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How to build a security-first culture to empower your hybrid workforce

June 13, 2022

Tools are only as good as their users, and this should be your guiding philosophy as the world shifts to a hybrid work model. It’s great to define and implement essential security controls and tools but if they aren’t backed up by the workforce, you could be in for a bumpy ride.

Research suggests a worrying 62% of remote employees do not follow security protocols closely. And that’s only half of it. Think of all the logistical and monitoring challenges posed by hybrid working environments. You may have some employees working remotely, some from your office, and if you have rotational shifts, you will have employees working throughout the day and night. This makes building a security-first culture tricky.

You will need to devise a comprehensive cyber security strategy that involves and empowers your hybrid workforce. Here are some key components to include:

Perimiter-less technology

In a hybrid work model, you will have employees spread over multiple locations, working together online. Some may use less secure home internet connections for work while others may use personal devices to get the job done. That’s why it is critical to upgrade your security systems, tools and controls to make sure they match the demands of a hybrid environment.

This means going truly perimeter-less and investing in cloud-based SaaS applications, secure VPNs, identity and access management tools, patch management applications, unified endpoint management systems, and backup and recovery solutions. Quintech can advise you on the options most suited to the needs of your business.

Make sure the application you choose supports Zero Trust architecture. Zero Trust is a strategic approach to cyber security that ensures every attempt to access company networks and systems must be verified first, whether within your network perimeter or outside it. To provide an enhanced level of control over what software is running on our clients’ endpoints and servers, Quintech has partnered with Threatlocker. Threatlocker is a low management, fast to deploy application whitelisting and ringfencing solution that blocks ransomware, viruses and other software-based threats. You can find more information here.

Documented policies and procedures

If your security policies and procedures are not clearly documented, you will struggle to enforce them. Your staff may not know what steps are involved or what the purpose of the whole process is. There will be no buy-in from their side. For instance, if you don’t have an Acceptable Use Policy in place your employees may end up using their devices for non-work purposes.

Identify critical IT policies and procedures like change management, remote access and incident response. Then, have all of them documented and shared with the relevant teams and members of staff. Remember to keep the files up to date and in an easily accessible, central location, using a secure platform such as MyGlue. This will make it easier to enforce policies. Employees will know what is expected of them and why. Finally, make sure policies are regularly reviewed and make changes if needed.

Security awareness training programs

Aim to make your employees the first line of defense against cyber attacks. Although this approach has been around for years, it is even more relevant in a hybrid work environment where the risk factor is higher.

Deploy regular training programs to create awareness about the current threat landscape. This will help to reduce human errors and develop good security habits. Avoid the “death by PowerPoint” approach. Instead, engage your team with interactive sessions vnd vary the style of delivery, for example through videos. 

You should also set up interactive training programs that help employees learn how to defend against phishing, ransomware, password attacks and social engineering. After training, reinforce what they have learnt by conducting routine tests and simulations.

Communication and support channels

When communication and support channels are clearly defined and easily accessible, you can handle threats more effectively. Every staff member will know how to raise an alarm, whom to contact and what to do after reporting it. More importantly, it will help you detect threats early and minimise their impact.

Clearly define what tools can be used for communication and collaboration. For instance, employees should be discouraged from using personal apps like WhatsApp and Facebook for official communication and file transfer. Not only does it put company data in danger, it might also hurt your chances of achieving compliance. Instead, opt for a secure and robust platform like Microsoft Teams. Our recent blog explains the features of Teams and how your business can get the most out of it.

Friction-free systems and strategies

When it comes to planning new security strategies or evaluating new systems, don’t forget to consider the importance of user experience and efficiency. For instance, if your company’s antivirus solution is slowing down employees’ output, they may resort to disabling it to get work done, which is a recipe for disaster.

Although security is critical, it shouldn’t come at the cost of efficiency and user experience. Following security measures and policies shouldn’t feel like extra work otherwise you risk your employees abandoning security best practices altogether. Ensure your security systems and strategies dovetail nicely with their workflow.

How can Quintech help?

Building a security-first culture is challenging and the hybrid work model has only made it more complicated by adding dozens of new layers and steps to the process. You will certainly need skilled staff, 24/7 support and specialised tools if you want to implement a security-first culture within a hybrid work environment.

If you are thinking about going down this path, we can help ensure proper and effective implementation and ongoing management of necessary IT/cyber security and data security controls.

Contact us today on 01684 887200 or info@quintech.co.uk for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.