This October, as businesses emerge from the pandemic, many are making strategic decisions about their long-term work arrangements. While there is a substantial debate about remaining remote or bringing people back to the office, many companies are choosing to meet in the middle, embracing a hybrid work arrangement that allows people to work both on-site and remotely.
According to a Gartner survey of industry leaders across representative sectors, 82 percent of companies plan to provide a remote work option at least “some of the time.” In other words, hybrid work looks to be a permanent fixture, not a reactionary trend, making now the right time for leaders to assess and respond to the cybersecurity concerns created by this flexible work arrangement.
While today’s threat landscape is expansive, Verizon’s annual industry report found that 85 percent of data breaches are attributable to a “human element,” making it critical that companies enhance their defensive posture accordingly. For leaders looking to secure their hybrid workforces against insider threats, here are three best practices to implement today.
#1 Prepare Employees for Secure Remote Work
For many employees, cybersecurity is an afterthought as they execute their core responsibilities and obligations. However, secure hybrid work doesn’t happen by accident, so companies need to prepare their employees to operate securely in this environment.
For example, phishing scams have increased considerably in the past year. Employees are more likely to engage these malicious messages when working from home, making ongoing awareness training a central priority for hybrid teams.
At the same time, hybrid workers are more likely to mix personal and professional technology, putting sensitive data at risk and exposing companies to potential privacy or regulatory compliance violations.
Unfortunately, some remote workers will abuse the perceived anonymity of their home-bound workspace to abuse or misuse company data. Since trusted insiders have access to critical data, companies need to closely govern this access, prioritizing cybersecurity over broad accessibility.
In total, employee negligence was a factor in 2,962 of the 4,716 insider threat cases examined in IBM’s latest Cost of Insider Threats Report. Simply put, companies can’t afford to let employees self-determine their cybersecurity best practices. Instead, they need to prepare employees for secure remote work. They should enforce these standards using employee monitoring, insider threat detection, and other systems to maintain the same cybersecurity priorities as on-site teams.
#2 Protect Sensitive Data
Unfortunately, even the most well-trained employees are prone to make mistakes. For instance, one survey found that 52 percent of employees self-report that stress increases the likelihood of a mistake, and more than 40 percent are negatively impacted by fatigue and distraction.
In addition, potential bad actors may feel emboldened to steal company data or undermine compliance efforts, making it imperative that organizations erect digital guardrails to prevent a catastrophe before it occurs.
Specifically, endpoint data loss prevention software disrupts efforts to remove or manipulate company data, denying insider threats the capacity to create more serious cybersecurity problems. It’s also an effective strategy for enacting data management standards for all employees, ensuring that data misuse isn’t predicated on access alone.
#3 Empower Cybersecurity Staff
Cybersecurity teams have an unbelievably difficult task. Threat actors only have to be successful once to inflict incredible financial, operational, and reputational harm on a company, but cybersecurity staff have to be successful every time. As a result, three-quarters of cybersecurity sector employees feel burned out, and 65 percent are considering quitting their jobs or leaving the profession altogether. Meanwhile, there are more than 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the US alone, making it difficult for companies to replenish their cybersecurity teams.
That’s why companies need to empower their cybersecurity staff with the tools to secure a hybrid workforce. This starts by reducing the number of security alerts that require direct attention. Seventy percent of cybersecurity professionals say the volume of alerts has more than doubled in the past year, reaching 1,000 a day in 2021.
Unsurprisingly, cybersecurity teams cannot operate effectively when inundated with so many potential threats. Burgeoning automation capabilities offer a ready solution, reducing alert volumes without compromising security. Automation can support cybersecurity teams by:
- Providing always-on monitoring capabilities that assess for accidental or malicious data sharing or exposure.
- Reducing the number of cyber threats targeting employees, IT infrastructure, or critical data.
- Preventing data exfiltration before a data breach occurs.
- Notifying IT personnel of serious risks that demand immediate attention.
As hybrid work becomes the de-facto work arrangement for many companies, they can’t overlook the well-being, sustainability, and effectiveness of their cybersecurity teams. Turning to automation can empower cybersecurity personnel to thrive in this environment.
Whether companies are inviting employees back to the office or implementing a more flexible workplace arrangement, cybersecurity has to be foundational to these efforts. The financial consequences, reputational damage, and regulatory implications are just too steep to leave it up to chance. By addressing the human element, businesses reduce their exposure, positioning themselves to flourish in a post-pandemic, digital-first business environment.