The ultimate guide to a secure remote work environment in Corona times 

Since the coronavirus started, cybercriminals are celebrating without mercy. Cybersecurity is essential for companies today and it is important to not forget about the threats that every company faces these days. This post serves as a guideline for company’s to establish a secure remote work environment. And increase the awareness of different threats that are relevant to this period.  The following are four essential points that I want to focus on in this post: 

  • Endpoint hardening 
  • VPN Security
  • Patches and enrollment 
  • Cybersecurity awareness

Endpoint hardening 

Make the life of the cybercriminals hard by hardening your endpoints, this is one of the essentials things to do in order to secure your environment. The idea is to minimize actions regular users can perform and windows features that can be used by cybercriminals in order to exploit your endpoints and gain further access into your network. Following are some of the points that can be used to secure the endpoints in your organization: 

  • Disable windows features: Disable windows features used by hackers to exploit the system for regular domain users. Features that should be disabled are PowerShell, cmd, notepad
  • Restrict access to files with Applocker. Applocker is a windows feature that allows you to restrict file types in windows. It provides great security to your environment and is included in the windows enterprise operative system. 
  • Bitlocker: Since the employees are taking their laptops home, you should consider securing them with BitLocker. Bitlocker encrypts your files so that in case of laptop theft the thief would not be able to read the files or use the computer. 
  • On Macintosh, you can use Veracrypt in order to encrypt your important files. It’s free and can be downloaded here
  • Do a drill of your cybersecurity solutions in order to make sure they work properly on the laptops. Many policies can cause problems when the laptop suddenly connects from a different location. 

VPN Security

Since you are probably going to use a VPN to connect to your organization’s network remotely, it is important that you know this channel is secured. In the last two years, there have been several vulnerabilities found in VPN solutions, and unfortunately, many of them are not patched automatically so manual patching is necessary. I will attach some guidelines below in the references on how you can patch your VPN’s. The following points present the essentials of VPN security 

  • Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication will greatly improve the security of your VPN since a cybercriminal would need to acquire the authentication code or cookie of your session, I don’t say it’s impossible but it does add a new layer of security and is not hard to implement. 
  • Check for new updates. Like mentioned above it’s important to check for updates for your VPN solution
  • Limit the use of VPN if possible. If an employee can work without VPN connection this is the best option, you want to minimize the threats. 
  • Implement a strong password policy. It is important to enforce a strong password policy of at least 8 characters, including digits, capital, and non-capital letters, and symbols, I recommend this password generator which is very useful
  • Secure the users’s WIFI connection. It is important for each employee that works from home to secure their wifi connection, this could be done by using a strong password with the same specs as mentioned above and make sure you don’t hand over this password to anybody you don’t know, if possible, create another home guest wifi network. 

Patches and enrollment 

It is important to make a check that everything works on both sides before rolling out the solutions. All laptops should be patched including their operating system and programs. For the company’s using ZOOM, several vulnerabilities were discovered lately and patches have been released. Make sure that all the programs of your employees are up to date. 

Cybersecurity Awareness 

In this period, cybercriminals are taking full advantage of the situation. They will use different tricks and techniques to try to gain access to your employee’s computers and your network. The following are some scenarios that can be exploited: 

  • The malicious actor could call your employees to ask them to hand over passwords or other information, social engineering techniques can be used to for example make them think they are from the companies staff or IT department. It is important to verify every call before performing any action 
  • You can receive phishing emails from cybercriminals trying to trick you into handing them your passwords and other valuable information. Carefully inspect your emails and don’t open any suspicious email or link, no-one will offer you 1$M and your password has not been compromised. 
  • Since you are accessing the internet from your home and not from the company’s network, there could be several security features that are disabled, it is therefore important to be aware when you access sites on the internet, don’t access sites that are not work-related and be cautious of actions that you are not aware of on the computer. 

References and more guidelines 

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/01/07/pulse_secure_attacks/

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/01/as-attacks-begin-citrix-ships-patch-for-vpn-vulnerability/

https://help.fortinet.com/fos50hlp/52data/Content/FortiOS/fortigate-best-practices-52/Security%20Profiles/Patch_Mgmt.htm

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