Remote Employee Monitoring How to Make Remote Working More Secure

The pandemic has required that most organizations close their offices and ask their employees to work from home. This has presented challenges for employers and employees alike given the rapid expansion of remote working. Even before Covid-19, remote working was increasing. Between 2017 and 2018,  36  million  (or  25%)  of  US  employees  sometimes  worked  at  home  according  to  the US  Bureau  of  Labor  Statistics.

Below we have created a guide to help you be able to make your organisation’s remote working practices more secure.

The Challenges of Long Term Remote Working: 

Moving To Server Led IT

COVID-19 forced many companies to fully integrate flexible working technology into business continuity plans. While the sudden shift to complete remote working was a shock for many, it’s vital to recognize that many organizations can operate without a formal office space. Despite millions of workers remaining isolated at home for the foreseeable future and juggling family commitments, workers still want to get online and do their jobs as efficiently as possible.

It’s critical that business leaders take action to address these demands, bringing together digital talent from across the business to ensure every member of staff has access to online support and systems to continue operating as normal.

Key to this effort is that senior management set the right example, using these online tools and platforms and ensuring that every member of staff follows suit and stays safe during this challenging time.

More than half of those working on personal devices (58%) said they are having to store business information on them as a result, which could potentially pose a security risk.

To side-step this issue, Atlas Cloud company is supporting some clients in moving away from a “device-led” model of IT by encouraging them to embrace public cloud technologies and virtual desktop offerings, said Watson.

“Businesses should move away from device-led IT and towards server-led IT such as virtual or hosted desktops, where information is stored on on-premise servers or in the cloud,” he said.

“Server-led IT is important for ensuring business security during the switch to home working as it means staff can work safely on any device and it takes the control of business information out of the hands of individual employees working on individual devices, where the information is more vulnerable and gives control back to the businesses which retain ownership of all their business information in the cloud.”

Coronavirus has forever changed our work culture. This experience shows us that while more employees can work successfully from home, they need the appropriate support from managers as well as from technology which can make them just as productive within their home as they were in the office.

Avoiding Common VDI Mistakes

Moving to server led means deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI, allowing your organization the ability to store and offer virtual machines (VM) on a server, which can be accessed by multiple clients or devices. It’s an alternative desktop deployment model for cloud solutions, provided by multiple hosting technologies, including Windows, Citrix and VMware.

What Can a VDI Do?

A VDI, sometimes referred to as desktop virtualization, offers more flexibility and ease of management to IT professionals, leading to a beneficial experience for both end-users and IT admins. VDI environments also enhance business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities, give the ability to deploy thousands of laptops and desktop computers in less time and at a lower cost, and reduce end-user downtime. However, with any technology deployment, an organization will have specific requirements.

There are specific challenges with VDI that can easily be avoided. Plan ahead and avoid the common pitfalls of VDI deployment with the following six mistakes to avoid.

Not Involving Users

From the outset of a VDI or RDSH project, end-user involvement is essential to help your project team understand how workers perform their day-to-day jobs. With an RDSH deployment, for example, you’re serving up apps instead of full desktops, so you have to understand how the users interact with the software.

This end-user perspective is one of the keys to ensuring you have gathered the full range of user and business requirements and have a clear definition of the problem you are solving. Clear, widespread communication is one of the keys to project success. For IT, it’s important to involve all parties early on, to start with a blank drawing, and to engage everyone in the process of moving forward. For end users, it’s important that they know what’s coming. To that end, set up a schedule for periodic mailings that talk about the upcoming changes and the benefits they will bring.

Putting together the wrong team

Virtualisation architects aren’t necessarily the right people for the task, as servers are dramatically different to desktops. Involve people from the server, storage, desktop and networking areas of IT to help build what will be a dynamic and varied environment.

Improperly Defining App and Desktop Virtualization Use Cases 

App and desktop virtualization use cases are built on types of workers and their job requirements, the applications and devices they use, their requirements for storage and multimedia performance, and their network connectivity restraints. Given this reality, it’s important to consider the culture of the organization and its attitudes toward the use of infrastructure when defining culture and workflow requirements. Does the organization allow multimedia streaming? Does it have teleworkers who watch high-definition video? The answers to questions like these should be factored into use cases. For example, if some workers need to stream video as part of their jobs, you might want to let video streaming run natively on laptops and publish just the most sensitive data through RDSH infrastructure. Or, if users have no business requirement to stream video but the practice is allowed in the work environment and frequently done, you would want to consider the impact of video streaming in the design of a VDI solution. Traditional desktops typically provide an abundance of resources to users and saturation of a resource will not affect other users, but with VDI resources are shared and utilization of resources is designed to be more efficient.

Not Conducting a Pre-Assessment

The desktop and application pre-assessment helps you gain an understanding of the workloads that will run in the virtualized client environment and their associated technical requirements. The information gathered in this phase of a project is critically important to the design of the VDI or RDSH solution. Without a pre-assessment, assumptions will be used to design the solution, which adds risk to the project. For example, the selected hardware may not be able to provide the required compute or storage resources, which could lead to additional capital investments that could have been avoided if the solution had been sized properly.

Not understanding impacts to the performance of other systems

Network bandwidth is an especially important consideration on wide area network (WAN) links. If the WAN links cannot provide the bandwidth for a VDI environment or the latency is too high, then local deployments should be considered.

Ignoring Security Monitoring

In the spirit of preserving data, session recording offers a way to protect critical actions that can assist in forensic analysis and offer a layer of protection against the ransomware viruses.

RecordTS is a remote session recording solution and User Activity Monitoring that records and audits employees, administrators, external vendors, and consultants’ activities while remotely logged into your Windows servers.

Monitoring Employees: The Necessity of Recording Remote Session

While most companies have a way to monitor employees within their workplace, few have tools to monitor them as they’re working from home. One compelling case can be made for recording remote sessions for later playback and review. Employers are concerned that in the event of a security breach, they won’t be able to see what was happening on users’ desktops when the breach occurred. There are additional reasons why your organization might need to consider recording remote sessions which we explore below. Learn more here.

Audit User Activity

Employee monitoring software is useful to find out what your employees are doing while logged into their desktops. While it may be important to monitor their productivity, the real concerns are when it comes to insider threat management.

Did Linda from HR open a phishing email? Did the new intern share a secured file they should not have? It is important to understand what your employees are doing and educate them on best practices.

Compliance

Many industries have data and employee monitoring requirements, requiring log collection and monitoring systems which provide an audit trail of all access and activity to sensitive business information.

One of the most well known is HIPPA, the US healthcare industry legislation which provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. American financial services are regulated by SOX, a series of regulations enacted in response to a chain of high-profile financial scandals that occurred in the early 2000s which rattled investor confidence.

In addition, there are many other industry specific regulations which cover fields from education to the US federal government: NERC, FFIEC, FISMA, and FERPA. If any of these acronyms sound familiar, it’s probably a good idea to ensure you are adhering to your industry’s regulations.

Recently China enacted similar requirements to SOX which puts them in line with worldwide practices as it accords with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Unethical User Activity

While insider threats can be accidental or negligent, they can sometimes be malicious. Though protecting devices and servers is necessary, organizations should not overlook the importance of protecting against personnel and contractors and consider employee monitoring.

Did a disgruntled employee who was recently fired extract sensitive data on their way out with the intent to sell it or release it publicly? When it comes to cybersecurity, an ounce of protection goes a long ways.

“The threat of insiders is real and what can happen is you have amazing defenses to protect your intellectual property and other secrets from those who are trying to obtain them from outside your company’s walls, but you forget sometimes to have a program where you are watching those who you trust,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin after the FBI arrested and charged an individual with theft of government secrets.

Computer monitoring software can identify the employee and record their actions.

Monitor Third Party Vendor

Giving external vendors such as outsourced call centres and managed service providers, access to your internal systems greatly increases the risks of theft of intellectual property and/or damage to company infrastructure (mistakes made while deploying code, configuring systems or assigning user permissions, for example).

Even trusted vendors with no malicious intent can potentially damage your systems or leave you open to attack. One of the most infamous instances of this type of breach occurred in 2013 to the American chain store, Target, when a supplier caused a network breach. Before Target’s network admins could react, it was too late. Their network security was breached and sensitive financial data was stolen.

This issue is particularly acute in the healthcare field. On average, hospitals have about 1.5 times the amount of vendors than employees.

Third party monitoring is a way to ensure external vendors stay within their scope and are only performing their assigned tasks. This allows for more flexible access without sacrificing security. Having monitoring software eliminates “who did what?” doubts, confirms SLA agreements and eases vendor billing verification.

Litigation

If there has been unethical user activity, it is likely there will be consequences for the employee or contractor. Ultimately, punishment could range from a slap on the wrist to formal legal proceedings and dismissal. User activity recordings are admissible in court and can provide powerful evidence if litigation becomes necessary. Making it well known that employee and contractor activity is being recorded can in itself serve as a strong deterrent and prevent transgressions before they happen.

Securing Remote Work to Improve Your 

Organization’s Cybersecurity Mitigating Cyber Threats

To reduce risk of being attacked or hacked, organizations are advised to establish an anti-phishing strategy, which includes training employees to recognise malicious emails and sites, or use email systems with integrated anti-phishing solutions.

Additional advice includes using two-factor authentication where possible, unique passwords for different services and automatic system updates, as well as deploying ransomware protection and antivirus systems.

“Another effective way is to make public-facing websites static,” the global technology company Acronis advised. “Since some companies do not need complex content management systems on their websites, pre-rendered static pages are more secure.”

User monitoring applications are also becoming standard in many companies, particularly those handling sensitive software such as in the healthcare sector. This software monitors what users are doing while logged in remotely and helps to provide clear evidence and root causes during investigations of security breaches.

This software is often necessary for compliance and auditing purposes as in the case of HIPAA medical regulations regarding handling of patient records.

Learn about how RecordTS’s Remote Desktop Session Recording software can help here – www.tsfactory.com.