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Protecting remote workers from the threat of cyber crime

Companies urgently need to protect the data flowing between the business and the increasing numbers of remote workers, by implementing the right security policies and tools.

Johannesburg, 02 Jun 2020
Pedro Maia, MD, Intdev
Pedro Maia, MD, Intdev

While cyber security is an issue that keeps many CIOs and IT departments awake at night, the reality is that security needs to be a concern not just for C-level executives and those running IT, but for each and every employee in an organisation.

In the current lockdown, with so many people working from home, this has never been more critical, since the reality is that many users are not particularly diligent in respect of security at the office, and are even less likely to be so at home. The concern for the CIO is that up until recently, most employers would not allow employees to work from home, which means that plenty of them lack the correct security to do so now that it has suddenly become imperative – and this has unwittingly opened up doors for the cyber criminals to exploit.

Pedro Maia, MD of Intdev, suggests that one effective way to educate employees on the importance of security is by implementing a cyber security policy that explains each person's responsibilities for protecting IT systems and data. A cyber security policy, he continues, sets the standards of behaviour for activities such as the encryption of e-mail attachments and restrictions such as those placed on the use of social media.

“Cyber security policies are vital, because cyber attacks and data breaches are potentially costly in a multitude of ways. They are important when it comes to governing employees, as they are most often the weak link in an organisation's security. Remember that employees often share passwords, unintentionally click on malicious URLs and attachments, use unapproved cloud applications and neglect to encrypt sensitive files,” he says.

“Grand Theft Data, a McAfee report on data exfiltration, indicates that people inside enterprises are responsible for some 43% of data loss, around half of which is accidental. Therefore, improved cyber security policies can help employees and consultants to better understand how to maintain the security of data and applications.”

Maia points out that cyber security policies are also critical to the public image and credibility of an enterprise. Customers, partners, shareholders and prospective employees want evidence that the company can protect its sensitive data. Without a clear cyber security policy, an organisation may not be able to provide such evidence.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed a lot of corporates and their security protocols, which is why cyber crime has increased by around 40% since lockdown began. It is much easier for them to gain access to a home-based employee’s machine that resides outside the corporate network, and to infiltrate malware – including ransomware – onto this device, which will ultimately expose the enterprise to this malware.

“To this end, it is highly recommended that organisations implement a cloud access security broker (CASB). This is defined as a software tool that acts as a gatekeeper, thereby allowing the business to extend the reach of its security policies beyond its own infrastructure.”

These tools, he adds, provide security in the following ways:

  • Visibility – Answers the question, “Who’s doing what in the cloud?’ through shadow IT discovery and sanctioned application control. Offers a comprehensive view of cloud service usage, and the users accessing data from any device or location.
  • Control – Remediate security threats by eliminating security misconfigurations and correcting high-risk user activities. Take real-time action deep within the cloud services to correct policy violations and stop security threats.
  • Compliance – Helps fill the regulatory compliance capability gaps introduced by many SaaS providers. Assist with data residency issues and controlling access to regulated data, provide logs for audits, and identifies cloud usage and risks of specific cloud services.
  • Data security – Enforces data-centric security policies to prevent unwanted activity based on classification, discovery and user activity monitoring of data access. Policies applied through controls such as audit, alert, block, quarantine, delete and encrypt/tokenise.
  • Threat protection – Provides protection against threats not typically handled by SaaS providers (eg, users' behaviour and use of corporate data). Prevents unwanted devices, users and versions of applications from accessing cloud services.

“The role of the business in combating cyber crime is thus twofold. It must firstly ensure it has the correct and relevant cyber security policies in place, to assist employees to better understand security risks and to protect it from a governance, risk and compliance (GRC) perspective. Secondly, it needs to ensure it partners with the right service provider in regard to implementing fit-for-purpose tools – such as a CASB – to provide the security required for employees to operate from outside the corporate network.

“Cyber crime is a real threat and will only get worse moving forward. If businesses don’t start planning now, they will fall far behind. After all, it is highly likely that working from home will be a big part of the so-called ‘new normal’. Therefore, if these people are to be left to work with little oversight, it is vital that the organisation protects the data flowing between it and the remote workers. In other words, the sooner organisations begin working with those security experts that can assist, understand and provide insight into how exposed the business is around the security of its data, the better,” he concludes.