10 modest ways to keep your remote development team secure

Before COVID-19, a remote working arrangement was a choice. Today, it’s a necessity and has become the standard de facto in almost every industry.

Unfortunately, while IT companies are capitalizing on remote development teams, cyber attackers are also taking advantage of the security weaknesses of remote teams. In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud-based attacks reportedly escalated by 630% between January and April 2020 alone.

Gartner forecasts that 50% of cybersecurity budgets will be directed towards security services in 2020 alone. However, while a healthy cybersecurity budget is critical; when dealing with remote development teams, it’s not all about spending big on security services.

Your security virtually depends on every member of the team and a plethora of other factors.

Research has shown that it’s actually more effective to implement remote development teams best practices. At Skelia, we have found the following ten best practices to be highly effective. Whether you are new or experienced in collaborating with remote development teams, mastering these ten will go a long way in improving your security posture:

Leverage best practices for sharing sensitive data

When dealing with sensitive data, you need to run a tight ship. Get both in-house and remote developers acquainted with your strategy for minimizing security risk.

Set guidelines based on best practices standards for sharing sensitive data. This includes restricting the exchange of sensitive data over unsecured messaging systems. For instance, if an attack on a company communication platform like Slack or even email is successful, attackers will have complete access to your data. It’s imperative that you set up a system that will protect your organization from this loophole.

Adopt multi-factor authentication

Authentication is central to remote access security measures. And multi-factor authentication is undeniably the best option for your team. Put in place 2-factor authentication for all services and business assets, including seed accounts such as company emails. Even if a hacker manages to obtain login credentials, without an authorization code access will remain restricted.

Utilize a Zero Trust framework

A Zero Trust framework gives you the edge when partnering with remote developers. In a zero-trust IT environment, it’s possible to verify each person, device, and account requesting access to your assets. Although it will take some time to implement, this defensive approach to your cybersecurity will make monitoring and maintaining networks easier. For the best results, you must also establish a corresponding access policy for company resources.

Limit developer access

Working with trustworthy individuals who would not misuse their access to company data is critical. Hiring a pre-vetted dedicated team of developers is certainly half the battle. Additionally, limiting developer access is also important. Remote developers do not usually need root access to your servers. Access to the specific files they will be working on is typically enough.

Therefore, you can grant access to your data based on the principle of the least privilege. Limit access to your hosting site as well to avoid unauthorized administrative access and lateral movement of data across systems and networks. If any developer’s workstation is compromised, attackers won’t have unlimited access to your resources.

Establish a remediating procedure for compromised credentials

Revoking credentials for the different platforms and tools used in remote work is best done through a checklist, so you do not overlook anything. Be sure to document the procedure for remediating compromised credentials.

The same goes for the credentials of employees no longer under your employment. Establish a straightforward procedure for revoking all access and permissions for disenfranchised developers to avoid disaster if they are ever compromised. Monitor credentials for remote workers closely as well.

Improve threat awareness within your team

In 2019, nearly 34% of breaches were attributed to internal actors. You must be prudent when it comes to user behaviour, making sure your team members are well informed and take company policy seriously.

Phishing, which is an attack of opportunity, currently makes up 80% of reported security incidents. Spear-phishing emails linked to COVID-19 are up 667% since February. You can minimize the probability of such attacks becoming successful attacks by training your team to identify suspicious activity and messages aimed at stealing credentials — discourage employee negligence at all costs.

Working with developers in multiple locations and different time zones does complicate security. Tracking suspicious behaviour is difficult, as your remote team members’ IP addresses can change regularly. However, when developers can identify security threats, the response process is more manageable. Appoint a central figure to address all security related issues, so as to have an exact protocol on reporting breaches.

Adopt good security hygiene

Ensure your company’s security policy is thoroughly implemented throughout every project. Exercise good security hygiene through protocols that support best practices for remote work. One good precaution is rotating vulnerable access credentials and restricting permissions for keys with role-based access controls too.

Promote the culture of creating solid passwords and also avoiding using public Wi-Fi in your remote development team.

Gain complete visibility over your digital assets

Imagine the implication of having secrets within your source code exposed. Enlisting remote developers entails collaboration over multiple platforms and sharing your data repositories, and the risk of unsecured networks and workstations is real. It is critical to have full visibility of both your public and private repositories to scan and identify secrets shared from within your repositories.

Avoid storing secrets in shared data repositories, so your information doesn’t get into the wrong hands. Other best practices include giving remote developers to secure corporate devices. The risk of having your company’s data mistakenly uploaded to personal repositories is amplified when developers use personal devices.

Establish a response plan

In addition to preventive measures, you will also need to have a response plan when things get out of hand. If your team fails to respond rapidly to breach, the costs could be tremendous. Have a well-communicated response plan enabling the developers to coordinate with team leaders and stop an attack as quickly as possible. All team members must be capable of deploying countermeasures in the event of a cyberattack.

Your response plan should include cloud backup.

If you are already using cloud solutions, you can quickly reduce your exposure to threats such as ransomware. If your developer’s device gets stolen, they can promptly resume work on the project from another device right where they left off.

Leverage the right tools

To avoid developers relying on tools outside of protocols, take up easy-to-use collaboration and communication tools. Reduce the probability of your team circumventing the security policy by taking up solutions which work well together. If the process is frustrating, you could end up with sensitive data being sent over personal email or even have secrets included in the source code.

You must also be careful not to have your data sprawled all over different platforms and tools that are harder to keep up with when it makes implementing security measures harder. If your company is just starting out with remote development teams, this area requires a lot of attention. If you are working with cross-border teams, Skelia can help you set up the collaboration process also providing tools designed for remote teams.

Security tools like virtual private network (VPN) are also essential regardless of the kind of network developers are using. A VPN protects your data as during transmission further ensuring secure connections.

Is your entire team on the same page?

With this quick summary of the tools and strategies necessary for remote developer teams, you will be able to build a more robust security posture. Getting your team on the same page can be time-consuming without the right foundation. You will also want to look into Skelia so you can build an expert team for your nearshore or offshore development. Their services put you a step ahead with the developers selected to meet your needs and given an orientation to your company culture beforehand. Syncing your in-house team with new remote developers becomes an easier task.

Over to you: Get security savvy

Cybersecurity reports for 2020 read like a ticking time bomb. But don’t be pressured to implement everything before evaluating how they will affect your remote team. The priority should always be to balance developer productivity with a formidable security strategy. All in all, establishing clear communication with your remote team is the fundamental step to get results from all the tips mentioned above. All the best!

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Skelia

Skelia

Skelia is an international leader in building cross-border IT and engineering organizations and affiliate companies in Eastern-Europe.