Organizations everywhere have normalized remote work for their employees. In 2023, WFH Research found that roughly 30% of all 2022 paid workdays in the U.S. were from out-of-office environments.
The shift to remote work has led to new cybersecurity challenges for financial firms. But “FS firms are willing to take steps to make remote working more productive,” PwC reports. “The top three items executives said they plan to provide their workforce are more flexibility in hours, better security policies to support remote work, and autonomy within roles.”
It’s critical financial institutions like hedge funds, capital management firms, and other investment groups adopt cybersecurity measures that align with a long-term remote work philosophy and infrastructure. Fortunately, a next-generation approach featuring managed security can help them adapt to these changes, protect sensitive data, and ensure the safety and security of their remote employees.
Earlier this year, we discussed several long-term remote work solutions for private financial firms, including opportunities with cybersecurity. In this article, we provide detailed recommendations regarding cybersecurity in remote work. Topics include:
- overcoming risks associated with personal devices;
- establishing appropriate company policies and trainings;
- applying zero-trust architecture (ZTA);
- converging endpoint management, including DaaS, with security; and
- the role of managed extended detection and response (XDR) technology.
Minimize Risks from Employees’ Personal Devices
There are inherent cybersecurity risks associated with employees using personal devices for work purposes. One of the most common ways organizations’ cloud environments are breached is the accidental synchronization between employees’ personal and work devices, Forbes reports.
Even so, employees’ use of personal devices in remote work environments is virtually unavoidable. The convenience of personal devices surpassing the best-laid plans of employers presents too much of a liability.
Implementing a carefully planned bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can help. Consider these best practices for securing personal devices:
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA). Users must enter two or more forms of identification before being granted access. For financial firms, MFA can be a barrier for unauthorized personnel to gain access to sensitive data employees access regularly.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs). In addition to other security layers, advanced VPNs will protect the visibility of data. Financial firms should determine exactly what type of VPN they need to securely access cloud applications and files.
- Secure cloud storage. A secure cloud storage service can protect financial data from unauthorized access. Secure cloud storage also provides the added benefit of allowing employees to sync multiple devices while still maintaining the security of their data.
- A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. A policy that outlines the expectations of employees when using personal devices for work needs to be clear and comprehensive. This should include information on acceptable device use, password requirements, and the consequences of breaches.
Trusted managed cybersecurity solutions are critical. But clear policies that create good habits can help even more. They transform your employees from a liability into your first line of defense.
Establish Policies and Trainings for Security in Remote Work
Financial firms need clear and comprehensive remote work policies that address cybersecurity, among other factors associated with out-of-office work. At the same time, they must protect employees’ privacy; they must continue to provide a positive and trusted employee experience as well.
Cybersecurity leaders should prioritize employee training to prevent security breaches, create policies that ensure employees follow security best practices and invest in solutions for ongoing education. Examples of remote work security training include:
- Safe browsing habits: Financial firms should ensure employees understand the importance of secure browsing and how to practice good cyber hygiene. Security tools that warn employees against accessing insecure or questionable sites can help.
- Password management: Employees need to understand the importance of using strong passwords and how to use tools like password managers to store them securely.
- Social engineering awareness: Employees need education on social engineering tactics, such as phishing. This should include an understanding of the risks associated with opening emails or clicking on links from unknown sources.
Password management in particular is a common pitfall for financial firms and their employees. Consider software that automates elements of password management. Financial leaders should plan for regular reviews and updates to adapt to evolving threats as well.
Apply Zero-Trust Architecture (ZTA)
ZTA has emerged as one of the most critical tools in securing remote work. It transitions cybersecurity from a static perimeter-defense approach to one where security functions apply to individual users, resources, assets, and devices.
As employees work remotely, company leadership can be confident ZTA will help protect financial institutions from data breaches and unauthorized access. Principles of ZTA include:
- verifying users and devices: Without proper identity and device verification, financial firms leave themselves vulnerable to breaches. ZTA solutions should identify users and devices within the organization network.
- granting least-privilege access. With ZTA, and unlike perimeter security, users and devices receive access to only the resources they need. This prevents unauthorized personnel from accessing sensitive data or applications.
- micro-segmentation. With micro-segmentation, ZTA solutions break network segments into smaller sub-segments. This further reduces the risk of data or system access by unauthorized personnel.
- continuous monitoring. ZTA supports continuous monitoring of user behavior, which helps financial firms identify and respond to potential threats in real-time.
ZTA tools allow for some flexibility. Financial firms can adopt custom solutions to meet unique and evolving threats. Support from a cybersecurity provider and partner can help financial firms implement and maintain ZTA specifically for hybrid and remote work environments.
Converging Endpoint Management and Security
Endpoint management is particularly relevant in the context of remote work. “Convergence of endpoint management and security is an observable [remote work] macrotrend,” TechRepublic reports, helping financial firms “address attack surface management, vulnerability protection, and automated remediation.”
By converging endpoint management and security, security leaders can accomplish improved visibility and streamlined operations when managing employees and their remote devices. Tools and technologies that can help financial firms achieve this convergence include:
- unified endpoint management (UEM) platforms. These platforms allow financial firms to manage and secure all endpoints, including BYOD devices. Centralizing endpoint management in this way allows security teams to easily deploy software, patch vulnerabilities, and protect against malware.
- endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions. EDR solutions help financial firms identify and isolate malicious activities that may have breached their network. These solutions include automated processes to detect threats, provide visibility into the devices on the network, and respond to any threats.
- Desktop as a Service (DaaS). DaaS isn’t explicitly a cybersecurity solution, but it can help financial firms secure their remote devices. DaaS solutions provide a virtual desktop to employees, allowing them to access their applications securely from anywhere.
Financial firms must take an active role in protecting their data and systems. Converging endpoint management and security is a necessary step to better protect their networks and data from evolving threats.
Managed Extended Detection and Response (XDR) Technology
Finally, financial firms should consider managed extended detection and response (XDR) technology. XDR provides a holistic approach to threat detection and response, combining data from various sources and applying advanced analytics. Potential benefits of using managed XDR services include:
- a simplified security stack. XDR can act as a single platform, reducing the complexity of managing multiple solutions. This simplifies how financial firms protect their data and systems while managing remote work.
- real-time threat detection and response. The automated nature of XDR allows for real-time surveillance and alerting of any suspicious activities. Financial firms can better detect and respond to threats before they cause major damage.
- deep security visibility. XDR collects data from multiple sources, providing financial firms with a deep level of visibility into their security postures. Companies can discover potential vulnerabilities and risks they may have overlooked without the use of XDR technology.
- 24/7 access to expert support. With the right managed XDR service provider, financial firms have access to expert support whenever they need it. This allows financial firms to stay ahead of threats and maintain their security posture no matter where their employees work.
Lasting Remote Security, within Reach
With the right security measures in place, financial firms can ensure their data and systems remain secure despite the challenges posed by remote work. The solutions outlined above provide a starting point for financial institutions. Adopting comprehensive cybersecurity strategies, like managed XDR, can protect financial institutions as both remote work environments and the threats against them continue to evolve.
Remote Security Resilience Begins with Option One
The cybersecurity team at Option One Technologies specializes in remote security solutions within the financial services sector. In addition to managed XDR, we provide a comprehensive suite of security solutions for financial firms looking to keep their data and systems secure.