The Financial Conduct Authority this week announced plans to evaluate firms considering remote or hybrid working on a case-by-case basis, saying firms will be required to prove that the remote working does not – or is unlikely to – cause detriment to consumers, damage the integrity of the market, increase the risk of financial crime and reduce competition.
Cybersecurity is one of the issues that IT experts have drawn attention to as hybrid working becomes more commonplace. Remote workers may be without the data and network protection they have in the office and businesses IT support can’t easily access hardware and afflicted computers when remote.
According the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses, smaller enterprises are collectively subject to almost 10,000 cyber-attacks a day. One in five small firms say they’ve suffered a cyber attack in the last two years. What’s more, the annual cost of such IT security attacks to the small business community is estimated to be £4.5 billion.
To help businesses stay secure as they operate non-uniform working models, Charlie Acfield, Technical IT Director at IT support experts Totality Services shares the most prominent cybersecurity risks that companies face and tips on how to mitigate them below. He says: “Traditionally, when company systems were only used and accessed in the office, the risks were more straightforward to mitigate as control was possible over the entire IT stack. With the change to more remote and flexible work practices, technology can help by protecting the methods of data access as well as the endpoints themselves, whether they be company-owned, personal (BYOD) or mobiles.”
Cyber security risks from hybrid working
- Remote company data access: Naturally, this creates the most prominent risks from hybrid working with the necessity to access company data remotely, whether this be in the Cloud or via remotely connecting back in to the corporate network. When working remotely or logging into public networks, risks can increase and IT can’t control the network and the associated security settings.
- Personal/un-managed device usage: There is increasingly a requirement to allow staff access to data from personal, un-managed devices on unknown and potentially insecure networks which can all carry risk. Employers may not have taken sufficient, if any, security measures such as continually updating device software, using strong enough passwords and/or Multi-Factor Authentication, meaning the device and company data is at a higher risk.
- On-site business applications: Particularly problematic are legacy line-of-business applications which more often than not reside on on-premise company servers. As such, this can be complicated to provide efficient and secure access to those staff and devices operating remotely.
What steps can companies take to mitigate the risks?
As with securing all environments, a layered approach should be taken that builds up protection from the data source through to the endpoint where possible.
- Protect cloud platforms: Cloud platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace should be protected by company policies such as enforcing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), encryption and preventing data being downloaded to unknown/personal devices.
- Device security measures: Any device being used to access company data should be protected beyond the boundary of the corporate network with services such as DNS protection or secure, always-on VPN back in to the office or data centre.
- DNS protection is a solution that can be installed on laptops, PCs and Macs and makes sure that the websites accessed are legitimate. DNS protection helps to ensure that any login credentials input into websites is private and secure.
- Migrate on-premise applications: On-premise applications can often be migrated to cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktops which can provide far greater security and flexibility than is possible on traditional corporate networks and servers.