How transformative digital skills training mitigates the cyber-risks of remote work

How transformative digital skills training mitigates the cyber-risks of remote work

Amidst a surge in cyberthreats, adopting a cyber-conscious mindset is essential to protect business operations. Across an organisation’s hierarchy, all employees should be informed and encouraged on rising risks. Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer at FDM Group, discusses the influence of remote working on employee awareness, and how pairing people with policies can mould a robust recovery strategy.

Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer at FDM Group

In recent years, remote work has become increasingly popular as both businesses and employees aim for flexibility and better work-life balance. However, alongside advantages such as decreased commuting time for employees, remote work has also brought about numerous cybersecurity challenges.

Three-quarters (75%) of IT experts believe that mobile or remote work models have broadened the scope of potential threats. Despite organisations being mindful of the cyber-risks associated with remote work, employees might not be adequately informed, posing a risk to business operations and data security.

Understanding the cyber-risks of remote working

With the rise of remote work, numerous cybersecurity and fraud threats have escalated, presenting significant challenges for both individuals and organisations. The emergence of security hazards like phishing attacks, where cybercriminals disguise themselves as trusted sources to gather sensitive data, has become a widespread issue.

Previously deemed convenient, unsecured WiFi networks now pose as gateways for unauthorised intrusion into personal and company data. Not to mention, the unsettling prospect of device theft, adding a new layer of vulnerability to the mix.

Moreover, as the digital world is ever-evolving, so is the cyberthreat landscape. Cybercriminals continually adapt their strategies to exploit emerging vulnerabilities, leaving no digital device without risk.

Remote work environments have become prime targets as a result. Despite the benefit of leveraging remote work to create a more flexible working lifestyle, the need for robust cybersecurity measures is more pressing than ever before.

Equipping remote workers with cyber skills

Digital skills like cybersecurity, cloud computing and business analysis have become increasingly vital for businesses. Across industries, these skills are now key, particularly due to the rapid shift towards digitalisation witnessed in recent years. However, many companies are still playing catch-up in terms of acquiring talent with the requisite digital skills.

Creating a secure digital environment isn’t solely the responsibility of IT and security teams. It’s a collective effort from every member of staff. Led by cyber skills training, organisations should create a culture of vigilance, promoting the reporting of suspicious activities and potential threats to ensure potential risks are being picked up swiftly.

Especially in the era of remote work, it’s important that staff are aware of, and understand, the nuances of their cyber-risks, whether it be their remote working device, applications, home WiFi networks, company intranets, email inboxes and beyond. Recognising manipulative techniques helps staff to identify and prevent serious threats.

Cyberthreats are also being enhanced by AI, increasing the sophistication of social engineering threats – 89% of IT security experts believe AI-augmented cyberthreats will have a significant impact on their organisations within the next two years, while 60% still remain unprepared for this inevitability. Therefore, as organisations train staff with cyber skills and knowledge, there should also be a focus on AI skills and the cyber-risks that AI poses.

By staying vigilant, staff can become integral to organisations maintaining a resilient cybersecurity posture.

Pairing cyber skills with robust cybersecurity policies

Providing these skills should be supplemented with implementing company-wide cybersecurity policies that can guide employees in dealing with digital threats.

Organisations should put in place easy-to-follow guidelines that help staff maintain security guidelines regardless of where they are working from. Each time a member of staff logs onto a device and a network, they bring new potential risks, so it’s essential they have the awareness and skills to mitigate these risks. Addressing the use of personal devices through a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy can also strike a balance between flexibility and safeguarding sensitive information. 

It’s equally important to ensure staff are prepared for the unexpected. Organisations also need a robust incident response plan, having a clear roadmap in place to recover from threats to minimise damage in the event of a breach, ensuring a swift and co-ordinated response that protects both data and reputation.

Conducting regular security assessment and updates

It’s imperative organisations conduct regular security assessments to identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by malicious actors. Among these measures, penetration testing is the most important. By simulating real-world attacks, organisations gain insight into the effectiveness of their security measures. This proactive approach not only exposes weak points but also allows for refining and bolstering defences in response, including the skills of staff.

Security is not just a one-time endeavour, it’s a continuous commitment. As cyberthreats evolve, so must defence strategies to counter them, especially in the era of rapid AI development. By remaining vigilant and responsive, organisations can stay one step ahead of potential breaches.

As part of these regular security assessments, organisations should also be testing their staff response to ensure they can detect and recover from potential threats and help the organisation’s cybersecurity remain robust.

The cybersecurity industry faces the critical challenge of a digital skills gap, wherein there exists a noticeable difference between the digital expertise present in the workforce and the demand for skilled professionals. This gap underscores the urgent need to bridge the disparity in cyber skills within the workforce, adapting to the evolving landscape of remote work.

Digital upskilling stands out as a crucial factor in closing this disparity. Enhancing the cyber skills of employees not only benefits businesses, but also addresses the national shortage of digital skills.

As organisations adapt to the complexities of remote work and the evolving technology landscape, it’s imperative for companies to adopt a proactive approach and understand how they can upskill their employee’s cybersecurity knowledge, acquiring the digital skills needed to thrive in today’s digital world. By educating employees and implementing the appropriate safety measures and policies, organisations can keep their data safe from outside threats.

Additionally, in the pursuit of a robust cybersecurity strategy, it is essential to adopt a cyber-conscious mindset, and leverage technical consultant services to future-proof remote operations. Organisations, such as FDM, offer businesses access to a diverse pipeline of talented candidates, whether that’s skilled Cloud Engineers or Risk, Regulation and Compliance (RRC) experts, with the skills required to help tackle unique security challenges.

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