Remote workforces have become standard practice in many organizations, and while this practice offers many advantages to employees and employers, it also presents several challenges. Data security is a large concern, with the average breach costing a staggering $4.35 million, which can devastate smaller organizations.
Remote workers are largely responsible for maintaining their security protocols at home. However, without an expert managed-IT service, inadequate device security can lead to increased data security risks. To protect its valuable data, a company must know how to maintain security for employees working remotely.
Below, our team at Herrod Technology, a managed-IT services provider in Arlington, TX, discusses some of the best practices for such security.
Remote Working Security Challenges
The first step in any new cybersecurity plan is to understand why remote working increases the risks of a data breach. Next is to develop a plan to tackle these challenges and improve your security standing.
Remote working makes employees responsible for many administrative tasks they didn’t have to deal with before: finding an office space, getting a network connection, setting up their device, and developing a new work schedule. Unfortunately, few employees have the training to implement adequate security policies without support from the business.
Most employees tend to assume that using a VPN is sufficient to protect their devices and the company’s network. However, VPNs have their own problems, and overloaded VPNs can slow down network speeds, reducing daily operations to a crawl. While VPNs should be part of a comprehensive security strategy, they cannot be the solution.
Employees are already vulnerable to social engineering attacks, where attackers pose as trusted entities. These attacks have become incredibly sophisticated and are almost indistinguishable from legitimate communication, and employees who are isolated from the rest of the workplace may make victims easier for attackers to target.
Best Practices for Establishing Remote Work Security
Knowing how to maintain security when employees work remotely involves setting up a series of best practices and ensuring that everyone in the organization adheres to them. Whether you already have an extensive remote workforce or are planning to transition more workers to hybrid or WFH models, these best practices can ensure that your business data stays safe.
Develop and Implement a Data Security Policy
While malicious employee data breaches happen, a more common scenario is employees mistakenly mishandling their security and giving attackers access to the business network. This is especially true of employees who believe that they don’t need to worry about data security because they don’t work with sensitive information, such as customer data.
A consistent policy across the organization is the first step to securing your business against attacks.
A security policy should contain information for new and existing employees, including:
- The reasoning behind the policy
- Various protocols employees must adhere to
- How the company will support compliance
- The consequences of non-compliance
Give Your Employees the Tools to Succeed
Standardizing your security policy involves making sure that every employee has the tools necessary to comply with protocols. These tools include an enterprise-level VPN, licensed antivirus software, and a password manager.
It’s also important to hold regular workshops about cybersecurity — many employees remain unaware of the security risks of clicking on unknown links or how to verify the integrity of a website. Since social engineering is a common attack strategy, having an educated and vigilant workforce is essential.
Use Secure Internet Connections
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks are a serious vulnerability for any business. While using unsecured Wi-Fi wasn’t a serious issue during the pandemic’s peak, the return to normal means that many remote workers are seeking out comfortable and refreshing workplace spaces — many of which offer free Wi-Fi with minimal security features.
A virtual private network (VPN) is the most common solution, as it creates a secure connection between the worker’s device and the company network. However, as mentioned before, VPNs have limitations, and it’s a good idea to encourage workers to practice safety best practices and data hygiene when working remotely.
Use a Password Manager
Most people understand the concept of password safety, but the fact that the most common passwords remain “12345”, “password”, and “123456789,” according to a study commissioned by NordPass, it’s clear that understanding and implementing are two very different things.
Password managers generate random passwords for every new account. Modern ones can even automatically fill in forms, making password management a breeze for employees. The fewer barriers employees have to creating, remembering, and inputting passwords, the more secure your network will be.
Implement Two-Factor Authentication
Even the most robust password can occasionally fail to protect an account, resulting in a data breach. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a second layer of security by having a user verify their identity through two means: a password and another piece of unique information.
Most 2FA systems rely on sending PINs to the user’s mobile device, but some organizations are starting to adopt biometrics as their second layer of authentication. These systems are more complex and expensive to implement but may offer much-needed security for sensitive data.
Organizations tend to default to “bring your own device” policies when it comes to providing employees with laptops and mobile devices. While doing so can save on costs, it does present several security risks — many personal devices have outdated antivirus software or may contain malware from personal use.
If you decide to stick to BYOD, providing employees with the support they need to ensure that their devices stay compliant with company data security policies is vital. An alternative is to provide employees with company-owned devices, which are more costly but provide an additional security layer.
Schedule a Call With our Herrod Tech Team
Maintaining security when employees work remotely requires a multi-faceted approach. Not only do you need to have ways to secure your email server to protect your company from data leaks, but you also need to provide employee training and support. Moving to a hybrid or WFH model requires help from security experts. Schedule a call with us at Herrod Tech to discover how we can enhance your cybersecurity strategy and keep your business safe.