How to keep remote development teams secure

More and more tech businesses are now working with remote development teams out of necessity. The benefits of this arrangement are also becoming more pronounced but they come at a cost—security.

Security concerns haunt companies new to this concept and even veterans too. Involving remote developers in your projects doesn’t necessarily have to jeopardize your security.

Take the following steps to boost your security in the following ten actions:

Adopt best practices in the sharing of sensitive data

Make sure all your team members, remote developers included adhere to best practices standards for sharing sensitive data. That means you have to exercise vigilance when it comes to securing API keys when it comes to sharing. Set guidelines for the entire team to reduce your security risk.

You will want to avoid unsecured messaging systems such as email for sensitive data. If by any chance a successful attack is launched to gain administrative access to your company communication via a platform like Slack, will give attackers unrestricted access to your sensitive data. Thus you should avoid the practice of sharing secrets over such communication platforms as a precaution.

Set a procedure for remediating compromised credentials

Revoking credentials for external services will bear a different impact on different services. The best way to approach the issue is to document the whole process of remediating compromised credentials so that everything is clear and you do not omit or overlook anything.

The same should be done for the credentials of employees no longer working with the company. A clear procedure and checklist will make sure all access and permissions are revoked for developers no longer under your employment. Remote work involves the use of multiple platforms and tools. Failing to delete an account for anyone of them could have dire consequences for your organization’s security if they become compromised. Monitor credentials for remote workers closely. 

Adopt multi-factor authentication

One cannot argue the importance authentication has when it comes to security measures. You cannot go wrong with multi-factor authentication in this case. Your team can take up 2-factor authentication for all services and business assets, including seed accounts such as company emails. If a hacker manages to get the login credentials, access will still be restricted if they cannot get an authorization code.

Establish a Zero Trust framework

A Zero Trust framework will have a significant impact on security for remote developers. By building a zero-trust IT environment, you can verify each person, device, and account that requests access to your assets. 
The application of a dependable Zero Trust framework will take some time to put into place, but it is all worth it. You will also have to establish a corresponding access policy for company resources. With this defensive approach to your cybersecurity, monitoring and maintaining networks becomes easier.

Improve threat awareness within your team

Cyber-attacks such as phishing are primarily attributed to user behavior. The more informed your developers are of the dangers that lie within this area, the more they will be inclined to take company policy seriously. Reduce the probability of successful phishing attacks by training them to identify suspicious activity and messages that aim to steal credentials. Employee negligence gives rise to attacks that can are easily avoidable.

Keeping up with remote teams can be tricky. You may be working with developers with multiple locations and different time zones. The IP addresses for your remote team members can change regularly, making it harder to track suspicious behavior. When your developers can identify security threats, the response process becomes more manageable. It is a good idea to put in place a central figure who can address all security related issues, so there is a clear protocol on reporting breaches.

Adopt good security hygiene

A strong security policy is only as good as its implementation. Make sure you have all the right protocols in place to support best practices for remote work. Exercise good security hygiene by rotating vulnerable access credentials and even restricting permissions for keys with role-based access controls.

Your team also needs to make sound decisions in creating solid passwords, avoid using public Wi-Fi, among other things.

Limit developer access

Every organization aims to work with trustworthy individuals who would not misuse their access to company data. Even if you are working with trusted teams, limiting developer access where possible is still relevant. In most cases, remote developers won’t need root access to your servers. Granting access based on the principle of the least privilege is a good measure. You can give them access to the specific files they will be working on directly. Access to your hosting site can also be limited to avoid unauthorized administrative access and lateral movement of data across systems and networks. If their workstations are compromised, attackers will have limited access to the rest of your data.

Have complete visibility over your digital assets

The last thing you want is to have the secrets within your source code exposed over unsecured networks and workstations. Working with remote developers means collaboration over multiple platforms and sharing your data repositories. Attaining full visibility of both your public and private repositories will enable you to scan and identify secrets shared from within your repositories. This particular situation makes a case for adopting best practices, including avoiding the storage of secrets in shared data repositories. This conduct will reduce the probability of them getting in the wrong hands.

If developers are using one device for both professional and personal repositories, e.g. a personal laptop, the dangers of mixing the two become greater. You will want to avoid having your corporate data mistakenly uploaded to personal repositories. Where possible, do give remote developers secure corporate devices to use for their work.

Establish a response plan

Even with the best precautions in place, you need to prepare for the worst. More damage can be done when your security gets compromised, and your team fails to contain the situation. Having a well-communicated response plan in case of a breach will save your business a lot of money. Make sure your developers are involved in open and transparent communication with team leaders so that any potential attacks are communicated in time. Every team member must have confidence in playing their part in response to a breach with countermeasures to avoid any further damage.

As part of your response plan, it is a good idea to utilize the cloud for backup. If you are already using cloud solutions, this makes it all the better. You put your organization in a better position to handle threats such as ransomware. The work developers do, will also remain available and protected in the event where their devices get stolen. They can resume work from another device without losing any progress.

Leverage the right tools

Working out of the office makes it more tempting for developers to rely on other tools outside of protocols. It can manifest in the use of sending sensitive data over personal email or perhaps include secrets in the source code. This situation presents a more immediate danger as some organizations are still piecing together pieces of technology to use for remote work. Make sure you are giving your developers functional and easy to use solutions for remote work. Make collaboration and communication tools accessible so that developers aren’t tempted to resort to other means which infringe on the company policy. Avoid having your data sprawled all over different platforms and tools that are harder to keep up with when implementing security measures.

Get your remote team the right technology to support their work. Achieving security without hindering developers from doing their job is possible and even more comfortable when you leverage some of the tools from Skelia aimed explicitly at remote teams. Set up a framework that does not make secret management come between developers and their jobs. It increases the chance of developers circumventing security policies to do their jobs faster.

Make sure your remote developers utilize a virtual private network (VPN) when working regardless of what kind of network they are connecting over. A VPN will protect your data as it is transmitted. Secure connections should be a priority for your remote team.

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Over to you

With the right combination of tools and strategies, you can ensure security for your remote developers. Now that you have these detailed steps in your arsenal, this shouldn’t be difficult. Take your time, so that you don’t rush the process. Engage in clear communication with your remote team so that everyone is on the same page. All the best!


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Skelia is an international leader in building cross-border IT and engineering organizations and affiliate companies in Eastern-Europe. For over a decade, we have provided staff augmentation services to a diverse range of clients—from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. We operate in Luxembourg, the UK, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Poland, and the US.

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