As businesses continue to operate remotely, data security is more important than ever. Given this new environment of millions of employees working remotely, it is not surprising that there has been a significant uptick in ransomware attacks over the last two months.
Here are 10 friendly reminders that are especially important in the current remote work environment.
(1) Change passwords – If you have not already done so, update all passwords and check all networks. The process itself is a good reminder of the importance of data security. Passwords should be complex and have a set expiration. Two Factor Authentication is the best means to protect your network credentials. Many companies that provide these services are doing so for free on a trial basis during COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these services are very easy to deploy and can be done so with the help of the vendor.
(2) Limit access to data / control access to data sensibly – As more and more people work remotely, everyone yearns for normalcy and wants access to everything that they had access to in their office environment. As people settle into a remote routine, everyone may not need access to everything. Evaluate how your business is operating and consider further segmentations of your network and temporarily limiting access to certain data that may not need to be regularly accessed.
(3) Deactivate data that is not being used and take data offline – Now is a good time to evaluate what active data you need and what data can be deactivated or taken offline.
(4) Make a backup and store it offsite – If you make a backup but it is still active data on your system or platform, the purpose of the backup is defeated. Having good, verified, and restorable backups of all of your data is the simplest way to recover from a ransomware attack - by restoring the encrypted data once you ensure that you have removed the threat from your network. Continue with your nightly backup routine and take the time to verify that your backups are working and that you can actually restore data from the backups. Ensure that the backups are stored on a network segment not accessible to the rest of your data and ideally you should store a copy of each backup at an offsite location nightly.
(5) Remind employees about their training – Most cyber events still start with a simple mistake or with a single click on a bogus email. As everyone tries to be responsive in a remote setting, it is important to reinforce training and remind people to look for malicious emails. If you do not have a formal cybersecurity training program, now is a great time to start. Every computing environment has its greatest threat, as well as its greatest asset, sitting in front of the keyboard. Awareness and training are quite possibly the best cyber defense a company of any size can have.
(6) Encrypt sensitive information during transmission – Working remotely invites informality, but it is important that you follow your encryption policies internally as well as externally.
(7) Check your firewalls and confirm your security – Your platform is likely being stretched and your IT teams are making decisions to accommodate multiple demands. Step back and evaluate your firewall and security. Patch all of your systems and keep them up to date with security updates. An unpatched desktop computer running in an empty office is just as vulnerable as at any other time. Patching all of your internet facing equipment and server infrastructure is critical during these times. As individuals may conduct more work on unsecure internet connections, it is important to evaluate and strengthen your firewall and data security.
(8) Confirm your process in the event of a data breach or cyber event – Review your Incident Response Plan and consider if it needs a temporary update in a remote environment. If you do not have a formal Incident Response Plan, now is a great time to implement one.
(9) Install security patches on home/remote computers – Many work-from-home employees are now accessing your corporate network from a home computing device. Because these are unknown devices, this scenario may introduce additional vulnerabilities to a corporate network. Ask all remote employees to apply security patches to their home computers. This may require some detailed instructions from your IT Team and you may not get 100% compliance, but reducing the number of unpatched systems will reduce your risk.
(10) Keep up on current events – The cyber landscape changes regularly. The recent security issues with Zoom (which our team documented in a recent blog post here) provided some valuable lessons. As people write, blog, and talk about recent ransomware attacks and data security issues, it is important to learn and adapt.
Most IT Teams have done a great job keeping businesses operational during this temporary transformation, but it is important that all employees do their part in keeping company data safe and networks operational.
 See, e.g., Threat Post, The Coronavirus is Already Taking Effect on Cyber Security– This is How CISOs Should Prepare (March 18, 2020), https://threatpost.com/cynet-the-coronavirus-is-already-taking-effect-on-cyber-security-this-is-how-cisos-should-prepare/153758/; National Cyber Awareness System, COVID-19 Exploited by Malicious Cyber Actors (April 8, 2020), https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/aa20-099a; Healthcare IT News, Cyberattacks Continue to Mount During COVID-19 Pandemic (April 8, 2020), https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/cyberattacks-continue-mount-during-covid-19-pandemic; Fortune, Hackers ‘Without Conscience’ Demand Ransom From Dozens of Hospitals and Labs Working on Coronavirus (April 1, 2020), https://fortune.com/2020/04/01/hackers-ransomware-hospitals-labs-coronavirus/.
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