Cybersecurity, Emerging Issues in Security, Policies and Training

Strategies for Effective Incident Response with Remote Employees

You may not have thought about working from home before the pandemic hit. In fact, 47% of people in the United States said they never worked remotely before COVID-19, and only 17% did so five days a week. But now, 44% of the same population work from home throughout the week. While this flexibility likely eases the strain on them, their employers must have an even greater focus on cybersecurity.

How can IT teams and cybersecurity professionals uphold the digital safety of multiple remote workers? Read on for the specific difficulties of incident response at a distance and strategies for managing them.

Challenges of Remote Team Cybersecurity and Breaches

As you could likely anticipate, working from home creates many challenges for managing cybersecurity and addressing security incidents. Remote work means everyone accesses a different network. Such occurrences increase the chances of a hack, as shown by the rise in cyberattacks since COVID-19 shutdowns occurred.

When a security problem happens, everyone needs to work together—but that’s difficult when several staff members live in different time zones or continents. Additionally, incident reporting becomes complex because you might lose the entire remote workspace, making it hard for IT workers to reach out and for other employees to speak up about something suspicious.

The recovery steps also become much more muddled. How can you ensure everyone changes their passwords? Is there a way to tell whose remote workstation may have been compromised? Are there still ways to learn from the attack and make sure the same oversights do not happen again?

Methods for Secure Remote Incident Response

Working from home introduces a host of security necessities but also emphasizes how critical effective incident response is. Here are some ways cybersecurity personnel can adapt their response plans for remote working.

1. Analyze Remote Response Capabilities

You probably already have an incident response plan that may happen in the office—or at least you should. As a proactive step, take a look at that strategy and see how well it would work remotely. Are you able to monitor work-from-home employees? Do you have diagnostic software to determine whose station a hacker infected? Do you have endpoint detection and response tools as well as one to reset passwords remotely?

Analyze your plan over time to see where you could improve it for remote workers. Then, give them an updated copy of the plan so they can follow the proper procedures in the event of an attack.

It would also behoove you to run multiple tests to ensure everyone knows what to do and learns where to improve. In 2020, just 2% of organizations had run remote incident response scenarios, so get ahead of the curve and be ready.

2. Establish a Mode of Communication

The first thing you want to do after noticing a cybersecurity incident is to reach out to staff members and alert them. However, the hacker may have already compromised your remote work tool, so you no longer have the option to send teamwide messages. In that case, hopefully, the hacker has yet to reach your email, so you can still speak with workers that way.

But there may also be an instance where the cybercriminal also shuts down email communications. It is likely necessary to communicate by phone if this occurs. Ensure you keep employee contact information up to date so you can call and inform them of breaches if email also goes down. Ensure you have a method of verifying each other’s identities before instructing them.

3. Act Proactively

Perhaps the most critical thing you can do to prepare and respond to cybersecurity incidents is to be proactive.

Every staff member’s computer or laptop should have security software that they consistently update. Better yet, you should ensure they have different technology for work and personal use. It’s also vital—along with running incident tests—to continuously train employees on new scams and threats.

You should also have a plan to remotely collect information such as IT system logs and images of workers’ hard drives. Doing so can help you keep an eye out for suspicious activity and address the device where the attack originated to improve future responses.

Remote Teams Require Effective Incident Response

Unfortunately, you cannot rely on your in-house incident response plan to be as effective for remote teams. You must find ways to update it for your remote employees. Follow these strategies to manage an effective incident response with those who work from home.

Zac Amos covers ransomware, phishing, and other cybersecurity trends and is the Features Editor at ReHack. You can find more of his work by following him on Twitter or LinkedIn.