GUEST ESSAY: Top 5 cyber exposures tied to the rising use of international remote workforces

By April Miller

While every business needs to prioritize cybersecurity, doing so is becoming increasingly complicated. With many employees now working remotely, securing company data isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. Things get even more complicated if you have an international remote workforce.

Related: Employees as human sensors

As of 2018, more than 2 million people were working abroad for U.S. companies in China alone. Since then, as remote work has become more popular and accessible, that figure has likely only increased. International workforces can be an excellent way to find top talent, but they can introduce unique security risks.

Here are five unique cybersecurity challenges you should know about.

•Inconsistent data regulations. Countries have different data security laws, and these can get in the way of one another. For example, suppose you have workers in the EU. In that case, you must abide by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which imposes fines on some activities that are perfectly legal in the U.S.

Having workers in multiple countries with laws like this introduces further complications. For instance, if you have employees in China and the EU, you’ll have to obtain Chinese government approval to provide data from China to EU authorities enforcing the GDPR. These conflicts and inconsistencies can make it hard to create a cybersecurity program that abides by all relevant laws.

•Government Monitoring. Similarly, different nations exercise varying amounts of authority over internet traffic. In some countries, government agencies may monitor your employees’ web activity. While most governments won’t likely do anything nefarious with this information, it does heighten the risk of a data breach.

Surveillance gives cybercriminals another potential point of entry to see or steal your data. If the government’s systems fall victim to a cyberattack, a hacker could use them to access your information.

•Slow Communication. Communication can be slow and challenging with employees spread across different time zones. These obstacles can stand in the way of reaching out to workers about crucial security updates. Similarly, if a worker reports a cybersecurity concern, it may take a while before IT staff can see and address it.

Slow communication can also leave workers vulnerable to phishing attacks, where cybercriminals pose as legitimate authorities. The communication barrier can make it hard for an employee to verify if an email is coming from within the company before giving away information. Since phishing makes up 30% of all attacks against small businesses, this is a pressing concern.

•Unsecured Wi-Fi. The U.S. ranks 14th in average broadband speed, putting it well above many other nations. Consequently, workers in other countries may have slower internet speeds, which can interfere with security. Any lag or dropped connections could expose critical data to cybercriminals.

If any of your remote employees travel regularly, it can introduce more Wi-Fi-related risks. Public hotspots are often unsecured, leaving workers’ data open to cybercriminals on the same network.

•Restricted Internet Access. Some nations may monitor internet activity, while others restrict it. As a result, you may have employees who can’t access some websites, programs or cloud services they may need for work. If any of these are security-related, it can be a cybersecurity risk.


For example, a program most of your employees use to send sensitive information may be unavailable in some countries. Workers in those areas may have to use a less secure option instead, potentially exposing this data to hackers.

If you have an international remote workforce, you should understand these risks. When you know what dangers you face, you can take appropriate steps to mitigate them.

It’s not impossible to secure international remote workers, but it is a challenge. The first step in addressing these concerns is understanding them. Look to see if any of these risks apply to your remote workers so you can take action and protect them.

About the essayist: April Miller is a staff writer at ReHack Magazine. While she enjoys tackling topics across the technology space, she’s most passionate about educating readers on cybersecurity and Big Data.

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