The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed how employees across the country work and live. That is, the past year saw a substantial proportion of the workforce transition to remote operations. Looking ahead, a recent study found that the majority of remote employees (83%) are wanting to continue working from home in some capacity. As a result, nearly half (45%) of employers are planning to implement hybrid work arrangements in the near future. Such arrangements allow for employees to split their time between working remotely and on-site. For example, employees may work in the office every Monday and stay remote for the remainder of the week.
While hybrid work models can offer various benefits to both employers and their workforces, these arrangements also carry unique cybersecurity risks. First, remote work environments often provide less secure network settings than on-site setups, leaving employees more vulnerable to cloud-based cyberattacks. In fact, such attacks have skyrocketed by over 600% since the pandemic began.
What’s worse, by alternating between remote and on-site networks, employees could potentially expose a greater proportion of workplace technology and assets amid a cyber incident. In other words, if an employee unknowingly has their laptop hacked by cybercriminals while working remotely and connects that device to an on-site network a few days later while working in the office, all workplace technology is then at risk of being compromised by the hackers.
If you are considering a hybrid work model within your organization, consider these best practices to help minimize cybersecurity exposures:
- Utilize a virtual private network (VPN). Having a VPN provides your employees with a private, protected network connection—both remotely and on-site. VPNs offer various cybersecurity features, such as hiding users’ IP addresses, encrypting data transfers and masking users’ locations. If you don’t already have a VPN, this is a crucial step in developing a secure hybrid work model, as it can reduce network vulnerabilities when employees work remotely. If you already have a VPN, be sure it is fully patched.
- Train employees. Require staff to participate in routine cybersecurity training. This training should help employees stay up to date on the latest cyberthreats, emerging attack methods and top tips for protecting against these concerns. Additionally, this training should address specific risks related to hybrid work arrangements and how to properly mitigate them.
- Safeguard all devices. Make sure all workplace devices—including those used remotely—are equipped with adequate security software (e.g., antivirus programs, firewalls, endpoint detection and response systems, and patch management products). Ensure this software is updated as needed to maintain its effectiveness.
- Foster open communication. Lastly, encourage employees to consult the IT department if they encounter any cybersecurity issues or suspect a potential cyberattack.