The efforts of people around the globe have suddenly forced many workers to stay at home. For a significant portion of these workers that also means working remotely either for the first time, or at least more often than their normal telecommuting schedule. As a result of this necessity, many organizations may be forced to implement new remote technologies or significantly expand their current capacities for remote users. This added capability can present a significant security risk if not implemented correctly. Furthermore, malicious actors never pass up the opportunity to capitalize on current affairs. The RSA Incident Response Team has years of experience responding to Targeted Attacks and Advanced Threat Actors while assisting our clients with improving their overall security posture. The members of our team are either working with our customers on-site or supporting them from home. Our team has frequently assisted clients remotely, providing us with extensive experience in operating a secure remote team. Given the increasing threat landscape, we are sharing some essential tips and suggestions on how organizations can improve their security posture, as well as how their remote workforce can keep themselves secure by following some best practices.
Now that you have shifted to working from home you will still need to ensure all work-related tasks are completed using your organization's provided laptop, if available. Using the work laptop allows the user to still be covered by the organization's security protections. It also helps the user with accidental disclosure of sensitive work data if that information is being stored on a personally owned machine. Some organizations have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. In those cases, RSA recommends following your companies normal policy for remote computing.
The passwords used for all corporate logins should comply with your organization's password policy. However, RSA recommends use of a Password Manager to increase your security. Password managers (such as LastPass, Password Safe, Dashlane, 1Password, Apple Keychain, among other reputable password managers) allow you to randomly generate a secure and unique password for each login and store them within a database. This allows you to comply with corporate security policies without having to remember each individual password (or worse, reusing the same password). The implication of reusing passwords is that if an account's password is compromised in one location, then all other instances that have the same password are also compromised. We will also be discussing multi factor authentication next; suffice to say that we recommend that multi factor authentication be enabled for access to your password manager for increased security.
Several password managers can be found at the below link:
NOTE: Password managers will require users to remember a single master password in order to access the others. It should be complex and not easily guessable. We recommended that you adopt the concept of passphrases rather than passwords. A passphrase can be a sentence or a combination of words that have some meaning to you. For example, a passphrase could be: “I need to be on vacation now!” or “Correct Horse Battery Staple” (reference: xkcd: Password Strength ) One example of a passphrase generator is https://xkpasswd.net/
2.2.1 Default Passwords
Many devices require a username and password to log in for initial or further configuration. Often these devices (such as home routers, WIFI access points, cable modems and other Internet devices) come equipped with default passwords (such as admin or password). RSA recommends that all default passwords be changed to secure unique passwords, especially for devices that connect directly to the Internet.
2.3 Multi Factor Authentication (Also Known as Two Factor Authentication)
Using multi factor authentication (MFA) for all remote access, for systems hosting sensitive data, and for systems performing administrative functions within the organization is strongly recommended. Multi factor authentication, (which is an evolution of two factor authentication (2FA)), enhances security by requiring that a user present multiple pieces of information to authenticate themselves. Credentials typically fall into one of three categories: something you know (like a password or PIN), something you have (like a smart card or token), or something you are (like your fingerprint or Iris scan). Credentials must come from two different categories in order to be classified as multi-factor. Applications that are sensitive to the organization such as your password manager, customer databases, administrative tools, etc. should all have multi factor authentication enabled on them.
2.4 Follow Your Company's IT and Security Policies
Organizations have established IT and security policies to protect all employees as well as the organization itself. Just because you are not in the office does not mean that you still should not follow these policies. Security policies surrounding the way you handle data, communications, installed applications, and things you can do on your laptop should all be followed. Company provided computers should not be treated the same as personal devices. This may include disallowing your family from using the company provided computer.
2.5 Allow Updates and Patching to Take Place.
If your organization has a patch management program in place users should allow these processes to function as they normally would when they are in the office. These update procedures will at times require a reboot so ensure your machine is online, connected to the corporate VPN (if available), and allow it to reboot when it asks. Do not skip patches as they are released by your organization's IT department so that your machine is not put at risk of being compromised.
2.5.1 Update Personal Devices
In addition to allowing your corporate system to update, personal assets should be updated as well. It is easy to ignore security updates for your systems, devices, or applications by simply clicking “update later”. However, repeatedly delaying these updates can lead to serious vulnerability issues. Updates should be performed for your personal operating systems (such as Windows or MacOS for example), web browsers (such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Edge), tablets (such as iPad, Kindle, or Android), smartphones (such as iPhone or Android), and any other device that requires updates.
2.6 Phishing / Scams / Link Safety
Phishing is an attempt to trick a user into believing that the email message is something that they need, want, or are interested in. Phishing scams typically revolve around current events of the world or common life events (such as shipping related to online orders, among others). The attackers know that the subject and content of the email will trigger either fear or intrigue on the recipient. This emotion will most likely cause the recipient to click a link within the email or open its attachment. The link will likely download a malicious application or present the user with a fake login page that attempts to harvest credentials for sites such as your bank, email, social media, online shopping, gaming or other important credentials. This can result in the loss of access, fraud, or abuse of these accounts if the user proceeds to divulge this information.
If you are unfamiliar with what phishing looks like or some of the common tactics used for social engineering, we highly recommend taking the quiz linked below to improve your skills for spotting phishing attempts:
RSA recommends encrypting home wireless networks with WIFI Protected Access (WPA). There are several versions (WPA, WPA2 & WPA3) with WPA3 being the current strongest. RSA does not recommend using Wired Equivalent Protocol (WEP) or unsecured wireless Internet.
2.8 Security Training
If your company offers security training, RSA recommends that you take (or retake if it has been a while) the offered training as you are potentially at a higher risk now that you are outside the office. We understand that these trainings are not always the most exciting learning experiences, however they do help to reinforce good security behavior and can act as a refresher for things you may already know. One good resource to start is the SANS Security Awareness Work-from-Home Kit (https://www.sans.org/security-awareness-training/sans-security-awareness-work-home-deployment-kit)
2.9 Improve Your Household's Internet Safety
All the devices on your local network are linked to each other in one way or another. It is therefore important to ensure that all members of your household are kept safe and do not infect you by proxy. A great way of ensuring your family's internet safety on the internet is by using Microsoft family:
A second monitor can increase your productivity, improve workflow and generally provide an improved experience while working. Many organizations are offering to let employees borrow work resources such as monitors for use during this period of working from home. Check if your company is providing something similar.
2.10.2 A Comfortable and Supportive Chair
Since you will no doubt be spending an increased amount of time in front of your computer working, you will also likely be spending an increased amount of time in your chair. Having a comfortable and supportive chair can help with posture and ergonomics while working from home.
2.10.3 Consider a Standing Desk or Standing Desk Converter
For many people sitting all day is not ideal. To help combat this consider using a standing desk or a standing desk converter that allows a home user to decide if they want to sit or stand at will. If you’re not able to utilize a standing desk, then be sure to take breaks where you are able to stand up and stretch.
In these uncertain times, we hope that this advice will help organizations and users stay connected and stay secure. Watch out for more posts and advice from across the RSA organization, and let us know what you're doing in the comments below.