulations.

12. Remote Network Security

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Granting your employees remote access enables them to connect to a network from a geographical distance. However, this is where your managers and IT professionals need to make sure that such access is authorized and completely secure.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is thus recommended; however, there have been instances before where an attacker can get access to a VPN.

This is especially a concern for those VPNs that use legacy firewalls. What you can do to prevent this enables network segmentation and Layer 7 access control and patching of internal servers and leveraging advanced threat prevention capabilities such as antivirus to block exploitation attempts.

Here are some more tips for you to follow:

  • Carry out endpoint protection—secure entry points of end-user devices such as desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.
  • Utilize EPP (Endpoint Protection Platforms) that examine every file that enters the network and harness cloud power for an ever-growing database of threat information.
  • Deploy the EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) component. These allow for more advanced threats such as polymorphic attacks, zero-day attacks, and file-less malware.
  • Implement XDR (Extended Detection and Response) that not only protects endpoints but also help you to apply analytics across all of your data.

Your endpoint security software has some key components to make your networks and devices secure. These can include machine-learning classification to detect zero-day threats near real-time and advanced antimalware protection and antivirus to detect and protect multiple endpoint devices and operating systems from malware.

It should also offer you proactive web security to ensure safe browsing along with data classification and data loss prevention.

Lastly, it should contain email and disk encryption to prevent data exfiltration. Your endpoint security software is essential as it offers your team an email gateway to block phishing and social engineering attempts.

It offers actionable threat forensics to allow your administrators to quarantine infections quickly. You can effectively gain insider threat protection to safeguard against malicious and unintentional actions.

13. Security Response Plan

Having an incident response plan is crucial. It adds to your team’s preparedness in case of a virus outbreak or cyber-attack. Your security response plan should include:

  • Preparation stage to review and codify the underlying security policy that informs your incidents response plan.
  • Identification to detect deviations from normal operations in the organizational system.
  • Containment where the immediate goal is to contain the incident from further damages.
  • Eradication where your team must identify the root cause and removal of threats.
  • Recovery where your team brings production systems back online carefully.
  • & lastly, Lessons Learned to remind the team about the incident and retain whatever information possible for preparing them in the future.

The SANS Institute offers its six steps of Incident Response in complete detail on their website through their SANS Institute’s Handler’s Handbook.

I recommend that managers and IT professionals go through these guidelines to devise their own more sophisticated and complex incident response plans.

14. Software Protection

Here are some of the best-hosted endpoint protection solutions available that may pique your interest:

  • Bitdefender GravityZone Ultra
  • ESET Endpoint Protection Standard
  • F-Secure Protection Service for Business
  • Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Protection

15. Vet All Vendors

Vendor screening is an important process through which a business is able to determine the safety of vendors an organization may deal with to carry out business operations. In order to this, you can:

  • Hire vendors with as much diligence as hiring an employee.
  • Consider legal and regulatory implications.
  • Demand for written contracts pertaining to vendor performance.
  • Quickly look over the analytics to see if their performance matches their claims. Hence

Conclusion

According to current trends and forecast, the future of corporate work is bound to see a lot of remote work culture being adopted by various organizations. Hence remote work security is a dire concern that must not be overlooked by corporations.

By following the aforementioned tips and guidelines, I hope they will help you and your organization achieve greater access to more fluid data and follow through with remote work in a safe and protective environment.

I would like to conclude to this post with a quote from Britney Hommertzheim, renowned security specialist of our time, who once said: “As cybersecurity leaders, we have to create our message of influence because security is a culture and you need the business to take place and be part of that security culture.”


About the Author:

Stella Lincoln

Stella Lincoln currently works as a Computer Systems Tutor at Crowd Writer. She has also worked as a Customer Service Representative at Dissertation Assistance, where higher education students can request professionals to write my essay UK to receive expert and specialized support for their subjects and topics.

 
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