How to Maintain Data Security with a Remote Workforce
The concept of work from home has been around for quite some time now. Many organizations in the last few years have offered some of their employees to work from their homes. However, the percentage of employees working from home was a minuscule number, and managing them was not all that big a problem from the security perspective for the IT teams. But with the COVID-19 situation turning from bad to worse, organizations had to migrate most of their workforce, in some cases, all of them, to a remote work environment.
Remote management of the entire workforce soon became a problem that most organizations were unable to deal with comfortably.
Remote working has many advantages, but dealing with security issues is a major concern. With data breaches increasing by the day and hackers on the prowl during these troubled times, it is imprudent to take cybersecurity lightly. Data security should be paramount for organizations, both large and small.
Many companies had no clue how to tackle hardware, software, and infrastructure issues to support mass migration to remote working from the security perspective. Even today, some companies are struggling to maintain robust data security with a remote workforce.
At DocuServe, we want our readers to take all the necessary precautions so that they can safeguard their data properly. For us, nothing is more important than data security, and we want our patrons and readers to do everything they can to protect their company data.
Let us, therefore, take you through how to maintain data security with a remote workforce.
Is Your Business Following Best Practices for Remote Working?
As a responsible organization, it is your responsibility to provide all the requisite hardware, software and infrastructure security support to your employees to avoid data breaches. Yet the question remains, is your business following the best practices for remote working?
If your employees have started working from home, make sure you have a robust data security strategy in place to avoid security breaches. According to a Cisco report, while working from home, almost 6% of employees transfer files between work and personal computers. Such risky behaviors can put your company data at risk. Data breaches can lead to major financial losses and irreparable damage to your reputation.
Here is what you can do to create and implement a robust data security plan for your remote employees:
Make sure the connection of your employees is always secure – Nothing is more important for your employees than a secure connection when they are working from home. Make sure your employees use a virtual private network (VPN) when they access company data. When your employees access corporate data with a VPN, you don’t have to worry about their private computers or unsecured public connections. To avoid data breaches, make sure you consider setting up multi-factor identification. You can also use a remote desktop security layer so that your employees are unable to save or copy files to their private computers.
Ensure that you have all the essential IT tools and resources – When you have to manage a remote workforce, make sure your company has all the tools and skills to support and monitor your remote employees. If you want your remote workforce to work in a secure environment, ensure that your IT team gets control over all remote activities and devices. Some aspects you have to look into include browser privacy, password management, account lockouts and firewall configurations.
Make sure you protect your employees’ devices – It is your responsibility to protect your workers’ devices from viruses, malware and unauthorized access. Instill computer security best practices among your remote workforce, like the importance of updating operating systems and applications used regularly for work. Also, let them know that they should install trusted security software only.
Make use of web-based applications – You can use reputable cloud service providers because they have all the security protocols in place – both for their services and users – to protect them from possible security threats. While selecting the cloud service provider, make sure you know the kind of services you will receive and the levels of protection they offer.
Be realistic – Despite doing everything from your end to keep data security foolproof, there may be instances when your remote employees will be careless. For example, most of your employees would work on secure Wi-Fi and would not save sensitive information on their system, but there might be some who ignore this policy. Therefore, it is crucial to be realistic and prepare yourself for the worst-case cybersecurity scenarios. That is why you need to regularly remind your remote employees about the importance of observing cybersecurity best practices. This can be accomplished by webinar training sessions, email questionnaires and other means.
Be cautious with your data – With data protection laws become stricter, store data that is only relevant and vital to your business. Don’t store unnecessary data that could expose customers’ personal information or proprietary company information.
Factors an Organization Should Examine to Ensure its Cybersecurity When Employees Work Remotely
As an organization, you need to take many precautions so that your remote employees can work in a safe environment. Unless you take all the necessary precautions, it is difficult to safeguard your data. Here are some of the factors an organization should examine to ensure its cybersecurity when employees work remotely:
Make sure your employees use a VPN – Using a VPN can keep your data secure. Using a VPN encrypts all your internet traffic, rendering it unreadable to those who might intercept your data. Hence, make sure your employees access company information only when they are using a VPN.
Ask your employees to use secure Wi-Fi connections – Most Wi-Fi networks that your employees use at home days are secure. But it is crucial to make your employees understand that it is not safe to use unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. So, your employees should avoid accessing company information through restaurants or public spaces because these networks are not secure. Most of the hackers spy on internet traffic and collect sensitive information from these spots. Our blog post – “Is It Safe to Use Open Wi-Fi Hotspots?” – covers this issue in greater detail.
Ask your remote workers to change the router password after installation – Many people don’t change the home router password after installation. If you don’t change the password, you make your home network vulnerable. To prevent malicious parties from accessing your connected devices, your employees need to reset their router passwords. Ask your employees to use strong passwords. Also, tell your employees to install firmware updates to patch security vulnerabilities.
Make sure your employees use two-factor authentication – Strong passwords alone aren’t enough. You need to ask your employees to use two-factor authentication as well. For example, two-factor authentication and two-step verification can be of great help if your employee’s credentials are exposed in a data breach. Two-factor authentication adds another security layer. Two-factor authentication can be in the form of email, text message confirmations, or a biometric method, such as facial recognition or fingerprint scan.
Back up your important files – It is crucial to back up all of your important files on a regular basis. Backing up your data can help you in case of worst-case scenarios, such as your network being seized by ransomware. If you don’t back up your important files, then you can lose all your data. One way of backing up your data is to store your important files in the cloud rather than on a physical server.
Use firewalls – Firewalls prevent threats from entering your organization’s network. Firewalls close ports to communication between your employee’s devices and the internet, thereby adding a security layer. It can also stop data leaking from your employees’ devices. Typically, operating systems come with a built-in firewall. Also, many routers have built-in hardware firewalls – make sure your employees enable them.
Always use antivirus software – Firewalls can prevent threats from entering your employees’ devices, but they are not foolproof. That is why you need to use antivirus software. But make sure you use updated antivirus software. Antivirus software adds another layer of security – it can detect and block known malware. Even if malware enters your employee’s device, antivirus software can prevent it from causing harm.
Encryption – Install up-to-date encryption tools on your employees’ devices if they have to communicate sensitive company information to coworkers. If you are not using secure methods of communication, you need to look for other options. Many messaging services these days have end-to-end encryption. You can use these services to communicate sensitive company information.
Locking devices – It is crucial to make your employees understand that they have to keep their devices secure if they have to work from a public space. Strong passwords can protect their devices until someone enters the password. Make sure you have a policy in place so that your employees follow it strictly.
Promote awareness of phishing attempts – Make sure your employees know how to spot a phishing attack. Train them so that they can spot and handle these attacks. Teach them not to open links that they receive from unknown addresses in their mailbox. Your employees should also not open any suspicious link, regardless of whether they receive it from a known or an unknown person.
Helpdesk – Make sure your employees have an email address or a phone number (or both) so that they can report security issues as soon as they occur.
If possible, provide company devices to your remote employees – Working on home computers is not a safe bet for any company. It might cost you some extra money upfront, but risking data security can prove to be more harmful, both financially as well as to your reputation. You should discourage the practice of using personal devices when your employees work remotely. All your remote employees cannot have the same level of protection as you would have in the case of company devices. Personal devices usually lack strong antivirus software, customized firewalls and automatic backup tools.
Mobile device use – Many employees use personal smartphones for work purposes. To protect your data, you can consider using Mobile Application Management (MAM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). With cyberattacks growing rapidly across the world, it is vital to pay adequate attention to mobile security. You can use these solutions to manage and secure mobile devices and applications. These solutions allow you to remotely implement many security measures, such as data encryption, malware scans and data wiping on stolen or lost devices. You should also have a mobile security strategy in place, which we covered in our blog post – “Developing a Smart Strategy for Mobile Security.”
Policies and Training are Key
If you want your remote employees to work in a safe cybersecurity environment, you need to make sure that you pay special attention to policies and training. Policies and training are key when it comes to best practices for remote employees. Let’s look at them one by one.
The first thing you need to do is create a remote work policy for your organization. And it is crucial to understand that just having a policy document in place is not sufficient; you need to update your policies regularly. A recent report shows that almost 25% of the organizations with remote work security policies did not update them in the past year or more. All of your employees need to know what security protocols they need to follow to access company data.
When it comes to data security, another important aspect is employee training. A recent study shows that almost 40% of IT decision-makers feel that cybersecurity training is the backbone of their program. Keep in mind that most phishing attacks occur due to human error, and your employees are no exception. As previously mentioned, reinforce policies and best practices on a regular basis through training or other form of communication that requires employees demonstrate an understanding of their responsibilities.
The Take-Home Message
We can help your business meet today’s remote work environment challenges. DocuServe is a cloud-based digital data protection company providing services that include cloud-based document management, content encryption and distribution, and digital media replication and encryption to businesses in every industry. Contact us today to learn about our full range of solutions.