ITRC_Remote work cybersecurity_845X684

There are more remote workers now than ever, either as telecommuting employees or freelancers. At the same time, more businesses than ever before are relying on these hard-working individuals to keep their companies in operation. The end result is people who don’t work in your building—or even live in your city—and who have never laid eyes on the boss may be the best line of defense when it comes to protecting your business from cybercrimes.

These remote workers can turn out to be the weakest link in the business cybersecurity chain. With their access to company servers, their connection via email to the onsite employees’ network and the fact that they are typically utilizing their own technology—whether it is virus-protected or not—these outsiders could be the avenue that savvy hackers use to deploy their malicious tactics.

Going through an outside source is nothing new for hackers. In fact, the infamous Black Friday breach of Target’s payment card system in 2013 happened because hackers sent a phishing email to a small HVAC repair company. This company had the contract to work on a number of Target locations in its area, and as such, had been connected to Target’s computer network. When hackers tricked an employee of the HVAC company into downloading malicious software on the smaller company’s network, they were able to infiltrate all of the POS systems for Target on the biggest shopping day of the year.

How can a company know that its outside freelancers or remote workers are not falling for phishing attacks? How will they know if those employees’ personally-owned computers and devices are password protected and have antivirus software installed? Without a system of checks in place, businesses are leaving a lot up to chance.

There are a lot of other hidden pitfalls these remote workers and companies face, as shown here, but fortunately, many of the same preventive measures that protect individuals can also protect businesses. Here are some tips on the employee’s end that can reduce the risk of a breach:

  • Locking down your Wi-Fi and your accounts with strong, unique passwords is crucial, and regularly changing your passwords is a good idea
  • Enabling two-factor authentication is a good idea too, as it can keep hackers out of a lost or stolen smartphone or laptop
  • Be sure that antivirus software is installed and up-to-date at all times, and consider using a VPN to hide your information when you are working online

For businesses and employees alike, the most important steps to take involve learning to spot the signs of suspicious activity. Know how to recognize a phishing email, and know what the proper steps are to avoid becoming a victim of a phishing attack. Make it a policy and all-around good habit to never click on a link, open an attachment or download a file that you were not specifically expecting. Create a workspace that rewards employees for verbally confirming even the simplest of commands and requests if there is any doubt that they are legitimate.

Companies have to work together from the top down to create a safe, effective workplace. Avoiding business cybersecurity issues can only happen when everyone works together and knows how to be safe.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll free at 888.400.5530 to speak with one of our advisors or live chat with an advisor on our website. They will help you create an action plan for your case while directing you on the next steps you need to take.

For on-the-go identity assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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