The 5 Most Common Security Risks for Hybrid Workers

Learn how to protect yourself and your organization from the most common security threats in a hybrid work environment in this blog.

The 5 Most Common Security Risks for Hybrid Workers
Ahmet Polat
Ahmet Polat
06 October 2023

Hybrid work transforms how we approach productivity and work-life balance. However, this shift brings an array of security risks. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to understand these risks to maintain the integrity of our data and the safety of our workers. In this article, we explore the top five security risks synonymous with hybrid work - risks arising from unsecured home networks, dangers of stolen or lost work devices, the threat of targeted phishing attacks, consequences of lackluster patching, and the challenges that shadow IT poses.

Bolstering Security on Unsecured Networks for Hybrid Workers

The first and foremost risk hybrid workers face originates from their unsecured home networks. Home networks do not have the same level of comprehensive security layers as corporate environments. Cybercriminals understand this disparity and quickly exploit it, rendering home networks a favorite target.

  • Employees need to be educated about the inherent risks of unsecured home networks and their role in mitigating them. For instance, they can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which creates a safe tunnel for data transmission, effectively hiding the data from potential cyberattacks.

  • Companies must ensure they have strict cybersecurity protocols. Employees should only access sensitive data when connected to a secure network.

The importance of bolstering security measures on unsecured home networks cannot be overstated. Companies can significantly reduce the risks associated with hybrid work on unsecured networks by taking appropriate precautions and implementing robust security protocols.

Safeguarding Work Devices from Theft and Loss in Hybrid Workspaces

The second prominent risk in a hybrid work environment is stolen or lost work devices. The loss or theft of a device with access to sensitive company data can result in severe data loss and security breaches, potentially incapacitating the organization's operations. Cyber threats are a terrifying scenario when it comes to compromising companies' essential data.

  • Companies must invest in full-disk encryption to safeguard the data stored on work devices. Full-disk encryption ensures that the data inside remains inaccessible without the correct encryption key in the event of a lost or stolen device.

  • Implementing a remote wipe policy can also greatly minimize the risk. If a device is reported lost or stolen, remotely erasing all data prevents unauthorized access, thereby protecting sensitive information.

  • Investing in multi-factor authentication is another effective strategy. Making it more difficult for unauthorized persons to access the device is achieved by adding an extra layer of security, even if they have the password.

While the threat of stolen or lost work devices remains prevalent in a hybrid work environment, companies can implement robust security measures to prevent these situations from becoming full-blown security risks.

Shielding Hybrid Workers from Targeted Phishing Attacks

Another significant risk hybrid workers encounter is targeted phishing attacksPhishing attacks have grown more sophisticated over time, with cybercriminals employing increasingly ingenious tactics to trick employees into revealing sensitive information. In their isolated environment, hybrid workers can sometimes let their guard down, making them prime targets for these scams.

  • Deploying advanced email filters to block potential phishing emails is a first line of defense. These filters scrutinize incoming emails for telltale signs of phishing and filter them out before they can reach the employee.

  • Regular employee training is vital to creating a culture of skepticism. Employees need to be educated about the common signs of phishing scams and should be encouraged to report any suspicious emails they receive. Regular refresher courses can keep this knowledge up-to-date.

  • Encourage the verification of suspicious emails. If an email appears to come from a known contact but seems odd, employees should know how to verify the email's authenticity without clicking on potentially harmful links.

By staying vigilant and promoting a security-first mindset, companies can significantly reduce the risk of targeted phishing attacks in a hybrid work environment.

Enhancing Security through Vigilant Patch Management in Hybrid Environments

In hybrid work, lackluster patching also poses a notable security risk. Software vendors frequently release updates or patches to address bugs and security vulnerabilities. If these patches are not installed promptly, the system is exposed to potential cyberattacks. This exposure makes you vulnerable to fraud protection.

  • Implement a strict patch management policy. Companies should mandate that all systems and applications be kept up-to-date, with patches installed as soon as they become available. A centralized patch management system can automate this process and ensure compliance.

  • Employees should be aware of the importance of updating their devices. This awareness is critical because personal devices often access company networks, and an unpatched personal device can serve as a gateway for cybercriminals.

  • By prioritizing and streamlining patch management, organizations can ensure they're not leaving any doors open for cybercriminals to exploit, thereby enhancing overall security in a hybrid work setup.

Shining a Light on Shadow IT: Mitigating Risks in the Age of Hybrid Work

Finally, shadow IT - using unauthorized software and devices - presents a considerable challenge. As employees work from home, the temptation to use non-sanctioned applications or devices can lead to security vulnerabilities, as these systems may not adhere to an organization's security protocols.

  • Implement strict policies to control the use of unauthorized software and devices. Companies need to clarify what constitutes shadow IT and its associated risks. It's not enough to merely discourage the use of shadow IT; it must be actively monitored and prevented.

  • Regular IT audits can help identify instances of shadow IT. Through these audits, companies can detect unauthorized applications and take corrective action.

  • Providing approved alternatives for commonly used unauthorized applications can discourage the use of shadow IT. Employees frequently resort to shadow IT when they perceive a deficiency in the approved software. Addressing these gaps can help eliminate the need for shadow IT.

Addressing the issue of shadow IT is a complex yet crucial part of securing a hybrid work environment. Enhancing IT and network security is essential in a hybrid operating system. Companies can reduce this often-overlooked risk by understanding its causes and implementing comprehensive countermeasures.

Consequently, navigating the security landscape of
hybrid work necessitates a strong and adaptable strategy. Enhancing security on unsecured home networks, safeguarding against theft or loss of work devices, protecting employees from spear phishing attacks, ensuring software is up to date through careful patch management, and addressing shadow IT issues are all critical components of this strategy. As the transition to a hybrid workforce progresses, our security strategies must also evolve. We can only secure the future of work by directly confronting these challenges through careful planning and diligent execution.

Timus, a unique network security platform, is powered by an 
adaptive cloud firewall and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution, which is designed to adapt to the dynamic hybrid work environment of the cloud era. Thus, Timus takes into account all aspects of hybrid work and the critical issues of network security. Offering employees Secure Remote Access even on unsecured home networks, safeguarding your organization's sensitive data against potentially devastating cyberattacks, and ensuring that employees have the necessary access regardless of their location, thereby boosting overall productivity. Join us today in creating a secure future of work by partnering with Timus.

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