Top 4 Security Risks of a WFH Setup

It’s funny how life can take a sharp U-turn even without notice. Who would have imagined that working from home would be more of a necessity than a choice in this era? Yes, it may be a blessing in disguise in terms of reduced operational costs, but we just didn’t see it coming.

Even as we continue to embrace and integrate the WFH set up in our culture, it comes at a cost. Cyber threat actors, having established a weak link in remote workers, cyber threat actors are now working relentlessly to interfere with organizations’ confidential and crucial information.

Here’s a list of the top cybersecurity risks facing small and medium-sized businesses in light of the growing shift to remote work:

Social Engineering Attacks

According to a Forbes report, social engineering is the most common type of cyber attacks resulting from WFH – particularly blueprinting and spoofing. Here, the cyber threat actors usually manipulate users into believing they’re part of the organization, infiltrating the private network on a human level and acquiring sensitive information.

What makes a social engineering attack lethal is that nothing can be done to prevent hacking once the technique becomes successful. Why so? The perpetrators often rely on humans to engineer the attack instead of hacking into the system head-on. And as you may be aware, it’s impossible to launch a firewall, VPN, or antivirus on the human brain.

The goal here is straightforward; first, the attacker ensures to instill trust and dig into as much information about the employee or user as possible. They then use that privileged information to access personal or corporate networks to acquire sensitive data. The confidential information then gets passed via emails, phones, or conversations without people suspecting anything.

Social engineering attacks are incredibly prevalent in the WFH setup because most remote computers and networks connecting to the parent companies are unreliable, outdated, and lack substantial security updates. Even if the organization put in place candid measures to upgrade in-house security systems, they’re still at risk because the connections are two-way, and security needs to be upheld in both directions. Cyberattackers may still target home-based workers who access the organization’s network via VPN or remote desktop.

Man-in-the-middle (MitM) Attacks

A man-in-the-middle attack is where a cyber threat actor gets in the middle of communications between two parties to secretly listen to the conversation. The attacker usually intends to still login credentials, corrupt data, spy on the victim, or sabotage communications. Others may aim at redirecting funds, resources, attention, or efforts.

Detecting and preventing MitM attacks, though possible through encryption, is usually an uphill task. The attackers are always keen to reroute traffic to phishing sites that make the whole operation seem legitimate. Alternatively, they speedily direct traffic to the intended destination, making it challenging to detect.

In this era of working from home, MitM attacks are a significant cybersecurity threat because employees often have to communicate and report to their bosses. Cognizant of this fact, a cyber attacker needs only to sit between the two parties and manipulate traffic for their ill intentions. They do this by either obstructing legitimate networks or creating fake ones that they control fully.

With the traffic already compromised, the attacker eliminates any encryption to steal or reroute that traffic to a destination of their choice. Some common MitM attack techniques include SSL stripping, IP spoofing, unsecured HTTP connection interference, Email hijacking, stealing browser cookies, and Wi-Fi access points attacks. 

Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

DoS is a cyberattack where the attacker shuts down a machine or network resource, making them unavailable to intended users. The perpetrators achieve this feat by overflowing the targeted device or network with endless requests, hence overloading the system and causing it to crash. As such legitimate users like employees, clients, or account holders get denied access to the resource or service they need.

The distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) is an improved version because the attacks come from multiple sources, making it difficult to prevent by blocking out one source. Think of it this way; if a sizeable group of people crowds a supermarket doorway, it becomes almost impossible for legitimate shoppers to enter. The same applies to DDoS attacks.

Below are some of the examples of DoS cyber threats:

  • Buffer overflow attacks – Here, the attackers overwhelm the system by feeding it with more traffic than it’s programmed to handle. More often than not, the attacks are usually intended to exploit bugs connected explicitly to specific networks or applications.
  • SYN flood – This is where the perpetrator starts to request to connect to a server but never completes the quest. They then proceed to all open ports until they get saturated with requests, and there’s no more space for legitimate users to enter.
  • ICMP flood – variously referred to as the ping of death or smurf attacks, this is where the attacker relies on misconfigured network devices to send spoofed packets that ping every computer on the target area, not just one.

Remote Access VPN Manipulation

Virtual protected networks, VPNs have become an essential resource for businesses embracing a WFH setup. It’s the only reliable way of extending encrypted networks to remote workers. Despite the benefits, remote access VPNs also pose a significant cyber threat. Most home-based systems have a malware infection or outdated hardware that attackers can effortlessly use to stage attacks and interfere with confidential information through VPN endpoints.

Final Remarks

There’s no denying it; businesses are suffering financially during this time of the pandemic. Some have opted to downsize or implement a WFH setup in an attempt to save on budget. This has led to the emergence of new cyberattacks that target the flow of information and crucial data between home-based employees and employers.

Perhaps the best solution is for businesses to enroll their employees in a cybersecurity training program before assigning them to work remotely. This can help create awareness and enlighten workers on what role they need to play in warding off cyber threats.

But as they say, time and tide wait for no man; businesses must take proactive measures to uphold their IT and security systems even as the employees receive the right training, which might take time. For more information on eliminating or preventing WFH setup’s security risks, engage our IT solutions experts today.

With many years of experience in entrepreneurship, management, business planning, financial analysis, network engineering, operations and decision analysis, Edward has the experience needed to quickly understand entrepreneurs’ businesses and craft the most suitable solutions.

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