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As workers increasingly use personal devices in the course of their workday, an inviting pathway has emerged for cybercriminals seeking access to your company’s sensitive data. Research shows that a significant number of data security personnel, as well as many senior executives, are aware of the possible security risks that come with the increasingly popular remote and hybrid work options. 

According to the FTI Consulting report, “The Most Valuable, Vulnerable Commodity: Data Establishes a New Era of Digital Insights & Risk Management,” 91% of data security personnel have personally experienced the negative implications posed by remote and hybrid work.

The report further states that: 

  • 45% believe that working remotely or using the hybrid model has increased the risk of data breaches. 
  • 41% have reported data shared on devices, networks, and systems that do not comply with their security standards. 
  • 38% of respondents felt their business is more vulnerable to malicious acts due to remote working and the potential avenues for unauthorized access to company data. 

In fact, the digital risk is quickly becoming a higher concern than other, more traditional sources of company risk. 

Research Shows…

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies drastically switched to remote work schedules in a very short timeframe with the primary goal of safeguarding their employees’ well-being. Employers reluctant to lose valued workers by forcing them to return to the office have allowed remote work to become a standard option in many occupations. 

Unfortunately, this has had the predictable effect of causing a corresponding increase in cybersecurity incidents by 238%, according to a 2022 Alliance Virtual Offices report.

Available online data is increasing not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of variety. With more sophisticated tools and platforms supporting remote collaboration, a diversity of new data types and formats has surfaced. This can be a great resource for businesses if it is handled responsibly. However, it also has the potential for disastrous consequences without proper precautions.

Companies with remote employees frequently allow their staff to use their own devices instead of those provided by the company. These “Bring Your Own Device” (B.Y.O.D.) policies present huge security risks. Unfortunately, personal devices can be a security risk as they usually come with vulnerabilities like outdated software and insufficient network controls, making it difficult for security specialists to protect company data from potential threats. 

Cybercriminals can find methods of getting personal data from devices faster than the companies can protect it, as is indicative of their advanced tactics and strategies. Criminals are shifting their efforts to exploit those vulnerabilities by altering how they target employees. 

Where businesses have spent decades safeguarding their digital assets from cyber threats like ransomware attacks and data breaches with firewalls and intrusion detection systems, employees are now working outside the perimeter of those protections. Therefore, it may be necessary to have BYOD policies allowing employees to access company networks on their personal laptops, smartphones, or tablets, provided they have sufficient protection.

Remote Working Cybersecurity Risks

Telecommuting increases the chances of data breaches, as there are multiple threats associated with working from home. Businesses should be aware of the most common potential cyber risks and have sufficient protection measures in place.

The areas of growing concern include the following:

  • Increased attack surfaces
  • Shortage of security talent
  • Insufficient security staff oversight
  • Risky data practices 
  • Susceptible to phishing 
  • Vulnerable unsecured hardware
  • Vulnerable unsecured networks
  • Access and enabling technology vulnerabilities

The effects of poor security practices can be extreme. Studies show that companies with more than 80% of their employees working remotely incurred a loss of $5.1 million due to data breaches in 2022. Companies with a smaller portion of their staff (20%) working remotely paid an average of $4 million, which is still significant. 

Although it may not be possible for companies to do away with remote work schedules, there are things that companies can do to protect themselves. Cybersecurity should be a priority.

What Is the Answer?

Businesses that prioritize cyber-safety should analyze their cyber-liability insurance policies. These policies usually contain detailed security procedures that companies must follow to be eligible for full coverage, making them a great source of info on the most up-to-date practices.

Staying protected in the era of BYOD is an ongoing challenge. To address this, businesses should create incident response playbooks that describe how to handle and contain data security incidents when they occur. By doing so, it’s possible to minimize the damage and get back on track more quickly. Following that with practice runs can take the strategy to the next level.

The pandemic brought remote working to a greater number of businesses and that isn’t going anywhere. Therefore, it is wise to embrace it and take steps to protect the company.

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