Lessons From A CEO Roundtable: Cybersecurity Threats Associated with Remote Workers

Businesses and individuals have witnessed a huge increase in email scams and malware attacks since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and these attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. A high level of anxiety, uncertainty and distraction, combined with the number of people working remotely without proper infrastructure or security protocols, has created a perfect environment for criminals to thrive.

Over the past few weeks, CEO Global Network hosted two separate CEO Roundtables in partnership with the Mackenzie Institute—one featuring Dr. Shawna Coxon, Deputy Chief of the Toronto Police Service, and one featuring cybercrime expert Jeff Stutzman—that focused on identifying and mitigating cybersecurity threats:

The challenge

The sudden, massive increase in the amount of people working from home introduced a variety of new threats to your company’s IT security. Remote employees still need to access and share the same internal applications and information as when they worked in the office, but the use of personal hardware and software has created an enormous opportunity for criminals. Many remote employees are using fast, cheap internet and plug-and-play routers that are easy to hack. They may have no firewall or up-to-date anti-virus software, and are targets for phishing emails, malicious text messages and other online scams. This poses a significant threat to not just their personal data but to your organization’s data as well.

An ounce of prevention

Additional security precautions are necessary to prevent cybercriminals from taking advantage of these vulnerabilities. Here are some suggestions on how you can you make yourself, your business, and your employees less susceptible to cybercrime:

  • Every computer should be equipped with:
    • anti-virus software with 24/7 scanning
    • anti-evasion software (which will immediately kill anything that tries to evade the anti-virus software)
    • a next generation firewall (which will often come packaged with an anti-virus software)
  • Ensure that all software is up-to-date, and install all recommended software updates right away as they will often contain security patches.
  • Use strong passphrases (strings of words are stronger than passwords and easier to remember) to secure computers, phones, and wireless routers. Change the passphrases regularly.
  • Use multi-factor authentication to unlock devices—like a PIN plus a fingerprint.
  • Be savvy with emails and social media. Don’t open an attachment or click on a link unless you know it’s from a trusted source. There are numerous phishing emails circulating right now, many with fake CERB links etc.
  • Secure social media and email accounts by applying all available security and privacy settings.
  • Encrypt anything that is confidential and back up all important information on a regular basis to an external hard drive, rocket stick, or cloud service. Ensure you know how to retrieve the information.
  • Turn off wifi, Bluetooth and GPS when not in use.
  • Establish procedures and protocols around working from home—don’t let family members or others use your work computer.
  • Report any suspicious activity to your IT/security team immediately.


Closing thought

It’s extremely important to be proactive about security, as cybercrime may increase even further as businesses open back up. Critically examine your internal systems for vulnerabilities. Regularly speak with your IT/security team and make sure they are frequently reviewing logs. Someone should be watching your network 24/7. If there has been a breach, change your system protocols right away. And have a solid plan in place in case of an emergency.