A Remote Workforce Risk Assessment is the First Step in Remote Work Security


Improve security of employees working from home with a risk assessment.

Advances in technology have created opportunities for people to work away from the office. The benefits of remote working are well-documented in terms of reduced costs for employers, saving time and travel costs, greater flexibility for employees, and increased productivity.

Due to the situation with COVID-19, companies and governments across the world are requiring their employees and citizens to work from home. While this can help limit the spread of the disease, it does expose organizations to cyberattacks. Many are being forced to make the adjustment without any formal planning. This is where a cybersecurity risk assessment comes in. A risk assessment is the first step you should take to better understand the security weaknesses of your network and what should be done to patch them.

Many CEOs, IT directors, and cybersecurity managers may be asking:

  • How much money is at risk if we have a breach?
  • Am I compliant or more vulnerable with remote employees now than in-office?
  • Are my applications secure enough for a remote workforce?
  • What are the cybersecurity risks of having a mobile/remote workforce?
  • What do I have to do to secure my data?
  • What do I need to know that I don’t know with a remote workforce?

What is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment is a way to identify your most important data and devices, potential threats, cybersecurity risks, how a hacker could gain access to your systems, how vulnerable you are as a target, and impact if the vulnerabilities are exploited. The process involves identifying, estimating, and prioritizing risks to an organization’s assets, operations, and individuals, resulting from the use and operation of information systems. A risk assessment also helps protect the company’s function, mission, reputation, and image.

The main reason for conducting a risk assessment is to help your company prepare for and respond to any threats. Other reasons include:

  • Identify security vulnerabilities
  • reduction of long-term costs
  • better organizational knowledge
  • determine new security requirements
  • avoid application downtime
  • avoid data breaches
  • avoid regulatory issues
  • prevent data loss

Steps of a Complete Thorough Risk Assessment for Remote Work Security

Gather Information

The first step in a cyber risk assessment is to gather information on your network’s framework, security controls, and vulnerabilities. This part of the process will help determine any threats within the information system. Within this step, it’s important to identify the function, process, and application of your company’s system. It’s worth noting that risk assessments are best delivered by an independent partner (3rd party) who can provide an impartial, vendor agnostic review.

Here are a few good primer questions to get you started:

  • What is your system?
  • What kind of data does it use?
  • What is the data flow?
  • Who is the vendor?
  • What are the interfaces that the system uses?
  • Where is information stored? How is it transmitted?
  • Who uses the system?
  • What is the purpose and scope of the assessment?
  • Are there any constraints or priorities you should be aware of?

Many of these are self-explanatory, but the aim is to know what you’ll be analyzing.

It’s also important to identify and prioritize assets to assess. And now that many of your employees are working remotely, you want to perform an assessment on every electronic device, connection and data being used. Gather information about

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Interface
  • Data
  • End-users
  • Critical
  • Purpose
  • Functional requirements
  • IT security architecture and policies
  • Technical and physical security controls
  • Information storage protection
  • Network topology
  • Environmental security

Address the Human Factor in Remote Work Security

With so many distractions at home, employees’ typical safeguards against cyber threats are down. They may use their personal devices for work, share their work devices with non-employees, use unsecured Wi-Fi networks, or fall prey to phishing emails. Also, your information system can be put at risk through poor document retention, the use of un-encrypted USB flash drives, or the use of unsecured channels to transmit critical information. In essence, information security protection measures are not there, leaving your network vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Testing an employee’s cybersecurity awareness and responses is important before or shortly after allowing employees to telecommute. This can be done using a phishing simulator, which allows you to set up emails like those from management, IT team, or colleagues with the goal of convincing employees to open a link, submit credentials or download an attachment. The information you get can be used to train employees on cybersecurity best practices and tips to avoid cyber-attacks.

Determine Potential Risks and Their Potential Impact

In addition to considering the human and technical side of remote work security, it’s important to identify potential threats that many hit your network, their likelihood, and how they would impact your company. During the cybersecurity risk assessment, list every possible point of attack that can be exploited by hackers to access your system and data. The next step is to rate the potential impact on your network’s infrastructure as either high, medium, or low, depending on significance and recoverability.

Next, analyze the control environment, which involves looking to identify threat prevention, detection, and mitigation. Once you’ve figured out where the potential risk could be and have calculated a risk rating, it’s time to fix the potential problems. Depending on the results, implement and monitor new security controls. This may involve changing the data backup system, changing to a better email filter, or having a third-party security team. After updating or implementing new security controls, reevaluate the risk.

Let SCA Give You Peace of Mind with a Remote Workforce Risk Assessment

Risk assessment for a remote workforce is a complex process that requires significant planning and specialist knowledge to ensure all devices, processes, data, and people in your organization are covered. Without professional help, this can only be worked out through trial and error. SCA will conduct a more qualitative risk assessment to ensure remote work security and prevent data breaches caused by new and subtle exploits. The assessment is designed to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability while working from home.

Our Remote Workforce Risk Assessment evaluates your company’s remote access/worker security posture following a risk-based approach to cybersecurity. The risk assessment methodology is based on NIST SP 800-30, Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments, and incorporates NIST SP 800-46 Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and NIST SP 800-53 Revision 4, Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations.

Contact us today at 727-571-1141 to schedule a Remote Workforce Risk Assessment and learn how we can help you identify, manage, and reduce risks associated with remote working and remote work security.