COVID 19: Keeping Your Employees Safe and (Cyber) Secure While Working From Home


March 25, 2020

With the increase in remote work due to COVID 19, the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently issued guidelines for organizations to consider regarding best practices to address the increased cybersecurity risk related to the use of enterprise virtual private network (VPN) solutions in an organization’s remote work option plan (telework).  VPNs provide secure remote access for employees to an organization’s internal networks and are often used to allow employees to remotely and securely connect to an organization’s internal networks as part of an organization’s telework plan.  The increased risks and related mitigation of these increased risks are summarized below.

VPN Cybersecurity Concerns Raised By Increased Use Of Telework Due To COVID 19 

  • As organizations increase their use of VPNs for telework more vulnerabilities are being found and targeted by malicious cyber actors.
  • As VPNs operate twenty-four hours a day / seven days a week, organizations may be less likely to keep VPNs updated with the latest security updates and patches.
  • Malicious cyber actors may increase phishing emails targeting employees working from home to steal their usernames and passwords.
  • Organizations that do not use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for remote access are generally more susceptible to phishing attacks.
  • Organizations may have a limited number of VPN connections, after which point no other employee can telework. With decreased availability, critical business operations may suffer, including IT security personnel’s ability to perform cybersecurity tasks.

Best Practices For VPN Cybersecurity Concerns Raised By Increased Use Of Telework 

  • Update VPNs, network infrastructure devices, and devices being used to remote into work environments with the latest software patches and security configurations.
  • Alert employees to an expected increase in phishing attempts and related social engineering attacks.
  • Ensure IT security personnel are prepared to ramp up the following remote access cybersecurity tasks: log review, attack detection, and incident response and recovery.
  • Implement MFA on all VPN connections to increase security. If MFA is not implemented, require teleworkers to use strong passwords.
  • Ensure IT security personnel test VPN limitations to prepare for mass usage and, if possible, implement modifications—such as rate limiting—to prioritize users that will require higher bandwidths.

The complete CISA release can be found here.  Contact information for the McGrath North Privacy and Cybersecurity Team can be found here.

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