Displacement has upended the old ways we used to perform work. This isn’t news. As office happy hours have moved to Zoom and pajama pants have become standard working attire, however, one element from the pre-pandemic world needs to stay rigid and not relax in the slightest.
One word, six syllables, 13 letters, and infinite vulnerabilities: cybersecurity.
While many employees and companies are continuing to work from home in 2021, it’s important to not forget about taking appropriate and effective security measures. According to a report by Statista, 540 data breaches were reported in the first half of 2020. Cybercriminals see opportunity in crisis, and COVID-19 has been good for business. Therefore, organizations need to stay alert and remain vigilant when it comes to data privacy and security measures.
Deeper than awareness
It’s easy to understand why cybersecurity may not be top of mind as we struggle through the umpteenth month of this global pandemic—people believe they have more pressing concerns than firewalls and multifactor authentication. But that’s also precisely why attentive, proactive cybersecurity is so important these days: Smart hackers are a patient bunch and are willing to lie low until it’s the perfect time to strike with a stealthy attack. When you are distracted and your defenses are down, that’s when a cybercriminal pounces.
We all know that working from home tends to be a more casual experience than a pre-pandemic workday, but that relaxed environment should not invite dangerous security habits to take hold. One important tip is to keep work discussions exclusively on work email channels. Resist the urge to cross wires with personal email accounts in the name of efficiency. Your personal email tends to be much more vulnerable to phishing attacks and infiltration by cybercriminals.
Consider also how frightened people can make irrational decisions. Hackers know that clickbait subject lines about vaccines, coronavirus updates, and new government information can inspire unsuspecting users to open malicious links. Be wary and don’t click on untrustworthy messages from unknown senders. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Proper data protection goes much deeper than awareness.
One step ahead
Advancements in technology and innovative ideas have allowed for widespread social connections and, to some degree, successful management of the coronavirus crisis. In that way, technology has been a blessing. The curse? Our growing collective dependence on—and unquestioning trust in—these digital platforms has increased the risk of cyberattacks multifold (while also bringing data collection and privacy concerns into sharper focus).
To ensure that your company is proactively protected from the onslaught of potential cyber vulnerabilities, consider these three simple actions to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals:
1. Audit. You don’t know what’s at risk if you don’t know what data protection protocols you currently have in place, so a good first step is to audit your data security measures to ensure that you comprehend the landscape and understand what might need fixing as you move forward.
“Know your data,” advises Pete Thurston, chief product and solutions officer at security and governance provider RevCult. “Perform a full data classification exercise so you know what data points are being stored in your CRM system and what you’re trying to protect. Group information into risk levels and the corresponding security controls required for protection.”
2. Prepare. This seems easy enough, but many companies tend to overlook basic upkeep of their security measures and protocols. Staying abreast of new developments and making nimble adjustments is critical, so make it a priority to implement and update your security system.
For instance, switch to a virtual private network (VPN) or add multifactor authentication to emails if you hadn’t established them before. Set dates on the calendar to update your passwords every so-many weeks or months. Nurture your security stance so that it works for you, not against you.
3. Educate. As you undoubtedly know, your team is your best line of defense when it comes to data protection. Continuously educate them on the most recent phishing and security scams, and work to implement security awareness training at regular intervals. The landscape is always shifting, so learning is a never-ending endeavor.
According to a report by Tessian, 82% of IT leaders believe their company is at greater risk of phishing attacks when employees work away from the office, which means keeping data secure is more critical than ever. The easy solution is security awareness training, which reduces a company’s risk of a cybersecurity incident by up to 70%.
Many of us will remain stuck working from home for the foreseeable future; there isn’t much we can do to circumvent that reality. But that doesn’t mean our work cybersecurity measures need to stay stuck in neutral—there’s plenty we can do to stay safe. To drive our businesses forward and stay ahead of the cybersecurity curve, let’s make vigilant data protection a top priority. Once we finally can return to our offices, our efforts during this time will only make us stronger and nimbler to meet future challenges.