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Safeguarding Your Work-From-Home Environment: Understanding Endpoint Security Risks

In recent years remote work has become more than a convenience but a necessity for many businesses and employees. However, the flexibility it offers comes with its own set of challenges, particularly concerning endpoint security. With the rise of remote work, the traditional security perimeter has dissolved, leaving endpoints—devices like laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets—more vulnerable than ever to cyber threats. Understanding these risks is crucial for individuals and organisations to effectively protect their sensitive data and systems while working remotely.


In this short article, we will take a look at some of the main risks to the security of your devices while working remotely, and what you can do to guard against them.




Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks:

When working remotely, we often connect to home Wi-Fi networks or public networks that are readily available everywhere, such as in coffee shops, but these networks may lack adequate security measures.  It may be possible for the communication across them to be intercepted, putting our data at risk.  It’s usually better to use mobile tethering where possible and share your mobile data allowance, as this is a private, more secure connection.  When that’s not practical or cost-effective, you should always use a VPN to encrypt your connection to the internet or the office, and this will prevent your data from being intercepted by anyone else on the same network.


Phishing Attacks:

This is one of the most common types of attack, and remote workers are prime targets. Phishing is an email-based attack that is designed to trick users into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious software onto their devices, compromising the security of the device and potentially giving the attacker a way into the corporate network.  The best defence against phishing is user education. Never click on links, and always check the address from which the message is coming, as this will help to ensure it is valid.  If you’re in any doubt at all about requests that you’ve received by email, contact the sender directly by another means, like a phone call.


Weak Passwords and Authentication:

Weak or re-used passwords are a significant vulnerability.  Often, credentials that have been exposed by a data breach will be re-used by an attacker to attempt to access many different services, so you should always use unique, strong passwords for each of your online accounts. You should also always add multi-factor authentication where available, as this provides a very effective way of preventing unauthorised access to an account by sending a code to your mobile device. It’s very unlikely that anyone other than you would have access to both your password and device, so this method alone can often stop an attacker in their tracks.


Unpatched Software and Devices:

New vulnerabilities are discovered in operating systems and application software every day, some of which can be very damaging if exploited. Failure to regularly update software and devices leaves them vulnerable to these known security vulnerabilities. Hackers use tools to find and actively exploit these vulnerabilities and gain unauthorised access to data or breach networks in order to launch ransomware or other attacks that have the potential to destroy all of your data. Often, the only way to recover is to restore from backups, which can be very time-consuming, so it is critical to keep all of your software up to date.


Shadow IT and Personal Devices:

Remote work often blurs the line between personal and professional devices. Employees may use personal devices or unauthorised software and applications (shadow IT) to perform work tasks, introducing security risks due to the lack of oversight and control by IT departments.  Always be mindful of which devices you are using to access your organisation’s data, and follow any policies that apply – they’re there for a reason.


Addressing Endpoint Security Risks:

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at some of the issues, let’s summarise what can be done centrally by the organisation to address them.


Encourage employees to secure their home Wi-Fi networks with strong passwords and encryption (WPA2 or WPA3).  Many home internet service providers are securing their connections this way, out of the box, but it’s always worth checking. Additionally, consider providing employees with virtual private network (VPN) access to create a secure tunnel for transmitting data over public networks.


Educate employees about the dangers of phishing attacks and how to recognise suspicious emails, links, and attachments. Regular training sessions can help reinforce good security practices and empower employees to protect themselves against social engineering tactics.  This regular training is also a requirement for some security-related standards like PCI-DSS and ISO 27001 and will help gain and maintain compliance.


Enforce the use of strong, unique passwords for all accounts and devices. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible to add an extra layer of security. This can prevent unauthorised access even if passwords have been compromised.


Establish a patch management process to ensure that all software and devices are promptly updated with the latest security patches. Consider automating patch deployment to minimise the risk of human error and ensure timely protection against known vulnerabilities.


Develop and enforce bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies that outline security requirements for personal devices used for work purposes. Implement endpoint security solutions, such as mobile device management (MDM) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools, to monitor and protect devices against security threats.



Conclusion:

Remote working is here to stay, so it’s more important than ever to ensure that the security of devices is given the correct level of priority to safeguard sensitive data and systems from cyber threats. By understanding the main risks associated with remote endpoints and implementing proactive security measures, individuals and organisations can mitigate these risks and create a more secure work-from-home environment. Remember, endpoint security is not a one-time task but an ongoing effort that requires vigilance, awareness, and adaptation to evolving threats. By prioritising endpoint security, remote workers can enjoy the benefits that remote work brings without compromising the integrity of the organisation’s digital assets.

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