New cyber risks to small businesses working remotely right now
To help manage the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), many businesses have mandated or are encouraging their employees to work from home. Never before have we seen such a large percentage of the workforce doing their jobs from home. This represents some significant security challenges small businesses could face.
Many applications that support remote working have already reported additional stress on their resources with some experiencing periodic outages.
It is no surprise that cybercriminals prey on victims in their most vulnerable moments, so they have been quick to take advantage of the situation. It’s important for business owners and employees to recognize the threats and know what to do about them.
Here are some of the risks small businesses may face with their employees working remotely
1. Phishing emails
As working from home has increased, there has been an influx of coronavirus-themed phishing emails.
Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the fact that people are hungry for information and updates about the spread of the virus. Many of them have been sending out phishing emails with information on COVID-19 such as vaccines, tax refunds, preventive measures from the ‘World Health Organization,’ and more.
Clicking on links or attachments within such emails takes victims to a fraudulent page that harvests their information, including login credentials and financial and tax information.
2. VPN vulnerabilities
Remote working, in most cases, involves the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Only a few months ago, several VPN appliances were found to have critical vulnerabilities, for which patches were released. Since VPN devices are internet-facing, it makes it easy for attackers to scan the internet for their vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities give attackers remote access to a network without login credentials.
3. Overworked IT staff
Many organizations are dealing with overworked IT staffs, making it harder for them to detect issues or manage resources. Additionally, while employees are working remotely, IT professionals may be more focused on enabling ease-of-use processes for company employees instead of being on the lookout for security threats.
What can businesses do to protect themselves from COVID-19 cyber risks?
- Businesses should be alert for potential incoming phishing emails and provide training to workers to help them spot and manage such emails. Use these tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help inform yourself and your employees about phishing emails.
- Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) on user accounts, especially administrator accounts. This provides an extra layer of protection by requiring users to supply evidence that they are allowed access. Typically this is in the form of personal information that only the correct user would know.
- Make sure all VPN hardware and software is patched and up-to-date. A patch, by technical definition, is a software or firmware add-on that’s designed to fix bugs and security vulnerabilities.
- Make sure anti-malware software, IDS/IPS (Intrusion Detection/Prevention Software), etc., is up-to-date.
- Close all unnecessary open ports. In this case, we’re talking about physical and virtual ports, which you can learn more about here.
- Only use applications that are recommended and vetted by the business.
- As much as possible, prevent your employees from connecting their personal devices to corporate networks unless they are segmented or operate in a testing, or ‘sandbox,’ environment to prevent cross-contamination.
For more information on working effectively from home, check out resources from the SANS institute and the Hiscox blog on how working from home could help your company and employees.