BYOD cybersecurity risks: How to protect a remote workforce

BYOD cybersecurity risks: How to protect a remote workforce

Team members use smart mobile devices for a variety of work activities, and the sharp increase in employees working remotely has only expanded the utilization of personal devices such as phones and computers. However, without rules regarding the use of personal devices, business data could be exposed to significant security risk.

For example, employee devices may not be as secure as company-issued ones, which are usually maintained by IT personnel. Moreover, people are often less cautious regarding personal device security, without associating the risks to company data. But there is a lot at stake for a company when unmonitored devices access or store business data.

What is BYOD?

BYOD — which stands for bring your own device — is a work policy in which staff are allowed to use personal devices to access business email and software programs, download work files, or communicate with colleagues. In the post-COVID-19 era, remote workers frequently use personal devices in some capacity, whether or not an organization explicitly allows it.

Business owners have the added burden of making certain staff observe cybersecurity best practices when using personally owned devices, especially since the risks of BYOD are well-known. In fact, according to a study published by the Ponemon Institute, the substantial increase in remote work has a negative impact on companies’ security posture.

BYOD cybersecurity risks

Almost half of companies that allow employees to use their own devices experience data breaches, which makes it imperative for businesses to strengthen security measures. Technology consultants can help boost the IT security of remote workers and mitigate the BYOD security risks outlined below.

Lost or stolen devices

Regardless of whether employees work in-office or remotely, a personal device can be lost or stolen. If devices are unencrypted, hackers can simply steal a device and have direct access to sensitive data. An alarming statistic shows that almost half of data breaches occur because of lost laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

Companies can enhance data security on lost devices by using mobile device management (MDM) tools. These security tools help encrypt, protect, and wipe data off devices that are lost or stolen, or those used by former employees.

Failure to enable multifactor authentication (MFA) on devices

With teams working from different locations, businesses may easily overlook requiring remote workers to enable MFA on devices used for work. Enabling MFA is vital to preventing company credentials from easily being compromised in case of loss or theft.

A lack of clear BYOD policies

At the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses were ill-prepared to shift their workforce into a home-based setup. The absence of clear BYOD policies exposed companies to higher risk of cyberattack than ever before.

To reduce risks, companies should implement BYOD policies that inform staff of what they should and shouldn’t do when using non-company-issued devices for work. These policies should outline employees’ rights and responsibilities when accessing company networks, data, and systems, and should be reviewed regularly as work roles and employee circumstances change.

Insufficient network security

Remote workers connect to either a home or public Wi-Fi, neither of which is guaranteed to be using encryption. Additionally, not all Wi-Fi hotspots that use encryption are 100% safe. A compromised public connection can lead to problems such as data theft, man-in-the-middle attacks, eavesdropping, session hijacking, and malware infection.

It may be unavoidable for some remote workers to utilize public Wi-Fi. As a compromise, they must be required to use a virtual private network (VPN) so that all online activities performed over an unsecured Wi-Fi network are routed through an encrypted connection. Another option is to connect to a cellular data connection using an eSIM, which offers a safe connection without a physical SIM Card.

Individuals accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots must practice vigilance, such as avoiding sharing highly sensitive business data or using company messaging services to discuss and/or share crucial business information.

All devices are prone to malware infection

Remote workers must patch security updates as soon as these become available. In addition, remote workers should limit the number of apps downloaded on laptops or mobile gadgets to protect the safety not only of their devices but also of the company.

Increased social engineering attacks

As cybercriminals are acutely aware, remote workers have less protection against attack than those working in an office. According to the Ponemon Institute, phishing/social engineering attacks have been most prevalent since the beginning of the pandemic.

There is no single solution to avoid becoming a victim of phishing and other social engineering tactics. However, ongoing cybersecurity education can greatly help in ensuring staff’s vigilance. Company IT teams should develop comprehensive IT security measures consisting of backup and recovery strategies, password management, and file encryption.

IT teams must also review the security posture of third-party collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello, and Microsoft 365. These and other similar platforms may not be able to guarantee the safety of business data in case a remote staff member’s credentials are compromised.

Roebuck Technologies understands the IT security challenges that plague businesses with a remote or hybrid workforce. Let us help you develop an optimal and secure technology infrastructure for your business. Schedule a technology assessment with our team today.

Doug Coleman

Doug Coleman

Chief Operating Officer

Doug possesses over 20 years of expertise in corporate finance, information systems, logistics, supply chain management and competitive strategies. He has served in executive management not only for The Roebuck Group, but also Commercial Carrier Corporation, a nationwide transportation and logistics provider. Additionally, he served in senior management at Vology, a global value-added reseller of technology solutions. Doug earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of Florida as well as a Juris Doctorate degree from Stetson University College of Law.