Security In a Remote Workforce
In today’s business environment, increasing numbers of people are working from a remote location, either on a full-time or part-time basis. While this can provide organizations with the potential for cost-savings through the reduction of overhead expenses, it is fraught with security risks from a digital standpoint.
There are three primary security risks companies face
when it comes to utilizing a remote workforce:
Not everyone that works remotely is security conscious. There is a percentage of people that have unsecured networks in their homes or apartments. This allows unscrupulous individuals the opportunity to access their computer and infect it with malware, spyware, or ransomware.
Many unsuspecting people also open up themselves to attack when they are working remotely in coffee shops or other public areas. They aren’t aware of the access they are providing to their personal and professional information.
The vast majority of phishing attacks come through email. These attacks are generally successful when an unsuspecting recipient clicks on a link in the body of the email. Though this can happen in an office as well, many phishing attacks are initiated through personal email, which can infect a laptop serving the dual purpose of personal and professional use. Usernames, passwords, and credit card details are just some of the sensitive information revealed in these fraudulent acts.
Communicating through video channels has also revealed that sensitive conversations and communications can be accessed from hackers. Many smaller companies don’t have VPN access for their remote workers, which opens them up to the increased risk of being sources of sensitive information to outsiders.
Many remote workers will share the computers they use professionally with other family members. It’s not unusual for parents to allow children to access gaming platforms with business laptops, or spouses to surf the Internet. This opens up the risk of cyberattacks and loss of company data.
Likewise, using a company laptop for personal use increases the risk of security breaches for organizations. Just as using a company car for personal reasons is frowned upon, so should using a company laptop for personal use. It’s not a risk worth taking.
These are three of the primary challenges companies are facing security challenges with the increased use of remote workers. Most employees are willing to follow company protocol to eliminate undue risk to company data privacy.
What steps can companies take to mitigate these risks?
Many companies expect remote employees to practice good security hygiene without telling them how. I.T. departments have the responsibility of educating employees on how to protect themselves and their company from cyberattacks. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure when it comes to letting employees know how they can proactively help network security.
Employees should be told if they are prohibited from accessing public networks, or barred from accessing certain websites or using specific tools or apps. Most employees will comply with company mandates when it comes to security. They recognize that their personal and professional data is up-for-grabs when they are out of compliance and that their careers also may be at risk.
Keep software and hardware up-to-date
Responsible suppliers of software and hardware also regularly send out updates to patch security issues with their products. I.T. departments need to apply these patches in a timely manner and follow up with employees when it is the responsibility of individual users to update their devices and software. Timely communications and action are critical.
Use the cloud
It’s surprising how many companies still keep important documents on employee computer hard drives, and it’s equally remarkable how rarely that data is backed up. Cloud-based solutions are readily available at competitive prices (sometimes for free) and should be used whenever possible. It may take employees a little time to get used to a new process or tool, but they’ll get the hang of it quickly.
Security in a remote workforce is everyone’s responsibility. It starts with companies setting clear expectations on what is and is not acceptable when it comes to digital security. Employees have the duty to protect company hardware, software, and data from third parties wishing to exploit them. Working together, organizations can have a forewarned and well protected remote workforce that can produce quality work safely.