There are no guarantees in life, which means your business needs to be prepared for any eventuality. Preparing your teams for long-term remote work is dramatically different from creating one-off work from home procedures. This is particularly true if you are forced to mandate remote work without advance notice due to a natural disaster or a health-related quarantine. Companies are also recognizing compelling benefits from allowing regular days for staff members to work remotely, with the practice growing over 91% in the past 10 years. With all signs pointing towards a regular remote work reality, it is vital that you review your current security and network access procedures. 

Remote Access: Not Just for Developers Anymore

Incorrectly deploying remote access services for your users can introduce serious cybersecurity risks. With the regular use of webmail, and the use of remote desktop and other access portals accelerating in the workplace, you need the confidence of knowing that the systems you are deploying are protected against most cybersecurity attacks, and that your monitoring capabilities can detect and block dangerous internet traffic before it reaches your core network. In the past, remote access to core servers and applications was primarily limited to network administrators, developers and other power users. In today’s environment, nearly every user can connect to network services and access sensitive data from anywhere in the world. An expanded remote workforce increases the possibility of a breach or a brute force attack that could take over your network and force an immediate response.

Systems with Non-Secure RDP Access Are More Susceptible to Threats

Remote desktop protocol (RDP) is both an incredibly powerful tool and an extremely dangerous one. A recent study by Rapid 7, a computer security software and consulting company, found that more than 4.1 million endpoints have terminal services exposed to the internet. That includes providing remote control of everything from the keyboard and mouse to desktop access — a direct tunnel into your business network. Even when RDP is disabled at the user level, administrators are often able to leverage this type of tool to make changes to a user’s system in a support capacity. This leaves systems particularly vulnerable to malware and ransomware distribution, as well as zero-day exploits. Systems with insecure remote access services are particularly at risk of succumbing to brute force attacks against administrative passwords.

Confidently Securing Endpoints

For many years, the security experts at LBMC Information Security have encouraged the implementation of multi-factor authentication. But don’t just take it from us: well-known internet security company Kaspersky also recommends protecting your network and devices with advanced two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor (MFA) authentication. This can take a variety of forms, including authenticating remote logins via SMS text message or through a physical hardware key. All of these options require some level of advance notice that they will be needed. Creating procedures for remote working and enabling the needed access on the fly in the event of an incident could leave sensitive data and critical systems vulnerable to compromise, which would have a devastating impact on your business — frustrating staff members, decimating productivity and leaving your customers wondering what has happened. While a few staff members might be willing to implant a biochip under their skin for remote authentication, chances are that most employees would prefer a less permanent but similarly secure solution to your remote access security issues.

Preparing to Launch Remote Work Procedures

From creating a work-from-home policy that takes a user’s needs into consideration to defining your preferred access portals, there is a great deal of time and effort required to prepare for an incident that necessitates large-scale, long-term working from home. System backup and disaster recovery procedures help ensure that you are able to restore critical systems and data in the event of a cybersecurity incident. While these strategies can help you relaunch your business operations from a new location, they likely do not address the situation of an epidemic or natural disaster where a central gathering location for the workforce is unavailable.

Your business continuity strategies should take this eventuality into account.  The additional considerations required to provide remote access for all users are extensive. Simply ensuring that each of your business users has access to secure devices and high-speed internet can be a challenge for larger organizations. Start now to develop your remote working strategy.  Once your strategy has been installed, conduct a remote work simulation to confirm that users are able to work effectively using the solutions you’ve provided.  That way, when disaster strikes, your business and your personnel will be in a position to continue operations.

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