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Trust and security in collaborating with overseas developers


As businesses increasingly rely on remote tech talent, keeping data safe has become a top concern. If data is breached, it can damage customer trust, harm the company's reputation, and result in considerable financial losses. And with that, a lot of companies are still adapting their processes and cybersecurity measures. With teams no longer confined to the secure company network within office walls, the risk of cyberattacks, ransomwares or employee negligence can only increase. 


In this blog post, we'll reveal how to keep your data safe and private when working with overseas developers, as well as how to establish trust in a remote background.


Challenges faced by remote developers regarding security


Remote work poses a significant challenge for cybersecurity. Traditional security measures were not originally created to protect employees in remote work situations. Here are some of the most encountered security risks:


Insufficient security measures:

Some remote software engineers don't use strong security practices. They might use easy-to-guess passwords like their name and birthdate or even weaker ones.  If they use the same password everywhere, it's even riskier. Cybercriminals can guess weak passwords to potentially breach into important systems and data. Also, if they don't keep their software up to date, hackers might take advantage of weaknesses in old software. 


Unsafe Wi-Fi networks:

When remote teams use public Wi-Fi (that is most of the time unsecure), it can put business data at risk. This includes important stuff like login passwords, financial data, and customer info. If someone intercepts this data, they could use it for a shocking number of crimes (fraud, business spying, theft, etc).


No data backup plan:

If overseas developers don't regularly back up their data and have a plan to get it back if something goes wrong, it's extremely risky. Without a good plan, downtime could be longer, and getting data back might be a real challenge. They might also use unsecure methods to get data back, which could cause problems with compliance, the law, and customer trust.


Social Engineering Attacks:

Remote developers can be tricked by cybercriminals who use psychology to get sensitive data. They do this in different ways:

-    Baiting: Offering something tempting (like free software) in exchange for sensitive info.

-    Pretexting: Pretending to be someone trustworthy, like an IT admin, to fool developers.

-    Phishing: Sending fake emails that look real to get personal info.

-    Tailgating: Using trust to sneak into secure areas or access restricted systems . (attacks where an unauthorized person looks to gain access from an unaware individual)


How to minimize those risks ?

 

When outsourcing a software development project to an offshore company, it's essential to evaluate the potential risks of giving access to data from another country. Assessing the actual risks associated with collaborating with foreign developers becomes a concern.

The question at hand: Is it dangerous? If yes, how to minimize the risks related to outsourcing a software development project abroad.


While there are natural risks, it's not automatically dangerous if the company takes proper precautions and has security measures in place. The key lies in choosing reputable partners, implementing strong data protection protocols, and maintaining open communication. They are the essential points to minimize risk:

 

  • Onboarding program for remote workers: offer remote employees access to a general cybersecurity training course as part of their onboarding. This course should educate them on best practices for safeguarding company data and systems.

  • Create clear remote work policies: create a document that explains what all remote workers should do. This includes when they should work and how they should communicate. It should also detail the cybersecurity rules for remote work, like who can access what data. This document should set minimum standards for their personal devices too and explain what happens if they don't follow the rules.

  • Always use a VPN: Remote workers should be obliged to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) whenever they work. This keeps data safe while it travels between their computer and your company's systems. Unlike in the office, you can't control their home networks, so a VPN adds a layer of security.

  • Keep strong passwords: Encourage remote workers to regularly update passwords according to specific standards set by the company, such as a minimum length and a combination of specific characters. It is also recommended to use multi-factor authentication for better security and it is suggested to use “password managers” to generate and store unique passwords.

  • Implement a data recovery strategy: Prepare for worst-case scenarios by implementing a robust data backup and recovery plan. In the event of a data breach, having a well-defined strategy in place ensures that your organization can recover critical data, preventing complete loss and maintaining operational resilience.



What about security when it concerns startups with limited resources ? 


For startups operating without dedicated security departments or VPN infrastructure, addressing cybersecurity stays a very important concern.

Startups, often with limited resources, may overlook cybersecurity measures. This vulnerability can lead to costly data breaches and compromises. 

  • According to a report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the average data breach cost for US businesses with fewer than 500 employees is $2.98 million in 2021.

  • 82% of ransomware attacks targeted companies with less than 1000 employee counts.

  • As reported by Verizon in their 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, 81% of hacking-related data breaches can be attributed to weak or stolen credentials.

 

To address these challenges, consider the following key considerations:

  1. Awareness and training

Training your employees about what's right and wrong when it comes to handling data is very important. For instance, they should learn how to prevent data loss, recognize tricks used by harmful people to get information, make sure only the right people can access certain stuff, keep their devices safe, create strong and safe passwords, and spot links or files that seem fishy in emails that might be trying to trick them. 

  1. Secured contracts

In addition to comprehensive training, it's essential for companies to include a confidentiality and non-disclosure clause in the employment contracts of both full-time employees and freelancers they hire, especially those located abroad. This clause should explicitly address the protection of the company's sensitive information and data. This additional layer of legal protection is essential in keeping sensitive information secure.

  1. Pentesting

Penetration testing is comparable to checking your locks on the door to keep your home safe. For startups, it's a smart and affordable way to prevent data breaches. You can find various tools for different budgets. It's important to invest some time and money to pick the right tool for your business needs.

  1. Security policies 

As we have seen before in this article, every company should create policies for how they keep their information safe, especially in this remote work era. Cybercriminals/hackers often go after smaller businesses and startups because they may not have strong policies or enough resources to protect themselves. So, it's a smart move to figure out what's really important for your business and make sure it's well-guarded, because that's what these criminals are after. Your company should also know the most important assets, where they are kept, if and how they are locked up, and who can access them.

  1. Data encryption

A cost-effective way for a startup to keep its data safe is by using encryption software. It isn't just for sensitive info like credit card numbers, but it's also great for data like email addresses. It doesn't cost much, and it plays the role of a secret code for your data. Even if someone tries to break it, they won't understand the data at all. It's best to use the strongest encryption and keep the secret code (encryption keys) in a different place from your data.



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