Remote Project Management – Mitigate Cyber Risks for Project Managers

Remote Project Management – Mitigate Cyber Risks for Project Managers

Modern technology enables businesses to organize and execute projects regardless of the geographical location of team members and helps project managers reap the numerous benefits of remote work.

Running a project with remote teams has numerous benefits, and it lets businesses tap into the knowledge and experience of staff with diversities. However, remote work has some peculiar challenges and inherent risks, including cyber risks, which can compromise a project’s integrity.

When workers are scattered across different locations, it’s easy to let the guard down and expose the project to cyber threats. And since projects involve handling and processing sensitive data, it’s the job of a remote project manager to ensure data security and project integrity.

Here’s an overview of remote project management and how remote project managers can navigate the cyber threat landscape and mitigate potential risk impacts.

Remote Project Management: What Is It?

Remote project management involves managing and coordinating a project’s deliverables with a distributed team which often happens without in-person interactions. The objectives of remote projects are similar to projects managed in the conventional style, but the complexities are quite different. The approach to remote project management depends on the nature of remote teams involved in the project.

Fully remote teams consist of members working from different locations. And this can be working from home, different geographical locations, or offices. Each member is physically separated from the team and its leader.

Flex teams share office space at times and also work remotely sometimes. Typically, these teams include workers who telecommute but report to the office occasionally.

On the other hand, hybrid teams include members working from a central location while others are fully remote.

Due to the distinct characteristics of geographically dispersed teams, remote project managers have to take a specific approach to ensure project objectives are met. And while there are several challenges, cybersecurity risks tend to be significant.

Understand Potential Threats

Studies show that businesses that remotely manage projects face more cybersecurity threats than in the past. Typically, there is a likelihood for unknown risks to jeopardize your project. However, if you can identify potential risks, you can ensure positive outcomes.

It helps to identify, assess, understand, prioritize, and communicate with the top management if the risks are not included in the organization’s risk strategy. Accurate identification of risks calls for an open-minded approach when considering potential threats.

Ideally, stakeholder interviews and sessions can help you identify risks better, but third-party professionals can point out some threats you may have overlooked. While identifying all the potential risks may not be possible, leveraging multiple identification methods helps you uncover the most significant risks.

Create a Risk Mitigation Plan

It’s essential to develop a cybersecurity risk mitigation plan to ensure sufficient preparedness in the event a threat occurs. Remote project managers can prepare for the unexpected by conducting a comprehensive risk assessment for better business continuity planning. Typically, the plan helps you mitigate threat impacts that could manifest in the future.

It’s best to have a plan covering all the potential risks that are likely to impact your project outcomes. Build a team of resourceful experts and brainstorm on the risks and appropriate steps to mitigate the impacts and safeguard project objectives.

It’s crucial to have an IT security professional in the team to ensure you have the right solutions to deal with growing cyber threats. And since cyber risks are quickly evolving, you need someone who clearly understands the current threat landscape and how to protect your team from falling victim to savvy cybercriminals.

Encrypt Project-Related Data and Encourage Healthy Password Habits

Remote work helps teams and staff work from their favorite locations, and most employees maximize these opportunities. However, employees can lose their devices. If this happens, sensitive company data can get into the wrong hands or be used maliciously.

Therefore, it’s prudent to protect business data and ensure project integrity. Ideally, you should encrypt the devices with strong passwords to ensure only authorized persons can access the data.

Creating weak passwords or recycling login credentials is among the top practices that often compromise company data. When employees use one password across multiple platforms, they pose a serious security risk to sensitive data.

Strong passwords should be hard to crack and must never be stored in locations that are easy to access. Particularly, ensure your team doesn’t write passwords down but rather uses a reliable password manager.

Ensure Network Security

Man-in-the-middle attacks pose serious cybersecurity risks to company data. The attacks happen when a threat actor exploits weaknesses between company systems and end-users to intercept data and communication between devices.

Once criminals get hold of this data, they can use it to destroy a brand reputation or compromise critical project management goals. For instance, malicious actors can harvest vital project data or client information and use it for destructive attacks, thus destroying the hard-earned customer trust. Alternatively, cybercriminals can intercept and alter the flowing information to create miscommunication, thus negatively impacting project outcomes.

Remote projects tend to be more vulnerable to cyber attacks since the team is scattered across different locations and has to communicate and collaborate through networks. While this scenario facilitates a seamless flow of information, it also exposes the organization to more security threats.

As such, remote project managers must take proactive measures to safeguard data integrity. It’s safe to ensure all communication between team members goes through a robust VPN. This security protocol ensures safety through end-to-end encryption of data exchanged between the company network and staff devices.

Stick to Company-Issued Devices

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is rapidly becoming a popular trend in most companies. This practice eliminates the need to have multiple devices for work and personal use. It also minimizes business costs since organizations don’t have to purchase additional devices for employees.

And while the benefits of BYOD are numerous, it creates additional security loopholes since the company has little control over employee device security. Remote project managers can mitigate some BYOD security threats by issuing company devices to remote teams.

However, this approach can only remain sustainable if the devices are well-protected to eliminate security issues. The management must ensure all the security features work as intended.

Consider Physical Security

The countless incidents of organization-issued devices getting lost or stolen often give security managers sleepless nights. While you can implement robust security software for your organization, it can’t prevent carelessness or the loss of a device.

However, you can mitigate the threat impacts should a device get lost by storing project data on the cloud. This turns the device into a tool with credentials to access vital data. But this may not solve all the issues since company devices have a monetary value.

Before building a remote team, it’s best to have appropriate insurance against security risks. And if you already have an insurance policy, make sure to keep it updated to cover additional devices.

Bottom Line

Remote work is quickly becoming the “new norm” for most industries. While it has attractive advantages over the traditional nature of work, remote work has its challenges. Particularly, remote project management calls for a robust approach to ensure maximum data security.

It may not be possible to protect your organization from all the potential cyber risks that come with remote project management. Still, you can adopt appropriate security strategies to mitigate the threat impacts. And since remote work is here to stay, every remote project manager needs to consider different ways of maintaining security.

Jack Grabovski

Jack is a project manager in the field of finance. He is responsible for controlling the various phases of a project from start to finish and coordinating the team's efforts. Jack was born in Ukraine and is currently working for a Polish company.