The security challenges of the modern workplace

Today’s business world is moving in leaps and bounds, with new technology enabling what is now being labelled as the modern workplace. This is a term used to describe organisations who utilise digital technology and tools to diversify the work environment. Businesses and their employees can operate anywhere, at any time - embracing the shift towards a more flexible work environment.

More companies are offering remote working options for employees, enjoying the benefits of efficiency and increased productivity. With the use of cloud solutions such as Microsoft 365 to collaborate and communicate, both businesses and their employees are reaping the rewards from a modern workplace environment. With bring your own device options, cloud computing, and a lack of security awareness, the modern workplace also has its unique security risks and challenges.

Phishing

Cybercriminals have become increasingly opportunistic in recent years, and hacking attempts are made to look more like legitimate information. Social engineering cyber-attacks, such as phishing emails, links, and websites have increased exponentially. Phishing is the act of sending malicious communication that appears to come from a reputable source, even from internal company sources. However, it’s designed to provide an opening for malicious actors to access or steal sensitive business data or install malware on the target network. In 2020, Australian businesses lost $18 million to scams, demonstrating the cost of this common form of cybercrime.

The solution to protecting your business from phishing is to ensure your employees are educated in identifying phishing emails or websites. Reduce exposure of company contact details online or social media and create company policy around sharing of company details online. Ensure security measures are in place to filter or block incoming phishing emails and use only supported software and devices for business related activities.

Passwords

Unfortunately, passwords are often the weakest link in the security of a modern workplace environment. It’s reasonably common for employees to use weak, easy to guess passwords across several applications or software. While this makes it easy for them to remember how to log on, it is also a security vulnerability that can be maximised by malicious actors. Guessing weak passwords is one of the easiest ways to break into a system and makes up almost 70% or all security breaches. Once a password has been figured out, it’s only a matter of time before cybercriminals gain access to other accounts, putting critical business data at risk.

It’s ideal for password managers to be used, for business related devices and software, as well as ensuring employees are made aware of the risks they take if using weak passwords. Passphrases, words in a sentence like string, can also be a much stronger defence against threats, protecting your business network.

Passwords should be difficult to guess and update regularly, and where possible multi-factor authentication should be used. Multi-factor authentication, the use of a password and another form of verification, is much more advanced security than using passwords alone.

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Personal devices and remote security

Mobile or bring your own devices (BYOD) are used frequently for remote work in the modern workplace. However, when employees use their own devices remotely, it can be a challenge to protect them and the business network from security threats, especially if they’re also being used for personal purposes.

When working remotely, it’s important for employees to be able to access the tools and information they need to do their job, but without proper security measures in place, this can be problematic and lead to your business being exposed to cyber threats. Accessing public Wi-Fi is another security risk, more common now as employees work remotely at home or sites other than the company workplace. Public Wi-Fi is not secure and can be a common way for malicious actors to gain access to devices.

A solution to this security challenge is to have clear security policies in place for the appropriate use of mobile or personal devices when accessing the corporate network and resources. Implement security solutions with encryption for data and communication, so that only authorised and trusted users can access the network.

If employees are using their own devices, monitoring your company network will help to identify traffic and users, to limit the potential of malicious actors finding vulnerabilities. Connecting to cloud-based technology or similar can be done with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or mobile network instead of logging onto public Wi-Fi.

Unauthorised downloads

The modern workplace is all about improving productivity and employee experience, but it is important to ensure protection against cybersecurity events and inform employees about best practice when it comes to security protocols.

Installing applications that haven’t been approved by the security team can have serious repercussions. These downloads can run scripts which take control over devices, or infiltrate networks to spread malware and viruses. Unsafe websites with malware can also infect devices and systems, hidden in ad links or even webpages, so they’re installed without employees realising the danger.

Business systems can be secured with basic tools such as antivirus and antispyware software, but it isn’t enough to just leave security to that level. It’s best practice to have a specific IT administrator appointed to give the go ahead to download applications, and to implement other security measures such as whitelisting, which allows only pre-approved sites to be accessed. Advanced threat protection for endpoint security can be installed on company devices, to protect against complex malware and cyberattacks. In these circumstances, a managed service provider who specialises in security for the modern workplace can be critical to ensuring all employees and devices are protected.

The right tools

To keep improving productivity and build a modern work environment, it is imperative to provide the right technology tools. A company needs to look after both its mission-critical data and employees who need to access this data. Cloud-based technology is more popular than ever, with over half of over half of Australian businesses using paid cloud computing. Communication tools such as Microsoft Teams allow employees to interact and collaborate securely, keeping file sharing within dedicated teams and ensuring security policies are respected.

The modern workplace is here to stay and businesses making this digital transformation need the right guidance and expertise to ensure their transition is secure and seamless. Speak to the modern office experts at Essential Tech today to find out how your business can benefit from being a modern workplace and always stay secure.

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