15 Feb Managing Tech Security Trends in Hybrid Work Environments
If there’s one trend that seems to be taking every business by storm right now, it’s hybrid working. A recent report from Accenture revealed that 83% of employees want to access a “hybrid model”, which allows for remote work to happen at least 25% of the time.
Hybrid work has a number of benefits to offer when implemented correctly. In a hybrid environment, employees have the freedom to work from home when they need to reduce the distractions of the office, or they want to avoid the annoying daily commute. Many companies have found their staff members are generally more productive when working remotely.
What’s more, hybrid environments give teams the power to come into the office when they need to collaborate with staff in-person or interact with project face-to-face.
Essentially, it’s the “best of both worlds”. It’s no wonder around 80% of leaders say their company is currently using a hybrid work model.
Hybrid Work and Security
While the overwhelming majority of professionals consider hybrid work to be the perfect alternative to the traditional work model, or the 100% remote workforce, there are some challenges. For instance, approximately 54% of employees have said they’ve lost productivity due to a connectivity or network access issue in the past. Another 21% of leaders cite home security and the leakage of sensitive company information among their biggest challenges.
With more people connecting to your business from “outside the office”, there’s a clear issue to consider for today’s brands. Cyber security issues have already been rising in recent years, with local governments saying attacks have risen by 58.5% since 2020. What’s more, the cost per ransomware event increased to $125,697.
Combine the rise of cyber security issues in general with the unique challenges hybrid work brings, and companies find themselves facing a new concern when purchasing technologies and tools for the modern workforce. Whether you’re investing in CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) or UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), you’ll need access to the right security too.
What kind of risks do hybrid workplaces face?
Although hybrid working presents a number of benefits in the right circumstances, working from home, or anywhere outside of a secured business environment, presents some issues. Greater reliance on technology and the cloud means there are significant cyber security challenges to overcome before you can begin to leverage the benefits of hybrid working, such as:
Remote connectivity and infrastructure:
To allow for hybrid working, companies need to rely on cloud technology and remote connectivity for staff. Ultimately, this means employees are consistently connecting to critical business tools from connection points which may or may not be fully secure.
Companies can implement policies and training to assist employees in making the right connection decisions or use VPN technology to minimize some of the threats. However, many criminals are aware of this strategy, which is why the number of attacks on VPN gateways and Windows Remote Desktop protocol instances are rising.
When employees are working remotely, you can’t have someone on-hand watching over their shoulder and making sure they’re performing “safely”. While this is difficult to do in the office too, hybrid working strategies place more pressure on the ability to rely on employees to follow security and safety protocols.
In a hybrid or remote working environment, workers need to take more responsibility for their own cyber security, using strong passwords, patching version updates on their technology, and avoiding potential threats. The right UCaaS and CCaaS technology can help with this to some degree, providing tools for tracking compliance and rolling out software updates remotely. However, it’s still up to employees to protect against various phishing and ransomware attacks on their end.
Unpredictable networks and devices
Public networks are inherently more vulnerable than the ones available in a business landscape. While team members can certainly try to use secured network connections, there’s less protection in place than you’d expect within an office environment. Employees moving from the safe haven of secure office networks, firewalls, and network monitoring of the office into a remote environment are going to be facing a higher degree of risk.
There’s even a chance your employee could end up using devices which are stolen, lost, or broken during their time working outside of the office. This provides criminals with yet another way to access secure business information.
How can companies manage risk in a hybrid workplace?
The security risks involved with hybrid working are one of the reasons why many companies failed to make any significant shift towards remote working until the pandemic hit in 2020. However, these issues don’t have to be as restrictive as they seem. There can be security risks in any business organization. The key to success is learning how to manage these issues.
Step 1: Invest in Security Awareness
The unfortunate truth is that most of the time, it’s the human element which presents the greatest risk in any digital environment. A simple mistake from a person on your team, like downloading the wrong app, or clicking on a dangerous file can lead to a huge security breach.
While you can’t guarantee a professional in your team will never make a mistake, particularly as criminals find new and clever way to trick them – you can provide the right training. Setting up training strategies and appropriate policies for secure interactions is absolutely crucial.
Begin your training with cyber security awareness – discussing the common issues that employees might face, like unpredictable files or phishing emails. Next, make sure your team members know what to do when they encounter a potential risk. For instance, can they report the issue to someone, and how do they deal with the threat in the moment?
You can even implement bots and FAQ systems into many UCaaS tools to immediately answer any questions your professionals might have about security concerns.
Step 2: Choose the right Communication Tools
For many employees in the hybrid workforce, the UCaaS and CCaaS environment are quickly emerging as the “central workplace”, for collaborating with teams and accessing information wherever they are. These hubs of synchronous and asynchronous communication make it easy to share information at speed and keep staff on the same page.
Choosing communication tools for CCaaS and UCaaS which already have security solutions built-in can help to make your life a lot easier. For instance, there are many tools on the market today which offer things like multi-factor authentication, to ensure team members have to use multiple forms of information to access sensitive files – not just one password.
Some advanced solutions can even come with biometric and AI tools, which only allow access to certain files when a certain voice print is detected. Most solutions also allow for the careful structure of data management and storage solutions, so you can easily determine where backup versions of data should be stored – just in case.
If you’re issuing dedicated tools for communication to your employees, you can also consider working with technology providers which allow you to remotely access these devices, wipe any information which might be sensitive, or issue updates whenever necessary.
Step 3: Be Cautious with Employee Privileges
Since the majority of threats to business security in the hybrid working space come from the professionals in your team, it’s important to ensure only certain people have access to sensitive data. As tempting as it might be to provide team members with additional power in some cases, it’s rarely the right step for a lot of hybrid teams.
Unfortunately, updating privileges can create significant vulnerabilities, so it’s best to avoid this practice whenever possible. The problem with this process is that your employees can end up making security issues worse by changing too much.
Additionally, people with higher privileges may have access to a greater amount of sensitive data. The more people with access to sensitive data, the more potential “access points” you’ll need to protect in your company.
Step 4: Invest in Security Technology
As mentioned above, there are many UCaaS and CCaaS solutions on the market today which come with security solutions built-in, to help reduce the threat to employees. However, there are additional tools and systems you can implement to further secure and support your team. Ideally, these solutions should integrate naturally with the solutions you’re already using.
Check whether your UCaaS or CCaaS solution has an open environment, or access to various integrations when you’re choosing the technology. From there, you can begin to look into essentials for the hybrid workforce, such as:
- VPN: A virtual private network can be used alongside remote desktop access tools to secure links between remote workers and the office. This helps to create a secure line for data travel through the office network and allows employees to access company data and specific devices or machines in a more secure way.
- Monitoring tools: Monitoring and analytics tools help you to track the performance of certain tools and devices and ensure that they remain secure. Some monitoring tools make it easier to examine which apps and tools your teams access, so you know whether they’re using anything deemed “unsecure” by your IT team. You can also use similar tools for rolling out patches to team members remotely.
- Password tools: There are various kinds of password tools which can help to make your workplace more secure. For instance, you might give your team members access to a password manager, which allows them to store a number of complicated passwords under a single password, so they don’t have to remember as many codes. Multi-factor authentication tools can also be useful, as they allow you to go beyond the basics of just “setting a password”.
Depending on your company and its security needs, you might consider looking into other specialized solutions for secure connections, like SD-WAN technology.
Step 5: Develop an Incident Response Plan
Finally, no matter how carefully you plan to protect your business from various security problems in the age of hybrid work, there’s always a risk something could go wrong. If someone in your team does accidentally let some information slip, or clicks on the wrong application, you need to determine how you’re going to respond.
Think about the steps you can implement to keep the impact on your business and consumers as small as possible. For instance, having additional backups of data in a local data center should mean you can remotely wipe information from a stolen device without having to worry about too much business downtime.
Make sure all of your employees are informed about the role they have to play in protecting the company, whether they’re working remotely, or in-house. A complete set of policies should be in place to highlight where issues need to be reported, and how certain breaches should be dealt with in a host of scenarios. The more informed and prepared your business is, the less likely it is you’ll end up with a significant security problem.
Staying Secure in the Age of Hybrid Work
As mentioned above, the potential of hybrid work is significant, when it’s accessed correctly. As companies continue to explore new opportunities for flexible work styles, many of the top, most talented people in the country say they wouldn’t be willing to work for an employer who doesn’t offer at least some form of remote or hybrid working opportunity.
Going ahead, there’s no doubt you’ll need to prepare for a hybrid working environment. This means finding a way to enable and empower your team correctly. The steps above will help you to make some of the initial steps required to secure your team. However, remember that working with some of the best vendors on your technology stack will also make a significant difference.
Whether you’re investing in VoIP connections, comprehensive UCaaS solutions, or an end-to-end contact centre in the cloud, do your research to find the most secure and compliant solution for your hybrid workforce.