How to prevent phishing
and malware attacks
targeting remote

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Steps companies can take to scale their remote worker capabilities securely.

Hackers are starting to target remote workers with scams taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, many remote workers don't know how to securely access enterprise tools and applications. And while criminals are moving quickly, it takes most organizations an average of up to 66 days to discover a security breach.

If you’re just getting started:

Take care of the basics. Make sure to install phishing filters on email and web browsers. Encourage employees to use their business devices when accessing company applications remotely. If they must use personal devices, encourage employees to apply the same security hygiene to their personal devices by ensuring that they are current on thei r system and application security updates and have personal firewall/antivirus software installed. Finally, consider deploying recursive DNS solutions on both corporate networks and for remote workers.

Secure all access points, including mobile devices. Remember that mobile devices are a common threat vector for security breaches. Installing security applications such as Digital Secure on employee phones is one way to help secure mobile devices from malware and viruses.

Additionally, if you are able to, implement mobile device management (MDM) software to help ensure that mobile devices have the latest firmware and security updates.

Use mobile app management software to set up and protect mobile devices using zero-trust security capabilities such as zero sign-on, multifactor authentication and mobile threat defense, while configuring them to security policies, apps, Wi-Fi and other settings.

Ramp up security training and awareness for your employees.  The spike in at-home workers is proving to be a feast for cybercriminals, who are exploiting remote-worker vulnerabilities through social engineering and phishing campaigns.  Ask employees to treat any unknown emails and links as suspicious, and provide them an easy way to alert your IT or information security team. Inform them on how official communications will be sent and expectations on actions. Remind remote employees to minimize non-work related web-surfing and media streaming, which adds burden to the network.

  • Employee activities such as
    remote work access or mobile
    device usage are common
    sources of cyberattacks.

For organizations with existing remote work capabilities:

Quantify the total impact of quickly expanding your VPN license inventory.  Before enabling remote access for thousands of users, evaluate your company’s associated bandwidth and hardware limitations.  For example, some customers are reporting their firewalls weren’t configured to support a huge spike in remote connectivity.

Don’t disable security features in favor of network performance.  Temporary changes can be made to better manage network traffic without sacrificing the effectiveness of security devices and appliances.  Verizon can offer advice on user, traffic and load disbursement strategies or, where appropriate, new technologies that can be implemented quickly to address critical constraints. Cyber-hygiene is more critical now than ever. We’re reminding our customers to promptly patch known vulnerabilities and confirm configurations of key security systems, such as e-mail filters and VPNs.

Implement multifactor authentication (MFA) on all VPN connections. If MFA is not implemented, require remote workers to use very strong passwords.  Also, ensure IT security and networking teams test VPN network and licensing limitations to prepare for mass usage and, implement modifications, such as rate limiting, to prioritize users that will require higher than normal bandwidths.

Review third party SLAs, especially for data center providers and other key suppliers. Minimize the risk of outages caused by external parties, and manage the expectations of business line executives who rely on IT by clearly communicating the SLAs of third-party providers.

Evaluate solutions like temporary remote access server (RAS) in the Cloud.  A cloud-based RAS strategy might support your unexpected scaling requirements.

Additional help

National Institute of Standards and Technology e-book: Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security
Securing Your Mobile Devices
Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report
Verizon Mobile Security Index
Verizon Security Solutions

Data points:

  • The financial impact of reported cybercrime was more than $2.7 B in 2018
  • The number of days to discover a cyberattack is up to 66 days
  • Most common types of cyberattacks are phishing and network intrusion
  • Employee activities such as remote work access or mobile device usage are common sources of cyberattacks
  • The average cost to a business after a data breach was $7.91 M

Sources: Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report; FBI; Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3); U.S. Department of Justice; 2018 IC3 Annual Report