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The remote worker challenge

Working from Home

COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we work.  The global pandemic sent many of us home nearly a year ago and it does not seem like remote working is ending any time soon.  Many organizations are still struggling to make business processes and data remote.  The old standards for securing your workers technology are not effective with remote workers.  

– Securing your work environment is harder with remote workers

Some of the problems faced by remote workers are not new.  Phishing and email-based attacks are not new, malware is not new, good password hygiene has been something all security professionals have been lecturing on for some time before COVID-19.  However, with a distributed remote workforce detecting breaches and bad actors has taken on a new level of hard.

– The old methods are not as effective as they once were

Protecting an on-premises work environment is pretty easy to pull off even for a small office, and with larger organizations pretty standardized.  Now, with remote workers tasked with critical company business – networks are not secured, game machines are on the same network as the company’s org chart, default passwords for Wi-Fi networks should just be assumed.   In short, a home office is not cube in the local industrial park.  

– Supporting the remote workforce  needs new tooling

Tools do exist to help with the differing needs of a distributed office.   They are probably unfamiliar to the small business unless you are techie based company.  Endpoint Managers – long the “expensive” version of anti-virus offerings, can help, Anti-Virus is just one part of their arsenal.  It may be true that Windows Defender has made great strides, and the Windows 10 firewall is pretty good but how do you know if it is even on?  Endpoint Managers can alert a supervisor when the latest patches are missing, or the software firewall has been disabled.  Advanced anti-phishing tools can help as well.  It is too easy to fall for email impersonations, and social engineering attempts while remote.  The advanced anti-phishing offerings can identify forged emails using AI and help train users to be more critical when dealing with unknown attacks.  Remote Monitoring and Management tools are critical for small organizations to verify remote workers computers are patched and being used securely.

– Start now!

If you  need to simplify these requirements – you can follow a proven recipe.  If your organization is not already using Microsoft 365, or g-suite – get going on that. The collaboration tools and secure data sharing that can be achieved with those offerings will remove communication friction and increase productivity.   Microsoft 365 has a more comprehensive offering, but Google’s offering will get you where you need to be for productivity too.  

If you have older applications or still need access to a shared on-premises file servers, you need a good VPN.   Be careful selecting a VPN offering, a lot of consumer aimed VPN software should be avoided entirely.  OpenVPN is very good, if you have the expertise to install it.  Many professional level firewalls have good VPN software built in and this might be the answer for DIY or a small budget IT solution.  

An Endpoint Manager package that offers protection from ransomware and compromise detection is critical.  Anti-Virus is not enough!  You need to trust the software firewall is on, and that the Endpoint is secured.  

Someone needs to be watching and working with your remote workers to keep things patched and secure.  The recommended above approaches will all send notifications or alert someone, but that someone needs to be equipped to act. If you have Information Technology people in your company, they are more important to your success than ever before.  If you have not needed them or could not find a good one – you really cannot wait any longer.  

Start a relationship with an outsourced IT service provider.  One exists for every size organization.  You will be able to find one who can provide you with remote support and monitoring at a price that is affordable.  Many will have preferred tools they bring along with the relationship.


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