An employee’s computer holds a vast amount of knowledge about the company. Client information, ongoing and future projects, team communications, etc. And it’s usually the first device hackers try to crack, which can result in massive losses even for small-scale businesses.
Online threats, designed to breach and compromise a network, come in multiple forms. Scams, malware, phishing, and cross-site scripting are among the most popular methods. And the average worker must know how to recognize, avoid, and prevent them.
Keeping your people safe online is no easy task, but it’s doable by implementing standard security procedures. We discuss them and some cyber-security tips for employees below.
What are the main threats for employees online?
With remote work on the rise, the risks seemingly multiplied, with various avenues to take advantage of. Some of the more well-known security concerns include:
- Unprotected Wi-Fi. Public networks are notorious for being hacker playgrounds because they lack security measures. Anyone can use them to distribute malicious software and viruses or monitor your online activity. Personal Wi-Fi isn’t always protected either, so employees connecting to them are putting data at risk.
- Using personal devices for work. Conducting business on personal computers, phones, or tablets increases the risk of data leaks. Most people don’t do anything to encrypt these devices, and hackers can exploit that quite easily.
- Email scams. Phishing is a form of cyber attack when someone impersonates another person or company in the hopes of gaining private login credentials or other sensitive information. These have become quite sophisticated and can even pass through email spam filters.
- Weak passwords. This is the main line of defense malicious parties prefer to target as most people don’t use solid passwords. Some write special codes that continuously attempt to crack passwords, which won’t take long if it’s a common word or phrase. Another culprit is repeat passwords, primarily if the same one is used across multiple accounts.
- Using outdated software. Companies create software updates for a reason since older versions perform worse and are more vulnerable. Employees that fail to keep their systems and software up to date are inadvertently putting the company at risk.
- Classic cyber attacks. We can’t forget botnets, spyware, brute force attacks, spoofing, DDoS, ransomware, SQL injections, and similar attacks.
What tools should an employee use?
Besides educating workers about online risks, you should also arm them with the appropriate tools. Our suggestions will shield employees from the majority of the threats discussed above.
This program is designed to detect and prevent users from downloading malicious software. It typically scans for:
- Fraud tools
Depending on the company creating this product, some even protect against spam, phishing attacks, botnets, DDoS, and such. No computer can do without an antivirus these days, especially those used for work.
Notable antivirus software includes Avast Antivirus, Bitdefender Antivirus, Norton Antivirus, and ESET NOD32.
Firewalls come integrated with operating systems and filter traffic for any suspicious activity according to a set of rules. Unfortunately, misconfigurations and poor management of firewalls could result in security breaches.
For this reason, experts advise utilizing firewall management tools. These ensure all systems connected to the one suite comply with the same rules. It prevents employees from accidentally compromising their devices if they tinker with the firewall.
Notable firewall management tools include RedSeal, AlgoSec, Tufin, and FireMon.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Wi-Fi connections, which employees tend to work on, are not always protected. Public networks are especially egregious and can quickly lead to company-wide security breaches.
This is where VPNs come into play. This technology encrypts all internet traffic with an unbreakable cipher, making you virtually invisible online. Any identifying data, such as the IP address, gets hidden under another one.
How does it benefit the average worker? Well, hackers can’t really target something they can’t trace or identify. And if you think extra protection features would be a nice touch, it’s worth investing in the most secure VPN services that offer them.
What’s more, some providers offer additional software meant for wide-scale use. Take NordVPN, for example. It offers a VPN suite for business, with dedicated infrastructure and handy perks.
It’s no secret that humans tend to be a bit lazy when creating passwords. You’ll be surprised how many people tend to use the same weak password for multiple platforms, even when at work. But we can’t have that in a professional setting as they can easily be brute forced.
Password managers are indispensable in the workplace. Essentially, they are extra secure vaults to store all your sensitive login credentials. Most, like NordPass, even make the online experience easier by generating and auto-filling the necessary fields whenever you need to access an account.
Devices connected to the internet run on public DNS servers. And anyone with the right tools can see what you’re doing since DNS requests reveal identifiable information. Naturally, it’s better to switch to a private one.
Private DNS servers have the advantage of DoH and DoT security encryption protocols. Combined, they ensure website security and protect data packets as they are transferred over the network.
Essentially, you get cut off from the public internet. And this greatly reduces the chances of getting hit with a DDoS attack, ransomware, malware, or even a Man in the Middle (MITM) attack.
Not a tool, per se, but a great cyber security tip for employees nonetheless. Everything must be kept up to date, whether it’s the OS or programs needed to complete tasks.
While it’s true that most updates contain quality-of-life updates, bug fixes, performance enhancements, etc., they also plug up any known security holes. So, practice downloading the latest updates as soon they roll out.
Data breaches are on the rise
Besides certain events that will go down in history books, 2022 is not lacking in hacker activity. And from what we’ve seen so far, they don’t discriminate.
In March, the US-based Shield Health Care Group suffered a data breach that affected around 2 million American citizens. Ransomware actors gained sensitive information such as credentials, social security numbers, and medical records.
At the beginning of June, a hacker group backed by the Chinese government breached several major telecommunications companies. According to official information, they gained access to the systems by exploiting known router and equipment vulnerabilities.
As recently as August, one of the UK’s largest family-run car dealerships suffered a ransomware attack that stole data and damaged the company’s core systems. As the Holdcroft Motor Group notified its clients, they lost 2 years’ worth of data, and some of it potentially includes staff information.
According to Identify Theft Research Center reports, most of the reported data breaches this year were caused by phishing and ransomware attacks.
General cyber security tips for employees
Of course, workers should also practice general online safety. Whether they work from home or in the office, it’s advised to:
- Lock all devices with a passcode whenever they’re not used
- Use two-factor authentication if possible
- Never open suspicious links and double-check the legitimacy of received emails
- Always back up the files
- Make sure you’re connected to a secure network (or utilize a VPN)
- Never share sensitive information via public channels
Adopting strong and efficient security practices is crucial when a single mistake can put the whole business at risk. But both the employers and employees must do their part.
Getting the right internet security tools is one part of the deal; following cyber security tips is the other. And when a worker knows how to safeguard company data, hackers will have a significantly harder time launching a successful attack.