Cybersecurity in the Hybrid Office: Why Companies Need to Educate and Empower Their Employees

February 2, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated major changes in the way companies everywhere operate. While remote working was on the rise before coronavirus struck, the hybrid office has, in many regards, become the new status quo—and there appears to be no turning back. 

Although hybrid workplaces offer a myriad of benefits (e.g., increased retention, greater accessibility, etc.), the greatest drawback is increased susceptibility to cybercrime. Just as remote and hybrid work has steadily increased year over year, so too have cyber attacks. Most of the time, companies fall prey to cyberattacks simply because their employees aren’t equipped with ample cybersecurity awareness and training.

Here’s a look at why it’s vital that companies train their hybrid employees on cybersecurity, and how they can be most successful in securing their hybrid employees. 

Remote and hybrid employees pose the greatest threat to companies 

In most office workplaces, companies can monitor, control, and protect their employees’ devices through a number of protective measures such as robust network security and monitored installation of antivirus software. 

Remote employees open back doors for cybercriminals to infiltrate their companies because, most of the time, they’re not operating as secure of a network and they don’t have IT professionals on-site to ensure that appropriate cybersecurity measures are in place. As a result, remote and hybrid workers pose a significant threat to companies by putting sensitive data at risk of being compromised. 

Knowing this, cybercriminals have capitalized on remote work and continue to try a bevy of tactics including exploiting weak Wi-Fi security, hacking into devices with weak firewalls, and targeting mobile phones that employees use to access sensitive company data from. 

Remote and hybrid workers alike need to understand the importance of using antivirus software to prevent malware from infiltrating their systems, as well as the importance of keeping their systems and programs up to date—and the onus is on companies to help ensure that their employees are amply knowledgeable on cybersecurity. 

Companies that marry at-home and in-office cybersecurity realize the most success in their overall cybersecurity strategy  

It might be the case that a remote worker uses a tool of their own to help them complete their work at home and then they bring that same tool or software into the office with them to help complete their project. 

Such an instance can cause unique security issues because not all third party tools are safe to use. While the companies themselves that produce the tools aren’t nefarious, it’s often the case that the security measures in place within their products aren’t up-to-date. 

To combat this, companies need to do two things: vet all third-party tools and vendors in their network and install and monitor third-party tools on company devices themselves. Additionally, they need to take a hard look at how much data they’re sharing with each tool or third party vendor and routinely analyze the level of security each tool or vendor has in place. 

There may even be instances where an organization can build, for example, their own chat app from scratch that has end-to-end encryption, and is therefore guaranteed to keep all communications safe and secure. 

The bottom line: remote and hybrid workers don’t need to pose a threat to companies—if companies responsibly train them 

Companies can protect their employees from cybercrime from afar just as well as they could from within an office, so long as they leave no margin for error. It’s up to companies’ information technology teams to stay up-to-date on cybersecurity trends, so they can educate their employees routinely and make sure employees are proactively on guard against new cyber threats. 

Beyond basic education and awareness training, companies should take measures to secure employees’ devices too. Companies can ensure protection using at-home virtual private networks (VPN) by securing remote connections and encrypting data, therefore blocking anyone who isn’t permitted to access unauthorized data or traffic.  

In addition to awareness testing, companies need to invest in attack simulations in order to test and assess their employees’ overall cybersecurity skill level and knowledge. Reputation-based e-learning, which utilizes gamification and other simulations to train employees, is the best way to empower employees. By deploying simulations and training modules, companies can prepare their employees for phishing attacks, redirection attacks, data entry attacks, and more.

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