5 Ways to Enforce Digital Distancing in 2021

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Relying on remote talent, whether freelancers or full-time workers, has become a necessity for most modern businesses. While the shift started with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing between people, many business owners have found surprising benefits of remote work, enticing them to consider shifting to a remote work model permanently.

After all, many employees are more productive working from the comfort of their own home. It also eliminates geographical barriers, allowing ambitious business owners to hire skilled talent from all over the world.

Still, shifting to remote work, permanently or temporarily, comes with security risks that are too serious to ignore. In addition to investing in software and hardware that secure your business’s digital assets, it’s just as important to educate your employees on proper internet-hygiene such as digital distancing. With the new year right around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to start fresh with new employee cybersecurity policies that will keep your network secure.

What is Digital Distancing?

Digital distancing is the cybersecurity practice of limiting users from accessing specific networks or applications that they have no use for in their work. It also includes isolating devices and applications with sensitive information from other apps or the open internet in order to limit and mitigate the spread of malware.

Having a set of small and isolated networks allows for more efficient monitoring, which means you can identify attacks and respond to them quickly or even prevent or even prevent them altogether.

However, this practice becomes more challenging to enforce in a work-from-home situation, where the IT department isn’t around the corner and the lack of colleague accountability. Employees might start using work-issued devices and accounts for personal use or vice versa, breaking the fundamental rules of digital distancing and putting your digital assets at risk.

Importance of Enforcement

If an attacker gets access to one of your remote employee’s work networks due to them not practicing proper digital distancing, the attacker can potentially infiltrate the other devices in the network and steal your data or hold it for ransom. Digital isolation is a simplified version of network segmentation, minimizing the attack surface and making it easier to focus your cybersecurity resources where they matter most.

  1. Network Isolation

To implement digital distancing, you can start by enforcing network isolation on your internal network. This will minimize attack damages and your employee’s work devices and networks.

When your employees need to use the open internet, it’s critical that they encrypt the data leaving their device using a VPN; this prevents outsiders from spying on your workers and stealing sensitive information, such as emails, user names, and passwords.

You can also take security a step by investing in an endpoint monitoring system that protects all devices connected to the network, also known as endpoints. To learn about your software options and what other enterprises find most effective, you can check out 2020’s endpoint security solutions Gartner peer insights report.

  1. Separate Work and Personal Devices

Make sure that your employees—remote or not—only use work-issued devices and accounts for work-related use, and limit personal browsing to their own devices. Personal devices and accounts often have less security than their business-grade counterparts, making them the weaker link in your cybersecurity plan.

  1. Create Password Policies

Passwords are the first line of defense that many employees, unfortunately, don’t take seriously. That’s why you should create strict password policies that prevent password sharing and forcing the use of non-dictionary words and special characters. Your employees should also change their password every 30 to 90 days to ensure the utmost security.

  1. Enforce MFA

Multi-factor authentication increases your overall level of security by acting as a backup for when passwords fail. If an attacker manages to obtain a high-ranking employee’s username and password, MFA prevents them from logging in. The number and complexity of MFA should correlate to your threat model and the level of security you hope to achieve.

  1. Watch Out for Smart Tech

Smart devices can make your remote workers’ home lives much easier, increase their productivity, automate some tasks, and set automatic reminders to avoid missing deadlines. However, many IoT devices are easy to attack. To limit exposure, you can require your employees to turn off or isolate their home’s IoT devices from their work devices and network, adding a layer of digital distancing and security.

Ensure Open Communication

Before the pandemic, most now-remote employees didn’t have to worry about maintaining cybersecurity. After all, they had an IT or cybersecurity team on hand to handle security issues and answer all of their questions. To adapt to the demands of a remote workforce, you need to keep communication open with your workers, answer their security-related queries, and help them with the technical parts of digital distancing.