Whether you’re managing five or five hundred remote workers, building a remote worker risk assessment that helps keep their data secure is non-negotiable. But how should you go about it? And what should it include? This post answers those questions, and provides guidance on the best kind of risk assessment for remote working.
We’ll be exploring:
- How to get started with a risk assessment
- How to find and assess risks associated in remote work environments
- How to develop mitigation strategies with key stakeholders
What do you need to get started with your remote work risk assessment?
Knowing you need to conduct a remote work risk assessment is one thing. Knowing how to do it and where to start can be quite another. But all is not lost. Focus on 3 things in particular and you’ll be on your way. They are, in order:
Figuring out which stakeholders you need to include. As you might have guessed, this will depend on the nature of your organization. But one thing’s for certain — that group will need to include IT and security teams (and very likely your remote colleagues themselves).
Defining shared objectives. Once you’ve got the right people on board, you need to ensure everyone understands why you’re creating one in the first place. Effective remote work risk assessments depend on clear, shared objectives.
Building an inventory of assets: Think about all the software and hardware used by your organization. From laptops and tablets (both professional and personal) to software like data platforms, CRMs and communication tools — they’re all vulnerable to security breaches.
Once you’ve established the above, you’ll be ready to develop the main body of your risk assessment.
Finding and assessing risks in the remote working environment
How do you hunt down potential risks to your remote workers (and the company)? How do you evaluate their impact? We’re glad you asked…
On average, dogs can pick out the smell of different objects from as far as 20km away. Sniffing out potential hazards in a remote working environment might be a different skill — but the principle isn’t all that different. You won’t be able to conduct a full risk assessment unless you’ve first identified the most common risks to your business. Unreliable VPNs? Zero protection for personal devices? Remind yourself of the most common remote working security risks that businesses face, here.
Assessing their likelihood and impact
Once you’ve spotted the risks, it’s vital you can comfortably evaluate the likelihood of their happening — along with the potential consequences. For example, how likely are any of your remote colleagues to open a phishing email? What might happen if they did? According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, the costliest phishing attack in 2023 averaged out at $4.91million in breach costs. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail (big time).
Classify each and every risk
With every risk assessed, it’s sensible to classify them. If you’re looking for inspiration, a generic threat matrix is a good starting point — and one that will help you order the different risks you’ve identified, along with intended actions for each of them.
Undertake a gap analysis
Think through your existing security measures. Think through them again. How do they align with the risks you’ve identified? If you spot gaps between what you had in place and what you need to solve for (which isn’t uncommon by any means), the logical next step is to determine what needs to be done to close those gaps.
Build a mitigation strategy for your remote worker risk assessment plan
The stakeholders that matter are ready to align on what needs to be done. You’re in a good spot in terms of identifying risks and evaluating their potential damage. You’ve set them out via gap analysis. Now it’s time to build a mitigation strategy.
That starts by developing — and agreeing — a plan of action.
If you can’t draft one collectively, you’ll need to consult with them afterwards to determine if they represent the best route forward. Role-specific items will need specific input from (and agreement by) specialists (e.g. data privacy regulations will need legal involvement).
Get clear on responsibilities
This should be an obvious one. Which stakeholders (and by extension, teams) are responsible for which elements of your mitigation strategy?
Compare the benefits of each mitigation against its respective cost
Figure out if the juice is worth the squeeze. Do the costs of any specific mitigations outweigh their benefit? If that is the case, you may want to consider putting it on ice until you have more budget later.
Revisit the risk level after mitigation
With the right mitigation in place, revisit the risk again. Is it still significant enough to warrant more action? Assess every risk that remains to determine a follow-up plan.
Getting the most out of your risk assessment and mitigation strategy
You’ve got a healthy strategy in place. The worst thing to do now is see it go to waste. In that respect, maximizing its potential starts with three things in particular. Providing employee training is extremely low-hanging fruit.
Ensure your remote working teams are as clued up as possible on what they can do to help mitigate risks. It’s also worth pointing out that relying on the same old plan will soon catch you out. Be sure to schedule reviews of your plan — and keep your finger on the pulse in terms of new risks that might arise as a result of new technologies. When they appear, update what you had to account for them.
Last but not least? Find the right remote work security solution. You want something that’s super easy to use, impossible for malicious actors to expose, absurdly good value to run, and requires zero expertise to install. Sounds impossible, right? Actually…no. View our secure remote worker app, Cubeless and learn why that’s the case here.