The virtual office, as its name implies, is an amalgamation of the physical world and the internet. By utilizing tools such as Skype for voice and video communication, Slack for instant messaging and collaboration, Zoom, Google Meet for virtual meetings, and so on, employers are making it increasingly easier to work in the home environment. And working remotely is one of the most liberating things you could do for yourself and your business. 

Having freedom, flexibility and control over your day is a dream come true for many. However, when you work offsite, it opens up your business to potential attacks and fraudulent activities which can damage your professional image, relationship with clients and ultimately cost money. 

The good news is that you can fortify your virtual office from cyberattacks by taking different protective measures. You need to have special security-firewalls and intrusion detection software to prevent any cyber-attacks and other advanced techniques to keep the hackers away from data theft.

Let’s find out what these protective measures consist of and how to implement them.

  1. Protect your network with VPN: Whether an employee is interacting with customer databases, file storage areas, or sensitive financial information, the need for strong network security is clear. The ability to do your job and access key systems securely, anywhere, anytime from any device is one of the biggest benefits of remote working. Your online security should be just as robust as the physical security of a corporate office. Encrypted, secure internet access is essential for remote workers to have a safe way to communicate.  A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an encrypted connection over the public internet. It allows remote users access to internal networks with security mechanisms to defend against attacks.
  1. Encrypt your data and the cloud: All businesses now, especially start-ups, require an ever-increasing number of documents and information to be produced and transferred back and forth among staff.  Cloud encryption services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform can be used to help ensure the security of data stored on remote servers. Encrypting and storing data remotely have become essential tactics for many organizations to protect sensitive data against breaches of multiple types of threats, including insider fraud, cyberattacks, sabotage, and malicious insiders.
  1. Secure your passwords, emails and devices: While you’re working remotely, it’s important to remain vigilant about securing your financial information, personal information and official documents, passwords, emails, etc. Using SSH is one of the most secure ways to try remote access and it allows full encryption of networks.
  1. Setup a solid user access control system: Apply solutions and more advanced tips (properly using GPO, strong security templates, restricting admin rights) that can be implemented for making your environment more secure and easier to maintain.

With this access control, if a user is not authorized to access a particular resource, the user will get an error when attempting to connect. This is generally done by creating Access Control Lists (ACLs) and then configuring both Workstations and Servers (Clients and Services) with relevant ACLs.

  1. Regular Penetration Testing: A routine penetration test provides a company with an analysis of the security of its IT infrastructure. It uncovers bugs that are easy to fix, which means smaller, less expensive problems overall. They also find more complex problems before they incur expensive fixes that may never be needed. Checking for security vulnerabilities or prevented entry points, will help companies that are sitting on potential time-bombs from easily blowing up.
  1. Other cybersecurity practices include:
  1. Set up multi factor authentication
  2. Safeguard or encrypt your emails with tools like Mimecast. 
  3. Beware of fraudsters attempting to exploit others by conducting Phishing campaigns through Remote Desktop Systems (RDS) and free Web-based emails services such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Hotmail etc.
  4. Do not use your company’s IT resources for private purposes. 

Remote working is not a novelty and is already part of the established work culture. Remote workers operate from the most variable places such as cafes, airport lounges, hotel rooms or even while on vacation. In an online world, everybody should assume that anything you send or receive electronically can be accessed by a cybercriminal. Whether it is email, a file transfer, a social networking site, or chat, the importance of maintaining the privacy and integrity of your electronic communications cannot be understated.

Author – Shrey Madaan, Research Associate

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