Earlier this year, the nation and the economy was met with significant disruption due to the Coronavirus pandemic. To help slow the spread of this unknown virus, organizations and businesses across the globe either shut-down, altered their business models, or transitioned their employees to offsite, or remote work. In fact, approximately 51% of American employees were working remote during the pandemic restrictions and subsequent shut-downs. Although many employees have returned to in-office or onsite work, the full-time work-from-home workforce has expanded from three and a half million prior to COVID to five million people during the pandemic.1
As no end is in sight currently for the Coronavirus, a large percentage of those working remotely will likely continue to work remote or from home for the foreseeable future. The potential for more permanent remote work arrangements will become the norm as we emerge from the public health crisis. With this varied workforce, many business owners have deemed it necessary to navigate the ins and outs of cybersecurity risks for remote work.
“Organizations of all sizes have been forced to pivot their business models and their employees’ work arrangements in order to help slow the spread of the virus,” said Marc Ashworth, Chief Information Security Officer at First Bank. “This increase in remote work and online activity has left many businesses scrambling to find the most secure way for them to continue to do business. It’s critical that ongoing security parameters remain in place, or even increase, in order to help mitigate the threat of cybercriminals.”
Unfortunately, cybercriminal activity, including phishing scams, fraud, and hacking has grown considerably throughout the pandemic. Given the strain on resources, not all businesses have the budgets to retain a team of cybersecurity experts. Plus, many small to mid-sized business owners are often wearing many hats, so the role of internet security isn’t always top of mind. Ashworth wants to remind businesses of all sizes that in this season of disruption and increased online activity, cybercriminal activity will only continue to rise. “With COVID, remote work, the upcoming holidays, and an increase in online activity, business owners should remain even more vigilant about cybersecurity and protecting the online infrastructure of their business.”
Often, this security starts with training your first-line of defense, your employees, he said. Ashworth mentioned the security tips his team shares throughout the month of October with employees in an effort to refresh and remind colleagues of the importance of staying vigilant against potential scammers. “We share tips throughout the month of October for Cybersecurity Awareness Month,” he said. “Although our employees are trained throughout the year, one month a year is a good reminder to keep cybersecurity top-of-mind. Unfortunately, cybercriminals aren’t going anywhere and we all must form a line of defense against their threats.”
When it comes to cybersecurity for your business, consider the following:
- Ensure your staff is properly trained. Based on their role, educate your staff on what to look for in things like phishing scams. With phishing scams at an all-time high, make sure a staff member isn’t unknowingly allowing a cybercriminal access to your business by clicking on a malicious link.
- Establish password protocols. Password protection is another line of defense against cyberattacks. Make sure each staff member regularly changes his or her password with a unique, hard-to-decipher password combination. Check that these aren’t written down where they can be easily found.
- Allocate resources to keep equipment updated. Although time isn’t always plentiful and keeping equipment up-to-date can be a strain on resources, it’s essential that you are consistently updating your software, equipment, and devices. As cybercriminals increase their sophistication, so must your guards against them. Update on a regular basis.
- Stay informed. Connect with other business professionals and your trusted partners to discuss cybersecurity methods that work for them. To learn more about protecting yourself and your business from cybersecurity threats, visit www.cisa.gov
As a business owner, an integrated approach to protecting your business is important. Find out more about fraud prevention resources offered by First Bank to help stop illegal activity before it even occurs. Click to learn more about preventing cybercrimes.
1 Flexjobs.com. 2017. Exclusive Insights on the State of Telecommuting | Flexjobs. Available at: https://www.flexjobs.com/2017-State-of-Telecommuting-US/ [Accessed 2 May 2020].