Remote work: A woman using a laptop while working from home.

Is remote work a cybersecurity risk?

With the rise of remote work culture, businesses are faced with new challenges, including increased cybersecurity risks. As companies transition to remote work models, they open themselves up to potential vulnerabilities that can compromise sensitive data and lead to devastating cyber attacks. It’s essential that companies understand the risks and take steps to mitigate them effectively.

Why working remotely can increase vulnerability

The sudden increase in remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic also saw a surge in cybercrime, with reports of three times more incidents per week than before the lockdown. With cybercrime numbers soaring and data breaches nearly doubling in the past year, businesses are desperate to find ways to protect their systems and data. Statista reports that 72% of businesses are concerned about the online security risks of employees working remotely.

‍One of the primary cybersecurity concerns with remote work is the expansion of the “attack surface.” Traditional office environments are often equipped with robust security measures like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure Wi-Fi networks. They often have a dedicated IT team that can perform cybersecurity maintenance tasks and deal with threats as they happen.

‍However, remote work setups rely heavily on home networks, which may lack adequate protection. Remote workers sometimes work in public spaces like cafes or airports, connecting to unsecured public wifi networks.

‍Another significant cybersecurity risk stems from the use of insecure endpoint devices. Remote employees may access company networks and systems using personal laptops, smartphones, or tablets, which may not have the same level of security as corporate devices. Without proper security measures in place, these devices can serve as entry points for cyber attacks, potentially leading to data breaches or network compromise.

What are the risks?

Remote work environments pose challenges in maintaining data confidentiality and preventing insider threats. Employees working remotely may inadvertently expose sensitive information through unsecured channels or mishandle data due to a lack of oversight.

‍“We need employees to be far more aware of things that they wouldn’t need to be aware of when they’re working in the office,” Nadya Bartol, managing director at Boston Consulting Group, explained to Forbes. “For instance, who is standing behind us? Am I leaving my device unattended? How is the network I’m using protected? Do I let family members use my device?”

‍Workers outside of the office can be unconsciously more relaxed and less aware of cyber risks. For example, research from the University of Michigan tested whether people would plug in a USB drive that they found, without knowing anything about it — and 70% did, exposing their computers and data to enormous risks.

‍Additionally, phishing attacks remain a prevalent threat in the remote work landscape. Cybercriminals capitalize on the dispersed nature of remote teams by sending deceptive emails, messages, or even phone calls to trick employees into divulging sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. Remote workers, often juggling multiple tasks in a less secure environment, can be more susceptible to these tactics.

Mitigating the risks

There is some research that suggests that remote employees are becoming more aware of the cybersecurity risks they face. A recent study published in Science Direct found that workers who telecommute scored higher than their office counterparts in surveys measuring their awareness of and actions to prevent cybersecurity threats.

‍No matter whether a company’s workforce is primarily remote or office-based, it is essential to take steps to mitigate the risks of cybercrime. This should include:

  • Security awareness training: Educate employees about common cybersecurity threats, such as phishing, and how to recognize and respond to them appropriately.
  • Endpoint security solutions: Implement robust endpoint security measures, including antivirus software, encryption, and remote device management, to secure employee devices accessing company networks.
  • Access controls: Implement strict access controls and multi-factor authentication to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data and systems remotely.
  • Regular security audits: Conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in remote work setups and address them proactively.
  • Clear policies and procedures: Define clear remote work policies outlining security best practices, data handling procedures, and reporting mechanisms for security incidents.


While remote work offers flexibility and productivity benefits, it also introduces significant cybersecurity risks that organizations must address proactively. By understanding these risks and implementing robust security measures tailored to remote work environments, companies can safeguard their sensitive data and mitigate the threat of cyber-attacks effectively. Embracing a culture of cybersecurity awareness and resilience is paramount in the evolving landscape of remote work.

This article was originally published in Certainty News.



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