More than a year ago, companies, whether big or small, rushed their workforce in a new work arrangement as COVID-19 became a full-blown pandemic. Physical distancing protocols forced employees to leave their four-walled cubicles in exchange for a work-from-home setup. Now, as more people get their COVID-19 vaccines, companies are beckoning employees to return to their corporate offices.
As more offices return to normalcy, companies are now adopting a new work model called the hybrid workplace. In a hybrid work environment, employees have to split their schedules between working remotely and working on site. While this new work arrangement will give employees more flexibility, this could also leave their devices and networks more susceptible to cybersecurity attacks.
Organizational security should be critical in any business, especially in the post-pandemic workplace. During the transition to a work-from-home setup, many companies realized the significance of providing a secure and safe work environment for employees. This led organizations to be resourceful in their security practices, from enforcing data security policies to applying network and micro-segmentation solutions to protect the company’s critical information assets.
As companies adapt to the challenges of the hybrid workplace, it will also create several issues concerning inadequate cybersecurity measures. That said, we’ll discuss what hybrid work means for cybersecurity, its security challenges, and ways to secure a hybrid workforce.
The hybrid workforce and cybersecurity
As mentioned earlier, hybrid work refers to a flexible workplace arrangement, where it combines remote and on-site working. This means employees can move in and out of the office, or wherever place they want to work. In turn, it will also affect employees’ devices as they move their laptops to the company network, then take them back home.
Transitioning to a new work arrangement will affect everything from culture modifications, infrastructure offices, and, most of all, security—the most critical aspect of every change.
IT experts dub the hybrid workplace a cybersecurity nightmare. Hybrid employees are prone to expose company networks to security risks each time they go back and forth to their offices and reconnect. They may unintentionally bring malware or other security threats outside the company network. Multiply this scenario with the number of hybrid workers connecting and reconnecting every week and you’ll end up increasing the opportunity for cybercriminals to gain a stronger foothold on the company network.
So what does it mean for security teams? The task of protecting the company network and other IT assets becomes even more complex. Security teams have to face the task of supporting a continuously changing mix of remote and office workers and home and company devices.
Security challenges of hybrid work
Whatever business you’re running or the hybrid workforce arrangement you have, no business is safe from cybersecurity attacks.
Phishing is a common security challenge in a hybrid workforce. Over the last year, cybercriminals took advantage of unsecured home networks and the uncertainty and confusion brought by COVID-19. They used those fears to send malicious messages with domains disguised as news alerts, updates, and websites containing information related to COVID-19.
Failure to install security patches can also endanger the corporate network. Patches contain updates for applications and software to fix maintenance and security issues. These updates are critical when logging on to a personal or company network.
Employee errors are another security challenge. Since home offices don’t have IT support, employees are more prone to making careless mistakes, such as reusing passwords, installing malware, and forgetting to use the company’s virtual private network (VPN).
When working at home, employees have the freedom to use their personal gadgets aside from corporate devices. As a result, they end up using their personal devices not only for work but also to lend to their children for school and entertainment purposes.
Ways to secure the hybrid workforce
Despite the growing number of employees working remotely, many companies haven’t considered updating their cybersecurity policies. Training employees on digital security is important in establishing good security habits at work and knowing how to protect their devices while at home.
IT teams should also establish a separate network by creating a VPN for remote employees. This will improve the devices’ security features and the accessibility and security of employees’ accounts. Other strategies may also include auditing work devices, limiting data access, and performing penetration testing.
As companies shift to hybrid work, it’s important to strengthen the role of cybersecurity in securing digital assets. Amid the increased threats, companies should respond by taking proactive measures and applying multifaceted solutions to their devices, network, and other IT infrastructures. This can be a great investment that will continue no matter what the workforce looks like in the years to come.