When a business is hacked, there are often devastating losses to intellectual property, research and development, and even finances. Hackers use a sophisticated range of methods to target an organization’s financial data. The rise of remote work has given new opportunities to criminals who want to exploit a company’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. So, what can you do?

Read on to discover that common ways that hackers are using to steal financial data and get answers to frequently asked questions about protecting data in a remote work environment.

How Is Financial Data Stolen in a Remote Work Environment?

Hackers typically rely on one of two broad methods to exploit business data: weak points within your technology or weak points among personnel.

Commonly, cyberattacks happen when IT systems are not kept up to date. There may be misconfigurations or unapplied patches that crack the door open for an attacker. In other cases, an encryption issue can give legitimate access controls to hackers.

Additionally, your employees may accidentally open the door for hackers through:

  • Weak passwords that are easily guessed
  • Recycled passwords that are accessed in another data breach
  • Downloading malware onto the work computer
  • Responding to phishing emails and giving away legitimate access controls
  • Lax home internet security that gives unauthorized users free access to employee devices when working remotely
  • Loss or theft of a personal device that grants access to an outside party

FAQs on Keeping Data Safe During Remote Work

1. What are the security risks of working from home?

Remote work blurs the lines between work and home. Employees lose the protections of the secure office environment and may be working in homes, cafes or vacation rentals that aren’t equipped with a safe infrastructure.

In a remote work environment, employees may use a work laptop for gaming, online education, video streaming or to entertain their children. Hackers are actively targeting gaming and video streaming sites via phishing emails.

All it takes is one bad click from your employee or their child to put your business’s financial data in the hands of an attacker.

Whereas it’s easy to forward a suspicious email to a colleague or ask the person across the hall if a message seems phishy, workers in a remote work environment must evaluate the credibility of information alone.

To help protect your data, train your employees regularly on signs of a suspicious email, as hackers are always changing their techniques. Generally, if the language seems unusual or there are spelling and grammar errors, it could be a threat.

The same goes for emails that ask for sensitive personal information — such as a credit card number, address or Social Security number. Employees should never transmit this sensitive information over email.

Hackers are also targeting unsecured devices, including phones, home printers and laptops running on unsecured Wi-Fi.

If a hacker gains access to an unsecured device, he or she can scrape access controls when an employee logs onto the business’s Remote Desktop and penetrate your organization’s perimeter.

2. What should your employees do when using a computer to work remotely?

Employees should follow cybersecurity best practices when working from home. These include:

  • Using work computers for work and personal computers for non-work purposes
  • Working on a secured Wi-Fi network or using a virtual private network (VPN)
  • Regularly updating work computers
  • Using two-factor authentication for logins
  • Educating themselves on phishing emails and password best practices
  • Using antivirus software on work devices

3. How do you maintain data security when employees work remotely?

The first step in maintaining data security is a robust data security policy that sets the standards for employees. When employees understand the risks, they are less likely to open the door to hackers. Aside from training employees on cybersecurity best practices, your organization will want cybersecurity software that can scan for threats and defend your assets. These days, the best cybersecurity software uses AI, or artificial intelligence.

AI-enabled cybersecurity software often relies on machine learning to spot unusual behavior and analyze risks. If there is activity that looks suspicious, the software can quarantine it in a sandbox environment instead of granting access. This could prevent the hacker from ever gaining entry.

AI also continuously analyzes traffic inside the perimeter. If people with legitimate access credentials are trying to access parts of the server that they do not need for their roles, the AI program will notice. It will deny access, preserving your assets. Systems can also notify IT staff, who will be able to investigate any potential issue.

4. How do you protect a work-from-home environment?

Employees can protect their work-from-home environment by logging out of devices and locking the home office when not in use, and by keeping separate devices for work and play. Regularly updating software and apps is essential. Other best practices for safety include the use of strong passwords (a password manager can help with this) and two-factor authentication. In the event of theft or misplacement, you should have a way to find the device remotely. In a worst-case scenario, you’d also want the ability to wipe it.

Choosing Cybersecurity Software for Remote Work

Properly training your employees can do a lot to reduce the risk of a data breach, but you won’t be fully protected without the right cybersecurity software. Look for a system that offers predictive intelligence and machine learning. This means the software can learn from past experiences to better protect your business over time.

Additionally, seek a program that offers end-to-end encryption, which is a must for remote work environments. Encryption can code your data during transmission or storage so that it isn’t decipherable without a key. The best software keeps data encrypted in transmission and analysis to ensure it never falls into the wrong hands.

Make sure the system can notify IT staff when certain actions are taken. While in many cases the software will work independently, there are times you’ll want a team member to take action. For example, if the system notes a vulnerability or unapplied update, the IT team member can step in and address the issue.

The savviest businesses understand that protecting their data is not a one-and-done proposition but an ongoing effort. When you understand how cybersecurity and employee behavior work together, you can take the steps to protect your financial data regardless of where your employees work.

To learn more about the role of AI in data security, check out the accompanying resource.

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