how to prepare for a cyber attack

How to Prepare for a Cyber Attack in a Remote Workplace

June 30, 2023 - Ellie Gabel

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As more workplaces allow employees to clock in from the comfort of their homes, cybersecurity has become a pressing issue. Keeping a company network safe is hard enough when all the computers are in the same building — when they’re scattered across different countries, it becomes a serious challenge. Here’s how to prepare for a cyber attack and keep data secure in the remote workplace. 

In-Office vs. Remote Cybersecurity

What makes traditional offices more secure than working from home? 

  • Public vs. private networks: Remote employees often work from a coffee shop or other place that uses a public Wi-Fi network. A public network is more vulnerable to cyber attacks than a private one. In contrast, offices usually have their own secure computer network.
  • An IT department: Many businesses employ IT workers who consistently monitor and update company networks. People working from home don’t have the luxury of hiring their own cybersecurity specialists. 
  • Firewalls: Many remote workers operate without a firewall in place. Most office operations, however, use them to protect company computers. 
  • Range of attack: The more devices on a network, the greater the odds one of them is unsecured. An office building with robust network defenses may be hard for hackers to breach. However, if those same workers go home with individual laptops, tablets and personal desktop computers, the odds of a data breach increase exponentially. 

People also use their home computers for more than just work. If employees click on a malicious link by mistake or otherwise download a virus, they can expose the entire company network to threat actors. 

How to Prepare for a Cyber attack

Across industries, organizations should do the following to secure their remote workforce:

  1. Back Up Files — and Test the Backups

It’s crucial to keep backups of all important company information in the cloud. It’s even more vital to make sure the backed-up files are accessible and secure. In one survey, just 47% of polled businesses regularly tested their backup options. Saving copies of files can mean the difference between securing customer information and never seeing it again. 

  1. Use the Principle of Least Privilege

Workers only need access to a certain number of files, passwords and accounts. They don’t need administrative privileges to open anything they want on the company network or log into the CEO’s email inbox. The principle of least privilege means giving workers access only to what they require to perform their jobs. 

  1. Adopt a Zero-Trust Approach

When a user or device tries to make a new connection, the company network must verify who or what they are. Even though the interaction may come from inside the corporate network, the software should not automatically trust it. The zero-trust model requires people and devices to always prove their identity — no matter how many times they’ve logged in. 

  1. Turn on Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA requires users to input a temporary passcode to access the company network. They can either receive the one-time code on their cell phone, in an email or on a landline. The code expires quickly and is only valid for a single login attempt. 

Multi-factor authentication adds an additional barrier for threat actors. Instead of having to breach just one network, they must also hack into or steal a secondary device. 

  1. Provide Ongoing Training

Criminal or malicious insiders account for very few cybersecurity breaches. In fact, one study found that negligent employees or contractors were responsible for nearly 63% of security incidents. Carelessness that creates network vulnerabilities can lead to cyber attacks. 

Remote workers need continuous training on how to prepare for a cyber attack. They should learn how to thwart phishing attempts, avoid clicking suspicious links and recognize untrustworthy sites. Employers should also brief them on not leaving devices unattended or sharing sensitive data with unauthorized users. 

  1. Use Strong Company Passwords

Businesses should use a password manager to generate and store complicated, unique passwords. Employees should use different passwords for every user account and service they access at work. It’s also crucial to update passwords regularly and not write them down on sticky notes where someone might see them. 

The best passwords are long and contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. The more complex the login information, the harder it is for a threat actor to guess it or use brute-force methods to figure it out. Using a password manager also makes it easy to store very long passphrases. 

  1. Hire Penetration Testers

In a pen test, IT professionals known as white-hat hackers attempt to breach a company network. If they find a vulnerability in the system, they report it to the business and may offer to help fix it. This form of proactive cybersecurity helps to prepare for a cyber attack by fixing flaws before hackers can exploit them. 

  1. Conduct Risk Assessments

A risk assessment usually involves the use of a third-party contractor. This security contractor takes inventory of a company’s assets and examines the infrastructure for any possible vulnerabilities. The security company then calculates how much risk a data breach would pose and how likely it is to happen. By conducting a risk assessment, a business can decide which steps it needs to take to protect its assets. 

  1. Go Threat Hunting

Penetration tests and risk assessments help companies find vulnerabilities that could let threats into the system. In contrast, threat hunting looks for problems that have already made their way into the company network. It seeks to find malicious actors that have slipped past security and are hiding in plain sight. 

  1. Use Antivirus, Anti-Malware and Anti-Spam Software

Employees should install antivirus software on their work computers to prevent viruses the system has encountered before. Anti-malware uses heuristic-based detection to identify threats it has never encountered. Anti-spam software helps protect employee inboxes against scams and phishing attempts. All three types of software are crucial for safely browsing the internet from a work computer, especially when working from home. 

Shielding the Virtual Workforce Against Cyber attacks

Cybercrime is nothing new, but it has become more prevalent in recent years. The rise of remote work has provided the perfect opportunity for hackers to exploit company networks. Thankfully, businesses can take a number of steps to protect vulnerable data. After all, remote work is here to stay, so it’s time for industries to adapt. 

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.


Ellie Gabel

Ellie Gabel is a science writer specializing in astronomy and environmental science and is the Associate Editor of Revolutionized. Ellie's love of science stems from reading Richard Dawkins books and her favorite science magazines as a child, where she fell in love with the experiments included in each edition.

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