Empower your Hybrid Workforce with a Security-first Culture

While there is an abundance of tools online, they are only as useful as the users that use them. This should be the primary philosophy moving forward, especially as companies have realized the benefits of having both remote and in-office workers. This hybrid model is going to develop further even as the world has moved past COVID-19.

But with this new hybrid model here to stay, it’s important that businesses stay on top of this, after all, a Ponemon survey of IT security leaders showed that 62% of people working remotely aren’t following security protocols as closely as they should be. Worse, that’s only half of it.

The other half of this issue is logistical and monitoring challenges. With everyone working in different locations, it can be hard to keep track of everyone inherently. Complications occur further if companies are doing rotational shifts where employees are working throughout the day.

Overall, building a security-first culture in this new work environment is a massive undertaking and companies will need to be creative with devising a strategy. Here are some suggestions that can be critical to empowering and effectively building this.

Getting Perimeter-Less Technology

When working with hybrid models, businesses must keep in mind that while employees are working in different environments, they are all working together online. As such, businesses must account for the fact employees might be using less secure internet connections and others might even be using their own smartphones or tablets to get work done.

Instead of forcing employees not to use those, it’s smarter for businesses to upgrade security systems, tools, and controls to ensure they can reach the demands of this new workforce. What this means in practice is implementing perimeter-less tech and investing in cloud-based SaaS (Systems as a Service). What this looks like in practice is acquiring:

  • VPNs
  • Identity and management tools
  • Patch management applications
  • Unified endpoint management systems
  • Backup and recovery solutions

For further security, ensure that applications support Zero Trust architecture. This is a security concept that dictates that every attempt to access company networks and systems always needs to be verified. Even when employees are within the network.

Documented Policies & Procedures

If nothing is written down, then it’s going to be difficult to enforce anything with employees. Even the people who do wish to comply can also forget certain things if procedures aren’t written out step-by-step. They can also struggle to understand what the purpose is of certain systems. For example, employees might be using the company VPN for non-work purposes. To prevent from occurring, create an Acceptable Use Policy for that VPN.

Other critical IT policies and procedures to take note of are:

  • Change management
  • Remote access
  • And incident response

There are several others but having these documented and shared can reassure employees. This also helps with onboarding since business owners can refer to those procedures when training.

Overall, having as many policies and procedures outlined, checked, and updated regularly can ensure employees know what’s expected of them, why it’s important, and enable them to stay on track.

Security Awareness Training

The inclusion of this aspect is crucial. As mentioned above, a company can have the best tools in the world, but they only perform as best as the users themselves. Even though firewalls and other security measures are the first line of defence, the reality is employees are in that same position too.

This aspect of culture is nothing new and has been around for years now, but it’s instrumental to making a hybrid work environment work well. The risk factor on cybersecurity is that much larger in this model since there are more outside elements affecting this model than others. As such, it’s key to take compliance seriously now more than ever.

This means deploying training programs and mandating employees to take these courses. This will reduce human errors, develop better security habits, and equip employees with awareness about the current security landscape. Videos can even be generated internally with staff covering security best practices and SOPs.

Beyond that, having interactive training programs can also help employees protect themselves against social engineering, brute-force password attacks, ransomware, and phishing. Businesses can even reinforce those by performing routine tests and simulations.

Communication & Support Channels

When these are present, clearly defined, and easy to access, threats become much easier to handle. In the ideal world, these channels will allow staff to raise an alarm, understand who they need to contact after reporting, and to spot threats earlier, mitigating the impact of a threat significantly.

In addition, clearly defining what tools can be used for communication and collaboration also helps. For example, discouraging personal apps like social media platforms for official communication and file transfers are ideal. Explaining how doing that can compromise company data or important documents can help employees understand they shouldn’t be using those platforms.

Friction-Free Systems & Strategies

Finally, when devising new security strategies or evaluating new systems, businesses should give due importance to UI and efficiency. If an antivirus software lags employee workstations, employees might disable it to get the work done. While the work can get done faster and with less hassle, that behaviour still creates a potential threat to company data.

The point is that while security is crucial these days, it shouldn’t come at the expense of employees having a harder time working or cost the company more money beyond the price tag. Ensure that the security measures and policies outlined don’t force employees to do extra work, otherwise they’ll grow weary of it and abandon the practice altogether.

Work Hard And Implement

Building a security-first culture is difficult in this new working model. There are more complexities added to this system and there are more factors businesses need to consider.  The key to all this is to be patient with the process. Lean into an IT team if necessary.


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