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Let's Review: The Cyber Issues of Remote Access

by BIO-key Team 0 Comments

When the COVID-19 pandemic created a large shutdown worldwide around March of 2020, many organizations had to suddenly change their workforce model to support remote working; BIO-key included. Daily coffee chit-chats, quick meetings, and in-person conversations were pushed to Slack, Zoom, and other online video meeting services and asynchronous communication methods.  

With this newer work-from-home model under our belts for around a year and a half, we must ask, what are the issues with remote access today? At the very beginning of the pandemic, many organizations were unsure of how to meet with their team online, others have experienced that online video meetings have latency issues, video and audio delays, and for some have chosen to keep their cameras off during the meeting. 

However, today, issues from working remotely have changed. While users have gotten used to the remote working lifestyle, for example realizing for video calls they can wear sweatpants with an appropriate top, at the same time cybersecurity issues have become more prevalent. Throughout the pandemic, the shift to remote working has given cybercriminals many advantages and exposed organizations to potential data breaches. Additionally, because we are not in person, there is no verification that the user logging into your system is who they say they are. As the chaos from the start of the pandemic dies down, we must look at the issues of remote access as hybrid and remote working become the new normal. 

Increased Vulnerabilities 

Some organizations have already been using remote access solutions to support a portion of their workforce, but with the sudden shift to 100% remote working, the remaining organizations face potential security risks when they introduce these solutions. Many organizations lack the resources to implement new remote work solutions while making sure access to them is secure. This leaves them vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

Also, because many employees are working individually from their own homes, this creates more endpoints for threat actors to abuse. Instead of all the employees working under a strong and secure infrastructure, they are working separately under vulnerable endpoints. For example, many employees are logging into their home networks which often rely on a weak, single password that can be stolen.  

Cloud technologies are also being implemented to easily share files among co-workers. As the migration to the cloud is more common, so too are the security risks that go with it. Existing cloud service providers may be lacking in security controls, and if threat actors compromise the cloud provider, they can also have access to your confidential data. 

For organizations that manage a lot of confidential data, migrating to a remote work environment runs a major risk of that data being compromised. Industries where a massive amount of confidential data is stored, such as finance, healthcare, and state and local government, may be even more vulnerable to threat actors that paint these industries with a large target. 

Phishing 

Social engineering attacks, better known as phishing attacks, have unfortunately become more popular and more complex. Sending spear-phishing emails to high-level executives has become more successful as the pandemic and remote work have constantly distracted employees from double-checking the email sender and contents and threat actors can easily impersonate a colleague.

For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, there was an increase in cyberattacks that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic, and even when the vaccines were announced, with fake vaccine appointment emails which were designed to direct the victim to download malware or click a malicious link. 

User Verification 

While employees were working on-site, management and IT could monitor and verify that the employees logging into their corporate network should be trusted. However, with remote work, this form of the implicit trust of a user if they are on the corporate network no longer exists. As employees are working from home, user verification becomes increasingly difficult to truly know whether any login is coming from an employee that works at your organization.  

There is no guarantee that a username and password combination can verify that John Smith from marketing is actually the person gaining access. A threat actor could have used his stolen account information to login. Because most authentication methods do not identify the individual person, your organization cannot tell the difference between the actual John Smith and a possible impersonator. 

What’s Next for Remote Working 

Even as organizations are opening their offices and implementing hybrid work environments, they still need to understand the cybersecurity issues with remote access and should implement solutions that best fit their cybersecurity strategy and their users. Solutions like Multi-factor Authentication and Zero-Trust Architecture which involve stricter authentication processes are growing in popularity for organizations looking to improve their cybersecurity infrastructure. 

Read more on Zero-Trust Architecture and how organizations can design a cybersecurity infrastructure to support remote or hybrid work environments using controls such as Multi-factor Authentication. 

Tags: hybrid, remote access, zero trust

BIO-key Team

Author: BIO-key Team