Security awareness for remote workers has never been more important. It is fair to say that there have never been more people working from home as there are now during the COVID-19 pandemic, and home workers are now being actively targeted by cybercriminals who see them as providing an easy way to gain access to their corporate networks to steal sensitive information, and install malware and ransomware.

Businesses may have already given their employees security awareness training to make sure they are made aware of the risks that they are likely to encounter and to teach them how to recognize threats and respond. However, working from home introduces many more risks and those risks may not have been covered in security awareness training sessions geared toward protecting office workers. It is also important to provide training regularly and to reinforce that training. This is especially important for remote workers, as risk increases when employees are working remotely.

In this post we will highlight some of the key areas that must be addressed in work from home (WFH) security awareness training for the workforce.

Increased Security Awareness for Remote Workers Required as COVID-19 Crisis Deepens

Naturally, as an email security solution provider, we strongly advocate the use of a powerful email security solution and layered technical defenses to protect against phishing, but technical controls, while effective, will not stop all threats from reaching inboxes. It is all too easy to place too much reliance on technical security solutions for securing email environments and work computers. The truth is that even with the best possible email security defenses in place, some threats will end up reaching inboxes.

The importance of providing security awareness training to the workforce and the benefits of doing so have been highlighted by several studies. One benchmarking study, conducted by the security awareness training provider KnowBe4, revealed 37.9% of employees fail phishing tests if they are not provided with security awareness and social engineering training. That figure has increased by 8.3% from the previous year. With security awareness training and phishing email simulations, the figure dropped to 14.1% after 90 days.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of phishing emails being sent has increased significantly and campaigns are being conducted targeting remote workers. The aim of the phishing campaigns is to obtain login credentials to email accounts, VPNs, and SaaS platforms and to spread malware and ransomware.

With so many employees now working from home, and the speed at which companies have had to transition from a largely office based workforce to having virtually everyone working from home may have seen security awareness training for remote workers put on the back burner. However, with the lockdown likely to be extended for several months and attacks on the rise, it is important to make sure that training is provided, and as soon as possible.

Increase in COVID-19 Domain Registrations and Rise in Web-Based Attacks

Security awareness training for remote workers also needs to cover internet security as not all threats will arrive in inboxes. CMost phishing attacks have a web-based component, and malicious websites are being set up for drive-by malware downloads. Currently, the vast majority of threats are using COVID-19 and the Novel Coronavirus as a lure to get remote workers to download malware, ransomware, or part with their login credentials.

Unsurprisingly, cybercriminals have increased web-based attacks, which are being conducted using a plethora of COVID-19 and Novel-Coronavirus themed domains. By the end of March, approximately 42,000 domains related to COVID-19 and coronavirus had been registered. An analysis by Check Point Research revealed those domains were 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered over the same period.

It is important to raise awareness of the risks of using corporate laptops for personal use such as browsing the Internet. Steps should also be taken to limit the websites that can be accessed by employees and, at the very least, a solution should be implemented and configured to block access to known malicious websites that are used for phishing, fraud, and malware distribution.

Shadow IT is a Major Security Risk

When employees are office based and connected to the network, identifying shadow IT – unauthorized software and hardware used by employees – is more straightforward. The problem not only becomes harder to identify when employees work from home, the risk of unauthorized software being loaded onto corporate-issued devices increases.

Software downloaded onto work computers carries a risk of a malware infection and potentially offers an easy way to attack the user’s device and the corporate network. IT teams will have little visibility into the unauthorized software on users’ devices and whether it is running the latest version and has been patched against known vulnerabilities. It is important to cover shadow IT in security awareness training for remote workers and to make it clear that no software should be installed on work devices and that personal USB devices should not be connected to corporate devices without the go-ahead being given from the IT department.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many workers turn to teleconferencing platforms to communicate with the office, friends, and family. One of the most popular teleconferencing platforms is Zoom. Malicious installers have been identified that install the genuine Zoom client but have been bundled with malware. Installers have been identified that also install adware, Remote Access Trojans, and Coinminers.

How TitanHQ Can Help

Several security awareness training firms have made resources available to businesses free of charge during the COVID-19 crisis to help them train the workforce, such as the SANS Institute. Take advantage of these resources and push them out to your workforce. If you are a small SMB, you may also be able to get access to free phishing simulation emails to test the workforce and reinforce training.

TitanHQ can’t help you with your cybersecurity awareness training but we can help by ensuring employees have to deal with fewer threats by protecting against email and web-based attacks.

SpamTitan is an advanced and powerful cloud-based email security solution that will protect remote workers from phishing, spear phishing, malware, virus, and ransomware attacks by blocking attacks at source and preventing the threats from reaching inboxes. SpamTitan features dual anti-virus engines to protect against known malware threats and sandboxing to block unknown (zero-day) malware threats. SpamTitan incorporate several real-time threat intelligence feeds to block current and emerging phishing attacks and machine learning technology detects and blocks previously unseen phishing threats. SpamTitan has been developed to work seamlessly with Office 365 to allow businesses to create layered defenses, augmenting Microsoft’s protections and adding advanced threat detection and blocking capabilities.

WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that will protect all workers from web-based attacks, no matter where they access the internet. WebTitan incorporates zero-minute threat intelligence and blocks malicious domains and webpages as soon as they are identified. The solution can also be used to carefully control the types of websites that remote workers can access on their corporate-owned devices, via keyword and category-based controls. WebTitan can also be configured to block the downloading of malicious files and software installers to control shadow IT.

For more information on protecting your business during the COVID-19 crisis, to arrange a product demonstration of SpamTitan and/or WebTitan, and to register for a free trial of either solution to allow you to start instantly protecting against email and web-based threats, contact TitanHQ today!