COVID-19: Security challenges of remote working

Date: 13 Apr 2020

As countries around the world undergo semi- to complete lockdowns, employees are increasingly working from home to adhere to national health measures. However, this shift has presented several security challenges.


Use of Zoom video conferencing has surged since the dawn of COVID-19 as organisations scramble to continue business-as-usual meetings online. The platform recently drew a lot of flak for its security issues, with the most recent being Zoombombing where uninvited people break into and disrupt business meetings.

Closer to home, the Ministry of Education recently banned the use of Zoom when obscene images appeared during home-based learning through the video conferencing platform.

Home network security isn’t as robust

Accessing work files or emails through a home WiFi adds another security variable – these networks aren’t typically as sophisticated or secure as office networks. They don’t have firewalls or threat detection systems in place, for example.

“Many organizations would kick in their Business Continuity Plans (BCP) where ‘work from home’ and telecommuting would form the cornerstone of their response. This, however, presents a whole new set of risks associated with unsecured and untrusted remote networks, giving hackers opportunities to access organizations’ data and assets. Hackers can leverage rogue wireless access points, deploy malware to harvest credentials and other sensitive data. Even with VPN access, hackers could exploit vulnerabilities and breach poorly secured client devices. Perimeter defence with network protection is just one aspect of cybersecurity. We recommend businesses take a proactive approach: know the risks and threats before a cyberattack takes place. Businesses should have the ‘hacker’s view’, and join the dots between threat actors, motive and campaign,” says Ritesh Kumar, Chairman and CEO of Cyfirma.

Large corporations have security measures such as VPN tools in place, but that may not be the case for smaller businesses. That said, even leading corporate VPNs have vulnerabilities. And it takes pure diligence on the IT teams’ end to promptly patch these security flaws.

Cloud security challenges

Cloud computing is taking center stage for many organisations during this period, but accessing business resources conveniently from the cloud comes with a price – an even greater need for a secure cloud infrastructure, and the right process controls that go with it.

Unfortunately, many companies aren’t there yet when it comes to cloud adoption.  There are security considerations in terms of proper workforce training, identity and access management, cloud data loss, cloud misconfiguration and others.

Some companies, however, are ahead of the pack. Steve Ng, VP of Digital Operations at Mediacorp, shares: “Fortunately for our Digital Group, we have adopted and have been operating on Cloud technologies for many years. We have security best practices in place, continuous monitoring and alerting, and people trained to operate from anywhere. Accessing corporate services is also a breeze. We have security best practices and solutions in place to ensure safety and ease of use for all employees.”

Need for remote incident handling

Remote working doesn’t mean IT and risk teams should lose their grip on handling cybersecurity breaches or incidents.

Having an incident response playbook may help here. “You should be able to easily manage a cyber incident sitting at home and using a mobile. Quickly come up with tasks needed to handle an incident and assign it to your team. Use a playbook which gives step-by-step instructions to handle the attack,” says Venkat Ramshet, founder of FlexibleIR.


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