Sadly, doing a ‘good thing’ by enforcing mandatory work-from-home policies has opened new doors for hackers. As many U.S. companies tell their employees to stay at home to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, home workers are vulnerable of becoming the weak link in the computer security chain.
Now that thousands of our workforce has shifted to ‘telework’ … the hack-attacks have escalated. Employers and newly remote employees should be prepared for a jump in fraudulent emails about COVID-19. Uploading unproven links in random, unknown emails has exploited flaws in popular software such as Adobe Flash and browsers including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge.
Sad but true - cybercriminals have weaponized some vital software - Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map where it now is filled with malicious software,
Home Networks have become a serious challenge/threat for two high-level security challenges brought about by remote work.
- When working within a “security team” you lose control of the environment in which the users work ... for instance, have they secured their own home Wi-Fi?”
- IT team members MUST gain access to resources required to do their job. This means that your [new company’s] network perimeter must now include your employee's home -or- the coffee shops where they work. Some security programs are ready for this, but some just will not be.
Just be aware that home smart devices - many of which are built without security - are a key point of vulnerability for remote workers. In addition, people working from home are easily distracted, since they are used to working in the office, and likely causes mixing work with personal email and web browsing … and thereby potentially increases the risk of clicking on malware links.
Ways Employers Make “Working at Home” More Secure for Their Company
- Implement a multifactor authentication requirement for privileged users accessing the most sensitive/critical access to Internet-facing services. Multifactor authentication is a security measure requiring a user must provide two or more pieces of ID data (factors) to gain access to a device. This second security measure provides a password as well as a temporary passcode too.
- Ensure that the employee understand how to check common modem and router settings to confirm optimum security settings; recommend updating home Wi-Fi passwords.
- Employees must be watchful of receiving increased emails claiming to be from “senior staff” requesting bank transfers or gift card purchases that are illegitimate.
- Understand that self-isolation can cause normally rational people “to let their guard down” and believe scams. The Secret Service warned Americans about “phishing” - a widely-used scam where emails appear to be from a reputable company, such as a major bank or tech company, seeking victims to hand over sensitive personal information (usernames, passwords and credit card information). Cybercriminals are exploiting the COVID-19 crisis by sending emails appearing to be from legitimate medical and or health organizations. Some examples of this:
- Victims got a fraudulent email from a fake medical organization with attachments purporting to have important information about COVID-19. By clicking the attachment, malware automatically infected their system or prompted the victim to enter their email login credentials, to complete the task.
- Hackers and cybercriminals are all taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak; especially when there is a public health crisis or catastrophe in which people are desperate to find more information.
- Another scheme uses social media to dupe victims into donating to bogus charitable causes. “Criminals are exploiting the charitable spirit of individuals,” according to the advisory.
- A tragic fraud to watch for is “non-delivery scams” where, frauds pose as a “company” selling medical supplies used to prevent or protect against the COVID-19 … demanding payment or deposits up front but never deliver the products.
Since working from home may become more widely popular for many companies … even when isolation is not as critical, employers will be required to ensure that their employees have all the tools needed to do their jobs as well as have the necessary tools to keep company communications (voice and electronic) secure from cyber creeps.
Choosing to work with a virtual team can save jobs in this uncharted environment.
Be prepared and good luck.
We can assist your business connect with your customers during these challenging times.
Remote Employees’ Survival Tips
Looks as if the immense upheaval our culture and businesses have experienced may be the new norm … at least for a while. The crisis presented by Covid-19 has businesses urging, and mandating, that employees work from home. Approximately 25% of the workforce was already working at home by choice, but the new policies leave many employees — and their managers — working from a home office and separated for the first time. If you and your employees have never worked remotely 100% of the time, doing so requires big adjustments.
Shifting to a fully remote team requires creating and implementing the right practices. From the employee’s perspective, the new working remotely ‘normal’ requires rethinking and adjustment to remain productive and tamping down their stress level.
When working remotely, implementing effective guidelines is critical for success.
- Designate a Workspace: It is easier to stay focused if you designate a specific area in your home to get work done. This ‘office’ should provide you with both quiet and privacy.
- Comfortable Environment: Have the right equipment to remain efficient and productive. You must include a desk, telephone, printer, an ergonomic chair, office supplies and a desk lamp. Basics also include a computer and high-speed Internet connection that can support video conferencing.
- Boundaries: Most likely your spouse, children and pets are all in close quarters so establish signals so they’ll know when to leave you alone … when the door is closed, that means that you’re on the phone and can’t disturbed.
- Overcommunicate: Since your traditional office where seeing and talking to co-workers is changed, communication with them from afar remains very critical. Communicate frequently with your boss and clarify what is expected of you. Beyond that, reach out to co-workers and managers regularly through emails or by phone. Then talk with your clients/customers to reassure them you are there.
- Online Tools: Email alternatives (Slack) help workflow and offer social outlets. Telephone conversations remain important. Video teleconferences add another sensory element to your interactions because they enhance team unity and productivity.
- Do Not Overdo It: When working remotely it is easy to lose track of time. So, give yourself a break and take a lunch break and step away from your computer, walk around or step outside. This helps you feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. Pull yourself away, even if it is for just a few minutes.
Employers’ Remote Management Survival Tips
Since it requires a strong communication system to work well, trust is vital when employees work remotely. Whether you schedule regular calls or use apps for video meetings any scheduled team meetings must be treated as seriously as if it a ‘face’ team event.
Considering your team as “local” rather than “remote” allows everyone to adjust to a virtual team dynamic and quickly shift into an alternative work style meant to improve the general level of trust and strength in this new relationship.
To build and maintain a strong working relationship with your remote team set clear parameters from the start since doing so is essential to achieve the intended results. They must have set deliverables and should be manageable with the same expectations from on-site employees.
Security for all business owners must become more important when you require employees working remotely to access company networks and data. Experts recommend that all connections made to the company are done through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that either leverages SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) which encrypt communications from the remote teleworker’s machine. This absolutely ensures that your system and the end user is protected.
Whether your employees use your equipment or their own, their working environment must be 100% secure. Ensure they have the right software in place to protect their hardware and they are fully versed on dealing with malware issues.
To support your virtual team in doing this, establish an online IT support - whether they choose to work in their own homes or in public spaces. Fully protected hardware is the first step in ensuring a secure working environment for remote workers and guarantees trust between the employer and employee.
Utilize Productivity Tools
Multiple team member projects cannot be slipshod. It is very important to make use of the proven tools designed to make work processes quicker, more effective, and less likely to result in error. Some of the most popular and useful productivity tools include:
- Trello: A project management tool but it can be used as a diary, a way of actioning tasks, sharing responsibilities or even as an editorial calendar.
- Slack: Allows for quick instant messages in the place of long email chains and is a much more reactive option for teams who need quick responses or if you need to speak to a team publicly and collect their responses where all can see. It is easier and much less annoying than multiple emails.
- Google Drive / Dropbox: For managing files in shared folders. The bonus many people find with Google Drive is easily compatible with almost any device and you have full access to the Google suite of software tools.
- Evernote: Organize your thoughts into notebooks, to-do lists and more ensuring you can find what you need when you need it. It is great for brainstorming sessions, writing quick blog posts, and keeping your thoughts in one place to look back on when needed.
Choosing to work with a virtual team can save jobs in this uncharted environment. Virtual employees develop strong and long-lasting team relationships and celebrate successes together. Finally, remote working builds a business that exceeds client expectations while retaining valuable, motivated employees on your payroll.
We can assist your business connect with your customers during these challenging times.