Common Vulnerabilities Associated With Remote Access

Last year, enterprise IT security got turned on its head. As the world adjusted to working from home, IT teams worked overtime to enable remote access for millions of employees.

This transition went smoothly for most organizations, but many security gaps still remain almost a year later. The recent SolarWinds data breach is a concerning example of just how vulnerable organizations are to malicious activity in our ever-evolving risk environment. 

Here’s a breakdown of the most common vulnerabilities associated with remote access:

1. Lack of established protocols

Last year, most IT security teams were forced to rapidly implement ad hoc solutions for remote access during an unpredictable time. The result is a lack of well-defined remote work cybersecurity policies at many organizations. 

Documenting policies, protocols, and authorized software is the first step in mitigating risk throughout your attack surface. From there, you can start to enforce changes that will improve security performance across your expanding digital ecosystem. 

2.  Unsecured networks

Now that your team is remote, your employees are all network administrators. Are their home networks secure? 

The answer to this question keeps IT security pros up at night. Many home internet users don’t even secure their networks with basic password protection. Others connect to public networks without a VPN. 

It’s no surprise that work from home-remote office networks are 3.5x more likely to have at least one family of malware, and 7.5x more likely to have five or more. That kind of exposure can be catastrophic. 

Bringing cybersecurity to the top-of-mind for your remote workforce is important in successfully educating employees on the new risks their work environment presents. Conducting training for security best practices, as well as discussing your organization’s cybersecurity standing and vulnerabilities with the entire workforce are both potential ways to combat network threats.

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3. Phishing

Social engineering has a new dimension now that employees aren’t in the same physical space. It’s much easier to impersonate a colleague when they’re not sitting next to you, and in the current stressful environment some emotionally driven phishing emails are working better now than ever before. 

To make matters worse, phishing attacks have become more common and more sophisticated at a time when employees are increasingly distracted.

Now’s the time to double down on training and make verifying messages a normal practice. A regime of phishing tests and education can make all the difference when it comes to preventing costly breaches. 

4. Unauthorized apps

Unauthorized software is a common entrypoint for ransomware attacks. Monitoring software and integrations is very important, especially when workers are at home with others who may be installing software on their devices. 

Making proactive decisions about your tech stack can go a long way toward preventing unauthorized app use. For example, by making a secure video chatting or collaboration tool available, you reduce the likelihood of employees going out of their way to install their own (less secure) solutions. 

In addition, implementing single sign-on technology can help IT security teams control access and set security permissions across multiple applications. 

5. Unauthorized access to devices

When the only devices capable of accessing sensitive data are in the same building, it’s relatively easy to keep them under lock and key. 

But with remote work and the physical locations of your workforce and sensitive information further apart, the chances of unauthorized users accessing sensitive data through employees’ computers, phones, and tablets increases exponentially

Any machine that is capable of connecting to your network should be protected using multi-factor authentication, automatic session timeouts, and access monitoring to prevent unauthorized users from getting into the data, even if they have the device. 

What's next?

IT security teams are still playing catchup when it comes to securing the remote workforce. We’re committed to making their jobs easier through our BitSight Security Ratings solutions for monitoring, managing, and mitigating cyber risks. Read our research to learn more about the unique risks of work from home-remote office networks and what to do next to mitigate the latest security threats.