Remote work is a reality in today’s modern world. Even more so now in 2020 with COVID-19 and public health measures that have set strict limitations, affecting the way businesses operate around the globe. While remote work has long been the domain of larger companies with the resources and in-house tech support, small and medium-sized businesses are now grappling with switching to a remote model and what it means for tech and data security.
It can be challenging to accommodate employees who switch to remote work at the best of times. Now, when it is a priority, it has to be done quickly without compromising on best practices. We know that this can be a challenge and that security often suffers as a result. We also know that with the right information and methods, security does not need to be a casualty of this change.
With our vast experience and expertise in this field, we are happy to help you learn how to maintain security even with remote workers.
Why It is Important to Stay Secure While Employees Work Remotely
Remote access comes with many advantages but it also comes with data security risks. When everything is controlled on-premise, it is easier to know who is accessing what and how. Firms can easily take steps to protect security. With remote access, however, employers rely on their employees to ensure data security, wherever they may be.
Hackers and other bad actors love it when employees work remotely. Home connections are typically less secure than workplace connections. Not only that, employees with remote access may not be as focused on data security as those on-site. Remote employees may have access to your servers, customer data, emails, databases, and other important information, often using laptops or mobile devices on potentially unsecured networks.
If your company is hacked or attacked, or if an employee loses track of protected data, the consequences can be devastating. Legal liability, huge fines, and an overall hit to your company’s reputation are all potential impacts of poor security practices. In a tenuous economy, many companies may not bounce back.
Reports and statistics show the impact of unchecked vulnerabilities when working remotely. For example, according to CSO Online, $17,700 is lost every minute due to phishing attacks, which account for more than 80 percent of reported security incidents. Overall, they say, data breaches cost enterprises an average of $3.92 million.
No matter why your business is switching to remote work, or how many people are doing so, the importance of knowing how to stay secure when your employees are working from home cannot be understated. Make security a priority using these tips.
Introducing Remote Work Security Best Practices
Your remote employees need strong policies and practices in place from the start. Being proactive instead of reactive can make all the difference between experiencing a breach or creating a strong barrier against security problems.
It may seem like a lot of work to put all of this in place, especially if you are working as quickly as possible to support employees who have moved to remote work without a carefully planned transition period. Breaking the necessary steps down into specific areas to tackle can help.
Employee training and policies
Now is the time to ensure your employees are well aware of how they should be handling customer data and security when working from home. Everyone working remotely should understand the importance of strong passwords, avoiding public Wi-Fi and networks, and encrypting emails. You may want to include policies around social media and how it can be used to discuss company business, how employees should dispose of material they print at home, and direction on storing business information on personal cloud accounts. Also consider what should be done if an employee loses their device or it is stolen. Put measures in place to encourage staff to report such losses promptly without fear of retribution.
If your company is moving quickly to a remote work environment, there may be some rocky moments during which employees are unsure how to use new software or how to access an existing application safely. Written guides and documents answer these questions and provide employees with the information they need, without the need for tech support calls.
Policies for employees should be clear and understandable, outlining how and where organization-owned devices can be used, how employees should (or should not) work on their own devices, and how the organization will support these rules. Buy-in from the top down is essential here. Management needs to be prepared to take serious action against breaches of policy.
Software and tech
Find a way to replicate your strong on-premise network security wherever your employees are. Hackers cannot get into environments like virtual private networks, or VPNs easily, allowing businesses to extend their private network to remote employees. This should be done, ideally, with devices your organization owns so that you can control the use of external devices like USBs.
Businesses should also set up software like data loss prevention systems, which allow permitted administrators to control where data can be sent and who can send it. Remote access management ensures IT professionals can monitor devices and wipe them if necessary.
When employees use their own devices to access business email or corporate cloud services, ensure that their devices are just as secure as an organization-owned device. Many systems and platforms like anti-malware software have features to provide licenses for employees and their own devices, replicating the secure systems you have at work. Again, administrators should find a solution to limit how data can be stored, downloaded, or copied, even on an employee-owned device.
It is also important for people working from home on their own devices to secure their home routers. Many people have not changed their router passwords since they were first set up. Encryption should be set to the highest level possible. Staff may need assistance understanding how to do this.
Update all devices and systems
Ensure that all devices and systems are updated and that employees understand how important it is to perform regular updates at home. When apps, software, operating systems, and other systems fall behind in updates, it offers a potential entry point for hackers and others with bad intent. Updates often include security patches to fix known issues.
When considering software and tech for organization-owned devices, it may be wise to include remote access for IT staff to ensure updates are happening as they should.
Multi-factor authentication makes it more challenging for bad actors to access corporate data, whether it is based on the cloud or as part of network access. With this setup, employees are granted a one-time code to authenticate their access, adding an extra layer of security wherever they are and whatever device they are using.
The idea behind multi-factor authentication, also known as two-factor authentication, is to combine something an employee has, like their mobile device, and something that they know, which is their usual sign-in credentials. Hackers usually do not have access to both of these factors.
Secure chatting and messaging
Employees working remotely still want and need to stay in touch with chatting and messaging. This is a potential area for a security breach unless your company is using platforms that offer end-to-end encryption. Such encryption ensures that nobody can intercept messages.
Look for systems designed for corporate services, rather than resources for personal chat. Corporate services should be configured for business with security and privacy in mind. Though they may cost money, it is well worth the protection that may be lacking in a free system.
Create a response plan
Plan for what happens when a breach of your customer data or other information occurs. Especially if everyone is working remotely, it can be challenging to pull together a solution if you are unprepared. Plan now and test your system long before it is needed.
Every employee should know how to report a breach or a suspected issue. Many organizations conduct mock drills as training exercises, sending out internally-safe versions of phishing emails, for example, to see how employees respond. If employees fall for the mock drill or do not know how to report what they see, it is a good sign that more training is required.
Outsourcing Data Security and Remote Work Tech
Especially if your company is small, you may not have the dedicated in-house IT team or resources to respond to cybersecurity needs for remote workers. This is all the more challenging in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, where businesses and organizations are scrambling to support emergency remote work, often without having planned for this new reality. If you are wondering how you can put the above practices and policies into place, outsourcing is an excellent solution.
Managed Service Providers can provide the expertise that your company may be lacking, guiding you through the process of setting up strong work-from-home IT infrastructure and cybersecurity policies. Especially in emergencies, establishing a relationship with a technology company ensures that you can continue to focus on your core business and remain productive while leaving IT wrangling to the experts.
Outsourcing also keeps your downtime low, an important consideration for small businesses in particular, since smaller businesses tend to be less able to afford the business loss that comes with outages and failures. IT consultants understand this. They also understand the challenges that come with moving operations to a remote model without losing connectivity. We work to find solutions that are a good fit for your business and your clients, so you can keep working without interruption.
Working with a Managed Service Provider saves you time and money, avoiding the need to hire additional IT staff or stretching existing staff thin while you move to a remote work model. We work efficiently and offer a fresh perspective to your company.
How We Can Help
At Renascence IT Consulting, remote work is nothing new. We have been helping companies set up work from home infrastructure and informing businesses how to keep your data and network safe when employees work remotely for years. We can set up employees to work from home in less than a day, while educating your entire company on how to reduce risk, increase productivity, and prepare for the unexpected while working remotely.
Now, more than ever, you need to partner with IT services you can trust. We are happy to work with you to ensure your vital work can continue without risking your security, keeping the same strict standards you have in your physical location.