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Employees continue to be the single largest threat to their company’s IT security

Employees continue to be the single largest threat to their company’s IT security

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We asked industry experts how technology leaders can ensure the work practices of their colleagues do not put their company’s cybersecurity at risk. Here’s what Cam Roberson, VP of Channel Development at Beachhead Solutions, had to say.

Employees continue to be the single largest threat to their company’s IT security. While the popular imagination of a hacker is a person infiltrating systems with complex malicious code, in reality the most efficient hacking technique is to simply trick an employee into providing that access.

The challenge of preventing attacks that exploit employees is only increasing as businesses adopt work-from-home policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with company devices and data now spread across unlimitedly-distributed workplaces. And these circumstances may be the new normal going forward – meaning that technology leaders preparing for the long-term should adapt their security postures and toolsets accordingly, and urgently.

Employee training is arguably the first and most essential countermeasure to attack targeting workers. Today’s attackers leverage sophisticated phishing techniques that – without proper training – are difficult to distinguish from legitimate emails.

Spear phishing attacks go a step further by targeting specific employees. For example, an employee might receive an email that seems to be from their manager, asking for login information or to wire company funds as part of a customer refund. These tried-and-true exploits are even more successful in the current environment, with remote workers unable to easily sort out the truth face-to-face.

In response to these risks, technology leaders should introduce new and more intensive employee training regimens, along with policies designed to prevent a single employee from jeopardizing sensitive data or company funds on their own. Training management tools are available that will train and certify employees in secure practices, even testing them with realistic (but benign) spear phishing emails.

Technology leaders should also be sure to implement a VPN, and other security tools such as anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, to secure communications within the distributed office environment. It’s essential to continuously ensure that the VPN, security tools, applications and employee-used devices themselves all have the latest updates and security patches installed.

To reduce the risk represented by each software application present on employee-used devices, technology leaders should harden systems by simply removing any applications not necessary to employee productivity. In the work-from-home environment, employees are often tempted by the convenience of sharing devices with family members; kids who want to download games, for example. These risky practices should be strictly forbidden by policy.

It’s also crucial that technology leaders introduce protections designed to directly secure remote devices and sensitive data. Data encryption is an absolute requirement to ensure any data is inaccessible without the correct credentials. Organizations should also have remote access controls and remote data deletion capabilities in place. If a device becomes lost or stolen during a credentialed session, or login credentials are compromised, the ability to remotely deny data access and delete data when necessary can make the difference in preventing a data breach.

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