When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many businesses came to a grinding halt, unsure of what the future would hold. However, the show must go on, so to keep operations going, many companies were forced to turn to a remote workforce. This seemed like a temporary solution, but as we go into the next year, the pandemic is still a threat, and it seems that remote work may be here to stay.
The good news is that many companies have realized that a remote workforce can be just as productive as an in-house staff. The bad news is that when employees work from home, they can tend to forget about cybersecurity, and this is when hackers step in. As a project management company that has access to corporate and customer data, protecting your information is as or more important than in other industries. Let’s look at the common threats to a remote workforce and how to overcome these pitfalls.
Understand the Threat
According to experts, organizations that have switched to a remote workforce in 2020 are now more at risk of cybercrime than ever. In most cases, this isn’t because employees don’t care, but that they aren’t educated on the risks and how to do their part to avoid them. In fact, in a recent study, 18% of companies surveyed said that they didn’t even see cybersecurity as a priority, and when management doesn’t care, that ignorance trickles down.
Sometimes, to truly convince project managers of the dangers of ignoring cybersecurity, they must be made aware of the potential damage that ignoring the threats could cause. Start with the damage to your reputation. As a project manager, being known as the individual who permitted his team to use weak passwords and allowed a major data breach could mean the end of your career.
Look at the bigger picture as well. If it becomes public knowledge that the organization you work for has fallen victim to a cybercrime, they could lose business and be required to pay major fines. The average cost to repair a business after a data breach is upwards of $8 million. For a smaller business, this could be too much to take and may result in layoffs and a reduction in your team.
Make a Plan
This is why it is important to secure your business first, so you are not caught off guard when a cyber threat occurs, and you can do that by completing a risk assessment and business continuity plan. Essentially, these are plans that you put in place now to mitigate the damage caused by a potential threat in the future. You should have a plan of action for every type of risk that could occur, including utility outages, terrorist attacks, and of course, cyberattacks.
Form a group of experts and consider all potential threats and what steps will be taken immediately to limit the damage and keep your business moving forward. You should have an IT or security professional as part of this group who is educated on current issues and can provide the best solutions. This individual should also be aware of all upcoming security trends, including new scams and viruses, and the technology they will need to thwart these threats.
Start creating this continuity plan now so you won’t be sorry later.
Staying Secure at Home
Even if you have a plan in place, it is still essential that you train your remote employees on proper cybersecurity tactics and ensure that they are putting these strategies in place at home. One of the reasons for the surge in cybercrimes during this remote revolution is that employees are no longer protected by the security blanket put in place by the IT team at the corporate office. Instead, employees are working from home using their own personal networks, and if they are not protected, a virus could easily transfer from a personal device to a company machine, and by the time that happens, the damage is done.
This is why you need to ensure that all employees are keeping risks at bay by having antivirus software with weekly scans installed on their computers. This software should be updated whenever a new version is available, so they are fighting off the newest threats. It is also a good idea to encourage employees to put their devices on a Virtual Private Network, as a VPN effectively encrypts all incoming data so it cannot be used if stolen.
To stay connected and ensure all tasks are completed accordingly, many project management teams are turning to digital resources, including project management and collaboration software such as Trello, Slack, and Google Docs. However, while these programs may have their perks, especially for remote teams, they are also notoriously susceptible to cybercrime. In fact, in 2016, the company Slack was easily hacked, and the criminals were able to steal confidential documents.
As a project management team, you may not be able to tell if a third party can be easily manipulated, but you can do your part to secure your data when you use these programs. Most important is the implementation of strong passwords that include a detailed mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. For extra security, pair the password with a form of two-factor authentication, which is often an additional code sent to a separate device. Also, if an employee with access to sensitive data leaves the company, be sure to restrict their access.
Again, hackers are very much aware that 42% of the labor force is currently working remotely, and they are doing everything they can to take advantage, so train your team on the common threats. When government COVID-19 restrictions allow, many people are still leaving the house to work from coffee shops and other public places, but caution is necessary, especially when using public Wi-Fi.
The Man-in-the-Middle attack is a common threat in public places. Essentially, this is a fake Wi-Fi network set up to look like the authentic Wi-Fi used by the establishment. When the user unknowingly connects to the fake network, they are connecting directly to the hacker who can then steal the data on their device. To avoid this threat, employees should always ask the business owner for the proper Wi-FI network and always have their VPN engaged.
Another common scam being used these days is the phishing email, which aims to manipulate the emotions of its recipient in hopes that they will click the malicious link or attachment included within, and by doing so, their device becomes infected by malware. For instance, a phishing email could appear to be from a network administrator at your job, asking you to click a link for security. Many phishing emails are also taking advantage of the pandemic by promising information about free tests or vaccines. It is important to remind your team that these types of emails exist and that a link or attachment should never be opened unless the recipient is assured by management that it is safe.
In these strange times, project management teams have enough concerns to deal with. Take the proper precautions, educate your staff on the risks, and cybercrime doesn’t have to be one of them.