The remote working effect: Top 10 cyber security risks and how to prevent them

Business Insights

Post pandemic, remote working has become the norm, and it has its perks…

For employees, the pros range from improved mental health and work-life balance, to the flexibility of working from anywhere on the planet, not to mention the freedom of working in your pyjamas (don't knock it ‘til you've tried it!).

For businesses, the remote working model saves on office space costs, broadens the talent pool, and boosts productivity.

BUT, as we move away from the traditional office environment, protecting and monitoring sensitive company data becomes more difficult – leaving organisations wide open to cyber attacks.

According to Microsoft's Digital Defence Report: "users are working from anywhere, from any device, more than any time in history, and attackers are quickly adjusting their tactics to take advantage of this change."

Cyber Criminals are getting savvier, but remote and hybrid working are here to stay – so, let's explore the top 10 cyber security risks of remote working and how to mitigate them.

1. Vulnerable home networks

Working from home brings the risk of unsecured personal networks. Unlike corporate networks – armoured with advanced security measures like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits – home networks are typically less secure, often relying on unmonitored, basic router security.

In short, a cyber attacker's dream.

Solution: Insist that all employees use VPN's when accessing company data.

2. Increased Phishing attacks

Remote workers are prime targets for phishing scams. Cyber hackers use sneaky tactics like sending fake emails to dupe employees into revealing sensitive information, or downloading malware capable of taking over the whole system.

Solution: Train staff on how to spot dodgy emails, and give them constant access to an IT helpdesk to verify communications.

3. Data breach risks

In business, we constantly share confidential files, but are they encrypted?

Cyber attackers are pros at seizing unprotected data, so, the rest is obvious…

Solution: Ensure staff encrypt all files before sending them. Encryption safeguards data in transit, preventing sensitive information from being intercepted.

4. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) challenges

BYOD policies, though seemingly cost-effective and flexible, open up a whole new level of security challenges.

Personal devices may lack the necessary security features and updates, making them a weak spot in your cyber defence strategy.

Solution: Implement and communicate a robust BYOD security policy and reinforce it regularly with employees, or, provide company devices.

5. Poor software update practices

Remote workers are more likely to ignore software, system, or application update requests.

Hackers are known to target companies with outdated systems, so, delaying these updates is a security breach wating to happen.

Solution: UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE! Educate staff on the importance of this.

6. Weak password woes

Remote working environments are a breeding ground for weak password practices, skyrocketing the risk of unauthorised access.

Firewalls and VPN's are as useful as a chocolate teapot if employees are using weedy or recycled passwords.

Solution: Encourage all staff to use strong, unique passwords, coupled with multi-factor authentication – for an added layer of protection.

7. Insufficient employee training

One of the biggest issues for organisations is a lack of cyber awareness amongst remote workers.

Without up-to-date training, employees may make risky decisions that lead to potential security incidents.

Solution: Invest in ongoing, companywide cyber security training to raise awareness of potential threats, and to communicate remote working policies and best practices.

8. Cloud security concerns

Moving to the cloud is a game-changer for remote businesses, but a pain in the whatsit for security breaches.

Research shows that cloud misconfiguration is the most damaging risk factor to companies.

Solution: Tighten cloud access controls, introduce a clear cloud policy, and train staff all staff on how to use it.

9. Poor incident response plans

Remote working setups often lack a clear incident response plan, which can lead to chaotic and futile responses to security incidents, exacerbating their impact.

Solution: Ensure a clear roadmap is in place to allow a swift response to incidents – from detection to recovery.

10. Compliance and legal dangers

Compliance risks in remote working tend to arise from data security breaches, lack of control over sensitive information, and failure to stick to regulatory standards.

Solution: Organisations should enforce robust data protection policies, encrypt all files and communication, and provide ongoing compliance training to employees – all tracked via regular compliance audits.

Proactively mitigating the risks of remote working

To reduce the cyber security risks that come with remote working, companies need to get serious about boosting their cyber security posture. It's that simple.

Regular security audits, training and education, strong data security controls, and a building a culture of cyber security awareness will all contribute to lowering the risk of incidents.

But, the most important factor?

Getting the buy-in of your remote workers from the outset.

Navigating the new norm

If you're a business owner who wants to protect your workforce and your company from data breeches and cyber attacks – implementing ISO 27001 is THE place to start.


Stuart Barker | Stuart is a cyber security expert known as the ISO 27001 Ninja, and author of the best-selling ISO 27001 Toolkit. He is Director at High Table, the ISO 27001 Company: