Remote work has gone from being a minority of the workforce to what is now a sizable portion of the labor market. A remote workforce does have benefits, such as lower overall costs by reducing expensive office leases. Other businesses now have access to talent they may have never been able to find locally. Remote work can also help employees with work-life balance. But with those benefits, there are also remote work challenges. The most severe challenge is remote work security.

In a centralized office with all workers using approved devices, it’s much easier to control security. It’s a much more difficult task with workers spread around the country and possibly the world.

Cybercriminals have taken notice of the remote work trend as well. Hackers have cleverly developed new techniques and technologies to exploit security holes opened by the rush of remote workers. For employees who handle sensitive customer data or payment processing software remotely, this can pose an even more significant risk for companies. So, when working remotely, cyber security needs to be a top priority.

A security or data breach can cost a business tens of thousands or even millions of dollars. That means those cost savings from remote work can quickly evaporate. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

With the right security measures adopted for a modern remote force, businesses can mitigate security risks and stay safe. Below, we’ll cover some of the common risks of remote work and then offer some remote work solutions so you can learn how to secure remote workers.

One Of The Biggest Remote Work Security Risks: Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks have become one of the most significant remote work security risks. Phishing attacks are most commonly done via an email message. However, newer techniques can include phone calls and other communication methods that trick even tech-savvy employees.

During a phishing attack, the hacker or cybercriminal attempts to deceive a user into clicking a malicious link or taking actions that disclose sensitive data. While most people think such emails or messages are easy to spot, this is not the case today. 

Cybercriminals have become highly savvy in recent years. Many phishing emails use a spoofed sender. With spoofed senders, the hacker knows your contacts and constructs an email to look like it came from someone you know and trust.

Other techniques include “spear phishing”. Spearfishing involves targeting specific individuals. Hackers use sources like LinkedIn, social media, or even family members to gather employee information. 

The hacker then uses this information to build convincing phishing emails that are hard to detect. The person then replies to the message or clicks a link, and the hack can begin.

Preventing Phishing Attacks

Cybersecurity for remote workers has to involve phishing mitigation measures. The easiest and most cost-effective way to combat phishing attacks is to have a company-wide policy regarding anti-virus and anti-malware software. All team members must be using these programs on their devices, which must be up to date.

Anti-malware software will help prevent the installation of malware even if an employee falls for a phishing scam. Many programs can also help detect malicious file attachments and links in real time before a user clicks on them.

In a controlled work environment like an office, it’s easy for IT staff to ensure all anti-malware programs are up to date. But in a remote environment, this becomes more difficult. 

One way to help with this is through employee education. Make sure employees understand the importance of work-from-home security. They should also know how to configure their anti-malware software to automatically update. If they don’t know how make sure there is a point of contact where they can receive assistance.

Beyond just phishing attacks, an up-to-date anti-malware and anti-virus program will protect you from other threats. These include trojans, worms, and zero-day attacks. A zero-day attack is when a code attacks a software vulnerability before it is patched.

Password Management And Security

A secure password can sometimes be the only line of defense between your data and a hacker. With more workers accessing networks and company infrastructure remotely, passwords are even more critical to security.

In a payment environment, some remote workers may have access to virtual terminals and other sensitive programs that offer access to specific customer information. A strong password policy helps to regulate access to this type of information. Every password needs to be 100% unique. You’ve likely heard this before, but it bears repeating.

Most hackers have access to more public and even private information than most people realize. If they compromise one password or system, they can often see where else that user logs in. They can then try that same password. 

Hackers use automated tools to find where to use passwords. Once a password is compromised, the hacker tests it on every system within seconds.

Password Management Tips

There are a few key areas with passwords that remote workers can use to help make them more secure. The first is to always use random passwords. Never use words or strings of numbers that relate to dates or other things.

Next, using a password manager can make unique passwords much more manageable. Most people don’t use unique, random passwords because they are too hard to remember. However, a password manager helps solve this problem.

While a password manager can create a central point for hackers to attack, password managers use techniques to mitigate this risk as much as possible. A password manager encrypts stored passwords. So even if a hacker gains access, if they don’t have your one-time password, they will generally have difficulty decrypting them.

Using a password manager substantially decreases your overall risk profile, as the benefits outweigh the risks.

If you operate a business with remote workers who have access to payment processing software, you may want to consider enforcing a password manager policy that makes it a requirement. 

Multi-Factor Authorization

Single-factor authorization means there is one security feature to access a network, such as a password. Two-factor authorization (2FA) or multi-factor authorization (MFA) adds a layer of authentication on top of an existing password and log in.

The 2FA or MFA app will then present a one-time code that only you can see. You enter this code into the website to complete the login. The network or website you log into will prompt you for a code when you log in with your password. This is wise for both in office and remote work security.


Authy is one of the more popular MFA apps. Users can download the app, and the setup only takes a few minutes. The service is also free, so it does not add any expense for most businesses.

Google Authenticator

Google also makes an MFA tool known as Google Authenticator. It works similarly to Authy, and it’s also free for users. Since Google, Android, and the authenticator all share the same parent company, it creates a certain workflow advantage if your business uses many Google productivity tools.

A potential limitation of any MFA tool is that users may be unable to access their accounts if they lose access to the device with the MFA app. All MFA tools allow users to create a backup password to prevent this. You must create and then store this backup password in a safe physical location.

Most web services businesses use, including those for payment processing, can set up MFA. If you have remote workers accessing payment pages or payment gateway information, you can enable MFA to add an extra layer of security.

Ransomware Threats And Payment Processing

You’ve likely heard stories of ransomware attacks on the news. A city-wide ransomware attack recently hit Oakland, California, lasting for weeks. The city was unable to process electronic payments for certain services.

This situation illustrates how low security can impact your ability to accept payments. A city can get by telling residents they must come into an office to pay by check or cash. But many businesses don’t have that luxury, as a result, an extended payment processing outage will cost you money.

Virtually all of the tips in this article will help prevent ransomware. But ransomware also requires a robust data recovery plan. A data recovery plan means you have backups of all systems that form “snapshots” from different periods of time. 

Should you find your business a victim of a ransomware attack, you can go back and find data backups before the attack and hopefully restore the function of your network and payment processing.

However, without the proper backups, you may be at the mercy of the hackers and have to either pay the ransom and hope they release the data or start from scratch.

Neither of those two options is ideal, so always have a robust data recovery program enabled. If you’re unable to do this yourself due to budget or labor shortfalls, there are options.

Several third-party services offer automatic data and backup recovery services. These range from simple apps that backup your data to the cloud to enterprise-level backup solutions.

Ensure Employees Use Secure Wi-Fi

Most remote workers will likely use Wi-Fi for an internet connection at their home offices. While you can make home Wi-Fi safer, public Wi-Fi does pose a particular risk for your remote teams.

We may assume all our employees understand Wi-Fi and how it works, but it can be complicated, and some may not be familiar with the latest security practices.

Wi-Fi Encryption

Always enable Wi-Fi encryption and instruct employees to do so. Wi-Fi encryption is usually enabled by default on most devices, but employees can check it to make sure.

Always use the latest encryption, which for now is WP3. If this isn’t available on an employee’s device, they can use WP2. But avoid using TKIP or AES, as these are outdated and no longer considered secure.

To ensure remote work security, instruct employees to upgrade their devices if they only support these older encryption protocols.

Public Wi-Fi

One big concern regarding remote work security is the use of public Wi-Fi, such as those at a coffee shop. Since the remote worker has no control over the network, the overall risk profile is higher.

Try to educate your employees on how to use public Wi-Fi safely by offering the following tips.

1: Make sure you connect the right network: Hackers sometimes set up networks with names very similar to public Wi-Fi networks. A remote worker can connect to these, and then all of the information they transmit is in the hands of the hackers. Always confirm you are connecting to the network you want.

2: Turn off auto-connect: Most devices have an auto-connect setting. Turn this off to avoid connecting to fake or malicious networks while traveling and working remotely.

3: Don’t access sensitive information: When using public Wi-Fi, only use it for basic access. Never use public Wi-Fi to share sensitive information or access payment information. The risk is simply too high. Wait until you can find a network you trust or have control over.

4: Turn off file sharing: File sharing might be enabled by default on some devices. However, this is a major security risk when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. Turn off this feature before connecting to the network if you’re traveling or using public Wi-Fi.

5: Use a VPN: A VPN can provide an extra layer of encrypted security. These also help to disguise your IP and cover up other sensitive device and login information. 

Create a Bring Your Own Device Policy

It used to be that everyone used a company computer and the company phone lines. However, that has been changing since the introduction of the smartphone, and remote work has accelerated the change as of late.

Now, most employees use at least one personal device for work, whether a laptop, desktop, or mobile phone.

But that means companies now have very little control over these devices, and the level of security can be all over the place.

Your Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy must clearly specify when and where employees can use these personal devices. However, they can’t be too restrictive because it removes all of the advantages of BYOD.

For example, some companies install remote management software on BYOD devices. Remote management software lets a company or its IT department install security features and ensure that all software is up to date. 

Mobile Device Management 

Mobile Device Management (MDM) helps segregate an employee’s personal data on their mobile device from the data required for work. MDM can work via a unique network or an app on the phone. 

Mobile devices can present a huge security risk, and MDM allows companies to be flexible while maintaining a reasonable degree of data protection with remote workers and BYOD situations.

Lost Device Protocols

Sometimes, either accidentally or through theft, someone can lose a work device. Losing a work device can pose a security risk if the device contains sensitive material or login information. 

To help mitigate this risk, you should have a lost device strategy that employees are aware of. This strategy will outline who the employee should contact when the device is missing. Adequate response procedures aid in rapidly identifying lost information and the passwords that require changing.

Part of this plan should involve employees keeping an updated list of logins and accounts used for each device. If they use a password manager, they can quickly change all passwords.

Use Corporate Email Accounts

Remote workers are already using their home networks, devices, and other tools, so it stands to reason they sometimes also use personal email accounts. While this can work fine, it does pose a security risk. 

Generally, employees reserve corporate email accounts for work emails. Corporate email accounts make it easier to determine if an email is from someone you know.

Personal accounts can have incoming emails from many different sources, so the chance of a phishing email sneaking through is much higher. Their device may become compromised when this happens, putting the company at risk.

If possible, keep remote workers on a dedicated corporate email account. Dedicating email communication to corporate accounts only dramatically reduces the risks of phishing attacks. The company can also closely monitor email traffic to determine any suspicious phishing activity.

Use Centralized Storage

A centralized corporate storage solution can help your employees keep data safe if there is a breach or an accident. Without centralized storage, remote employees will end up using their own backup solutions or none.

If possible, set up a centralized cloud-based backup system for your employees. This system is separate from your system and corporate backups. However, retrieving employee data or restoring a device is just as crucial.

Zoom and Video Conferencing Risks

We all remember the “Zoom bombing” stories that went viral during the pandemic. Hackers or others would enter a corporate Zoom meeting and try to embarrass the participants or cause some other kind of mayhem.

While this was occasionally good for a laugh, it also represents a security risk with video calls. A hacker may also enter a meeting secretly without being detected. If a hacker does this, they can spy on whatever happens during the meeting. They can steal crucial information such as passwords, trade secrets, or personal information.

Make All Meetings Private

Make sure to set all meetings to private, whether you use Zoom or another vendor. Most video-conferencing vendors already do this, but checking before setting up a meeting is essential.

Use Encryption

Encryption is another feature that has since become the default. Using encryption will help prevent hackers or others from snooping in on your meeting.

Password Protect All Meetings

Make sure to always password-protect your video meetings to prevent hackers from eavesdropping.

Check For Employee PCI Compliance

Within the payment industry, there is PCI DSS compliance. PCI DSS is a set of standards that all merchants and payment service providers must follow to keep their accounts in good standing.

Staying PCI DSS(Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant with remote work can get complicated. If remote workers can access payment information or otherwise handle that data, those connections and devices must be PCI DSS compliant.

When remote workers have access to payment or transaction data, performing a security audit is a good idea. This audit can be internal, or you can hire a third party. Specific merchants will sometimes have to use a third-party auditing service depending on their required PCI compliance level.

To reduce the overall security burden, keep the number of remote employees with access to payment data to a minimum. Also, when employees leave or change positions, update their access and security as needed.

Don’t Skimp On Security And IT Budgets

Some have reduced IT budgets with workers out of the office and companies eager to save money. IT budgets may include employment for security specialists or dedicated personnel to oversee network functions and infrastructure.

Companies should be very cautious when saving money in this way. While the right reductions can be appropriate when the office footprint is smaller, the security risk doesn’t change.

If your work environment no longer justifies an IT staff, one option is to use an outside service provider to manage your security. A third-party service can be a great middle-ground between saving money on IT staffing while still maintaining adequate security procedures.

A security provider can audit your current workflows and policies and make recommendations to strengthen security. They can also create new policies if you don’t have a solid policy framework to deal with your new remote workforce.

Keep Up To Date With Security Risks

New technology adoption leads to the emergence of new risks, and security risks evolve over time. Therefore, keeping up to date with the latest threats your business faces is crucial.

Depending on your industry, there are likely trade publications and websites that you can follow. These trade publications often point out any new risks your industry faces. 

When discovering a new security risk, determine if it should be integrated into your existing cybersecurity protocol. For example, if a new phishing attack targets your industry, you must create an educational plan for employees.

If a piece of software your business uses becomes a target, you must decide whether to update the software or find a new solution with less risk.

By staying on top of cybersecurity trends, you can maintain updated security measures and avoid many risks that new threats pose.

By Web Domains Similar To Your Own

Hackers sometimes purchase domains that closely resemble existing domains. The hacker then uses these domains to set up phishing attacks that look exactly like the authentic website.

These attacks may be happening with your website, and you don’t even realize it. To prevent this, find out if there are any common misspellings of your domain. Common examples can be if your domain name is singular, but a plural version is available.

For marketing purposes, it can be wise to buy these domains anyway. But it also prevents hackers from buying them to create a fake version of your site.

This tip is industry- and business-specific, but you should watch for similar domains, as attackers may use them to launch attacks.

Work With Your Vendors

Regardless of your industry, you likely have various software vendors you work with. Many of these vendors can help you make your overall systems secure. Contact your sales representative for each vendor and ask how to make their software more secure.

One common example is any service provider you may use for payment processing. Your payment processor wants you to keep your business as secure as possible. Your merchant agreement with your payment processor also requires you to be PCI DSS compliant.

Contacting your payment processor and asking for assistance with PCI DSS can be your first step if you’re unsure where to turn.

Your payment processor will review your transaction volumes and help you determine your specific level of compliance. They can also help you determine what steps to take to improve your overall security.

More Help With Security

If you have a remote workforce and process payments, security needs to be a top priority.

At ECS Payments, we can help you implement a secure payment workflow that works in any environment and for any industry. We can also help you cut your processing costs with our innovative payment solutions.

Contact ECS Payments to learn more about our secure payment solutions and how they can revolutionize your business and growth potential.

Frequently Asked Questions About Remote Work Security

What are the most significant remote work security risks?  

The most significant security risks for remote workers are weak passwords, unsecured Wi-Fi, a lack of multi-factor authentication, phishing and ransomware attacks, and video conferencing vulnerabilities. 

How can businesses prevent phishing attacks on remote workers?  

To prevent phishing attacks on remote workers, businesses should implement company-wide security policies and provide employee education on recognizing phishing attempts.  

How can businesses protect against ransomware attacks in a remote work environment?  

To protect against ransomware attacks, especially in a remote work environment, businesses need to secure and encrypt sensitive data storage, establish a robust data recovery plan, and issue regular backups.

What role does multi-factor authentication play in remote work security?  

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) enhances security by requiring additional steps beyond a password for user login validation, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access.

What should businesses do to ensure secure remote Wi-Fi?  

Businesses must enable Wi-Fi encryption, educate employees on safe public Wi-Fi practices, and encourage virtual private networks (VPNs) to enhance Wi-Fi security for remote workers.