The Hybrid Work Model and
the Risks of Cyber-Attacks

It’s not just a hybrid work model: employers and employees have a very different understanding of what constitutes an ideal post-pandemic work environment.

According to a Microsoft study, 73 percent of workers want to keep the flexible work arrangements created in response to COVID-19, while 67 percent want in-person collaboration to return.

These figures overlap, suggesting a clear divide between those who want to work remotely and those who want to go back to the office. Instead, many people prefer a hybrid work model that gives them the best of both worlds.

What Is a Hybrid Work Model?

A hybrid work model is the one in which an employee’s schedule may contain both in-office and remote work. Employees can occasionally work remotely (from home) and come into the office on other days. Nevertheless, no such thing as a universal hybrid model exists. Instead, each company creates a hybrid model based on the company’s needs and the individual employee’s needs.

The hybrid work model is frequently mentioned; however, there is no one-size-fits-all or well-defined example of this model. It mostly requires a combination of working remotely and in an office following the organization’s needs. 

The model appears to be different for each organization so far, but there are a few common themes. Regardless of the specifics, companies that choose to implement it will all face some challenges. A hybrid work model can take three forms:

  1. Remote-First: This strategy means that employees can work from home, but the company will keep office space for those who value it. 
  2. Office-Occasional: The company isn’t truly remote-first, which is at the heart of this concept. Instead, they have an office and ask employees to visit it regularly.
  3. Office-First, Remote Allowed: Another alternative is to keep both the office and remote work, but make the office your primary workspace. This scenario happens when offices go through remodeling, for example.

The Security Challenges of The Hybrid Work Model

According to a recent ESET study, 80 percent of worldwide organizations believe their home-working workers have the expertise and technology to deal with cyberthreats. 

However, when people work from two distinct places, frequently utilizing two different sets of work gadgets, the attack surface practically doubles for attackers. Here are some of the most critical security challenges in this work approach. The following are some of them:

Unsecured Home Networks

Most employees don’t know much about network security beyond the fact that it’s a good idea to password-protect their home Wi-Fi network. They have no idea how strong a password should be, nor do they understand the various Wi-Fi security standards.

Stolen Or Lost Work Devices

Computers are genuinely mobile in a hybrid work model, and an office environment is far more physically protected than the average household. Expensive work computers attract criminals like a magnet. There’s also a chance that work equipment will get misplaced at airports and other public venues.

Targeted Phishing Attacks

Employees working on a hybrid work model between office, home, and other remote locations are mostly distracted, something phishers are aware of. They also know that remote employees can’t just ask a coworker for a second opinion on a strange email message, encouraging them to launch more focused phishing assaults.

Lackluster Patching

Unpatched devices are a significant cybersecurity risk since they are vulnerable to well-known weaknesses that fraudsters are eager to exploit. In addition, unlike IT specialists, employees frequently underestimate the need for patching or willfully disregard available patches because they do not want to restart their devices.  

Proliferation Of Shadow IT

The use of information technology services, systems, software, devices, and applications without IT department authority is referred to as shadow IT. The hybrid work model presents the ideal breeding ground for shadow IT by allowing employees to tailor their homework environment.

Mitigating The Risks of Hybrid Work Model

The hybrid work model paradigm comes with its own set of cybersecurity issues, which derive from employees’ use of a mix of business and personal devices from their homes, offices, and other locations, resulting in a hazy network perimeter. 

Therefore, organizations must alter their cybersecurity plans to keep hazardous cyber threats at bay to account for these risks. The following are some crucial steps you may take to reduce cybersecurity threats in a hybrid work model:

Step 1: With the Right Tools, You Can Help Hybrid Workers Succeed.

If hybrid workers don’t have access to the necessary tools, they won’t accomplish their jobs effectively. You surely do not want your staff to take control of their IT needs and outfit themselves with various software apps without your knowledge. It’s far better to be proactive and use end-to-end protected working tools such as:

  1. Create a comprehensive hybrid work model toolkit that incorporates secure cloud storage solutions like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox.
  2. Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Chanty are examples of collaboration apps.
  3. Microsoft Project, Asana, and Basecamp are examples of project management software.
  4. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Skype are examples of video conferencing software.
  5. Bitwarden, LastPass, and 1Password are examples of password managers.

These and other software solutions can significantly boost employees’ productivity who work part-time in the office and part-time from home and make the workplace safer by reducing the need to send sensitive information via email.

Step 2: Implement Multiple Security Layers

Because the hybrid work paradigm produces a vast and hazy network perimeter, numerous layers of security are required to protect it from external and internal threats. The following are the most critical layers:

Endpoint Protection

Machine learning is used in modern endpoint protection solutions to quickly detect and remediate zero-day threats, ransomware, and other advanced assaults. Many different companies offer such solutions, which should be utilized to secure every endpoint, from desktop PCs to mobile devices.

Data Encryption

If you follow a hybrid work model, all sensitive information should be encrypted end-to-end, whether your data is at rest or in transit. The good news is that practically all major enterprise-grade software applications currently support end-to-end encryption, and newer operating systems include complete disc encryption to reduce the impact of physical device theft.

Advanced Email Filtering

Because email remains the most common attack vector for social engineering scams and malware, it only makes sense to catch malicious emails proactively as early as possible. That’s where advanced email filtering comes in, quietly working in the background and protecting hybrid workers from online threats.

Vulnerability Assessments

You can’t secure your hybrid workers reliably until you’re aware of security flaws in your hybrid workplace. A vulnerability assessment by a credible third party can inform you if you’re vulnerable to any known flaws and suggest how to fix or mitigate them.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Passwords alone are no longer sufficient. Instead, implement MFA and require all employees to present two or more pieces of evidence during authentication to defend against password-based attacks reliably.

Step 3: Cybersecurity Awareness Training on An Ongoing Basis

According to Tessian’s “Securing the Future of Hybrid Working” poll of 250 IT decision-makers and 2,000 working people, nearly 60% of IT leaders expect to increase cybersecurity awareness training if their organization adopts a permanent hybrid work environment.

Therefore CISOs invest in cybersecurity awareness training to prevent their employees from becoming the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain by educating and re-educating them on best cybersecurity practices.

Cyberthreats in any working model can be mitigated by teaching your employees how to recognize threats such as spam, phishing, ransomware, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

We're Here to Help Any Work Environment

Organizations must take extra steps to remind employees of their security duties to embrace a hybrid work model and lifestyle. Ideally, this should include security awareness training and accountability, emphasizing the potential pitfalls of working from home and the contrasts between effective remote and office work practices. 

At Right-Hand Cybersecurity, we can assist you in overcoming these difficulties by delivering real-life scenarios in cybersecurity training that simulate office conditions and remote ones, at home and other locations, like cyber cafes. 

This way, you can ensure proper cyber-awareness and know whether your workforce is ready for a hybrid work model. Not only that, but we can also help you and your team establish stronger cyberculture, no matter how dispersed your people are or how distant your offices are.

Wherever your workforce is, we can help you build strong cyberculture.