Remote Work Security Best Practices

The shift to remote work has dramatically expanded the enterprise attack surface. Discover today's best practices to secure your distributed workforce and your company's data.

The shift to remote work has dramatically expanded the enterprise attack surface. Discover today's best practices to secure your distributed workforce and your company's data.

Remote Work Security Best Practices

We've seen a seismic shift in where and how work gets done. Remote and hybrid arrangements have become the norm, offering benefits like increased flexibility, productivity, and access to talent. But this transition has also opened up new avenues for cyber threats, catching many organizations off guard.

Many companies today have at least some staff working outside of traditional office confines. According to Forbes’ Remote Work Statistics And Trends In 2024 as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work remotely, plus 28.2% work in a hybrid model. Additionally, around 16% of companies already function entirely remotely, without the need for physical office space. These organizations are at the forefront of the remote work trend, proving its practicality and leading the way for future adoption.

While employees enjoy the freedom to work from anywhere, security teams are grappling with an attack surface that has exploded in size and complexity practically overnight. Outdated perimeter defenses are no match for an environment where personal devices, home networks, and cloud apps intermingle with corporate assets.

In this article, we look at the unique security challenges associated with remote work and share best practices for keeping data and systems safe without sacrificing user experience. You’ll learn the key threats to watch out for and the critical controls needed to protect your distributed workforce. Plus, we’ll explore how innovative solutions like enterprise browsers are redefining security for the modern workplace.

Remote work security threats 

Remote work opens the door to a range of cyber threats that can compromise sensitive data and systems. Some of the most pressing threats include:

Physical access threats: Unattended devices in public spaces or home offices can be vulnerable to unauthorized access.

Phishing, vishing, smishing: Social engineering attacks that manipulate users into revealing sensitive information or installing malware have surged. Phishing uses email, vishing exploits phone calls and voicemail, while smishing relies on SMS text messages. Remote workers may be more vulnerable because much of their work already takes place over the phone and text messaging. 

Social engineering: Techniques like pretexting, baiting, and quid pro quo that are used to trick users into breaking security protocols. Remote workers may be more susceptible without the security umbrella of the enterprise network present in an office environment.

Ransomware: Malicious software that encrypts a victim's files and demands payment to restore access. The use of personal devices and networks for work increases the risk of ransomware infections. 

Malware, spyware, viruses: Malicious software designed to infiltrate and damage systems or steal data. Remote work blurs the lines between personal and corporate devices, making it easier for malware to spread.

Wireless hijacking: Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi networks to intercept data transmissions, especially on public or poorly secured home networks.

Eavesdropping: The act of secretly listening to private conversations, potentially revealing confidential information. Poorly configured remote meeting software can enable eavesdropping.

Traffic manipulation: Modifying unencrypted data in transit to commit fraud or steal information. The use of unsecured public networks places remote traffic at greater risk.

The consequences of these threats can be severe, including data breaches, financial losses, reputational damage, operational disruption, and regulatory penalties. Mitigating these risks requires a multi-layered approach to security.

Best security practices for remote work teams

So, what can you do? Securing a remote workforce demands a combination of technical controls, user education, and robust policies. Key best practices include:

Train staff on security practices

Human error remains a leading cause of security breaches. Educating employees about potential threats and best practices is crucial. Key topics you should cover include:

  • Recognizing and avoiding phishing, smishing, and vishing attempts 
  • Identifying signs of social engineering like unusual requests or pressure tactics
  • Awareness of ransomware and malware infection vectors
  • Password hygiene and the importance of strong, unique passwords
  • Safe use of generative AI tools, to prevent inadvertent sharing of sensitive data

Codify your company’s expectations in clear, accessible security policies. Provide guidance on securing home networks, keeping software updated, using secure passwords, and separating work and personal devices where possible.

Provide security tools  

Equip employees with the tools they need to work securely. Core solutions include:

Password managers to create and store strong, unique passwords. Explore the growing role of enterprise browsers as password management solutions.

Multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access, even if passwords are compromised. Implement MFA broadly, not just for a subset of apps.  

Zero trust access models that continually verify trust, rather than assuming it based on network location or prior access. Educate staff on why zero trust is important in a perimeter-less world. 

Endpoint protection to detect and block threats on user devices. Consider solutions that work seamlessly off-network and don't hamper performance.

Protect devices

With the rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) models, organizations have less direct control over endpoints. Mitigate risks with device management and security policies:

  • Monitor device health and compliance with security tools to maintain visibility 
  • Enforce disk encryption, VPN usage, software update policies, and other baseline security settings 
  • Consider strategies for keeping  work data and apps separate from personal usage

Protect information and applications 

Adopting a granular, zero trust approach to data protection and access control is critical in a remote work environment. Here are some key best practices:

  • Implement role-based, least-privilege access policies to ensure users only have access to the resources they need to do their jobs. This limits exposure in the event of a compromise.
  • Require multi-factor authentication (MFA), especially for administrators and sensitive resources. MFA adds an extra layer of protection, even if a password is compromised.
  • Deploy data loss prevention (DLP) solutions to restrict the exfiltration of sensitive information. DLP tools can monitor and block unauthorized attempts to copy, send, or upload confidential data.
  • Shift from on-device storage to the cloud to reduce data sprawl. Cloud storage provides a central, secure repository for company data, making it easier to manage access and prevent data loss from lost or stolen devices.

The role of enterprise browsers in remote work security

A core element of a modern security stack for remote work is an enterprise browser. Unlike traditional browsers, enterprise browsers are purpose-built for organizations' security and manageability needs.

Enterprise browsers extend granular security policies and data protections to the browser, a critical gap in most security stacks. They enable device security posture checks, site access control, data loss prevention, and detailed logging. By building security into the browser, enterprise browsers deliver capabilities that point solutions like VPNs or cloud access brokers struggle to address.

Some key remote work security use cases for enterprise browsers:

  • Enforcing least-privilege access and data security policies for SaaS and internal web apps 
  • Enabling secure access to enterprise resources for unmanaged devices, without the need for full-device VPN
  • Protecting sensitive corporate data from compromise on personal devices by isolating the browser 
  • Gaining visibility into compliance issues and identifying anomalous user behavior through detailed audit logs

Streamline your security stack with an enterprise browser

Equipping employees with the right tools is essential for secure remote work. However, the traditional approach of stitching together point solutions can lead to complexity, user friction, and gaps in protection. 

Enter Island, the Enterprise Browser — a new class of tool that consolidates critical security functions into a single, user-friendly platform. By building key capabilities like password management, multi-factor authentication, and zero trust access directly into the browser, enterprise browsers like Island offer a more integrated and streamlined approach to remote work security.

Island eliminates the need for a system-level endpoint agent on a personal device, making BYOD a win-win for users and IT alike. By enforcing security and management policies directly in the browser, Island keeps all critical web apps and data secure without requiring intrusive software on the user's device. Last-mile controls built into the browser prevent data leakage, keeping business and personal data separate. This approach respects user privacy while still giving security teams the ability to manage risk. 

Let’s not forget that it's important to ensure the responsible use of generative AI tools like ChatGPT in the workplace. Island empowers organizations to harness the productivity benefits of generative AI with its built-in AI assistant, powered by ChatGPT. The advantage Island’s AI assistant offers is that you’re limiting OpenAI’s access to your intellectual property. Island also mitigates data leakage risks with capabilities like detailed logging of user interactions with AI tools, built-in data loss prevention to prevent the sharing of sensitive information, real-time user coaching, AI output inspection, and granular access control.

As you evaluate your remote work security stack, consider how an enterprise browser like Island can help you consolidate tools, improve protection, and deliver a better user experience. Our experts would be happy to discuss how Island can support your organization's unique needs. Contact us today to learn more.