The pandemic was a significant driver behind remote workforces, hybrid work environments, and the gig economy. As employees and employers acclimated to working from home, many came to appreciate the benefits and embrace the practice as a business norm. Although teleworking remains a coveted workplace benefit, the process was chaotic. Many businesses failed to understand how drastically the pandemic would alter the work environment. As such, they lacked adequate transition plans. Cybercriminals were all too aware of this and immediately pounced to capitalize on the confusion.

Remote Employee Cyber Vulnerabilities

Many companies developed remote work policies following COVID-19, allowing teleworking full- or part-time. However, these guidelines typically address communication challenges, employee training, and productivity expectations while often overlooking unique home-office cybersecurity challenges.

Personal Device Security Risks

Employees often use their personal laptops and smartphones when working from home. These devices don’t offer as robust security as in-office equipment. Many workplaces protect their digital assets and network with security measures and technology that create a cybersecurity perimeter around the building. In comparison, many home Wi-Fi networks have weak or easily guessed passwords. Even with a unique password, many homeowners share it with guests, weakening its protection. It’s also much easier for a cybercriminal to brute force their way into a home network than a company one with multi-layered protections.

Inadvertent Cyber Risks Related to Using Company Devices Outside the Office

Cybercriminals can still take advantage of remote employees even if businesses provide workers with secured devices. For example, employees are likely to use a computer, tablet, or smartphone while off the clock to visit social media sites, shop online, or check their personal email. They may allow other household members to use the device as well, such as if their child needs to write a research paper or another family member needs to print a document.

They may also take the device out of the house to answer work emails while waiting in lines or at a doctor’s office. Another common reason to travel with a work device is to remain accessible should a work question occur while away from the home office. Unfortunately, employees often must use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to access their email or open documents shared via the cloud. Unsecured networks are far more susceptible to cyberattacks.

Establish and Cultivate Best Practices with Frequent Cybersecurity Training

Most successful data breaches are the result of human error. Without adequate training, employees can’t recognize and avoid phishing, smishing, and vishing tactics. Cybersecurity training should be ongoing to keep employees informed about evolving cybercriminal strategies. Contact Windermere Insurance Group to explore strategies that mitigate cyber liability in your remote workforce.