Remote Workers and Data Security: 5 Tips for Employers

With the increased mobility of modern networks and the explosion in mobile device use, more companies are finding benefits in allowing employees to work remotely. At the same time, maintaining security across multiple devices and public networks presents a challenge.

Unprotected employee devices may infect your corporate network with a virus or malware. This can lead to data breaches or other cyber-attacks that are bad for company profits and reputation. Mobile devices can also be lost or stolen, allowing clever hackers direct access to your servers.

The following five tips can help you improve security with remote employees.

Establish a Security Policy

Before allowing your employees to work remotely, you should put together a digital security policy. The policy should address topics like password requirements, rules for file sharing or copying files, logging off the network when not at work, revoking credentials of departed employees, etc.

Remote workers should not have access to applications or data they don’t need. Your policy should enforce restricted and least-privileged user access, and double authentication for remote logins. If workers do need access for special projects, it should be given on a temporary basis.

Every time you onboard a remote employee, make sure they read and understand the policy. Be prepared to explain and answer questions. It’s crucial that all staff understand and acknowledge the importance of following the policy.

Train Your Remote Employees

Once you have set up a security policy, you need to train your remote employees to ensure they follow it. This includes continued reminders and updates.

Off-site employees should be aware of the most common online security threats and know how to prevent cyber-attacks. For instance, one of the most common threats are phishing emails, which are created to look as if they were sent by a trusted source. Such emails usually ask the reader to verify their account information by clicking on a link that sends them to a phony site where their personal information may be stolen.

Teaching good security practices should also emphasize the importance of strong passwords. This involves using both upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters rather than simple, easy-to-guess passwords. Passwords should also be changed every few months.

Ensure Devices are Protected and Updated

Smaller companies are often a favorite target of hackers because it’s assumed that the business won’t have adequate network security. It’s important to define and implement strong security measures, and preferable to have multiple layers of security.

Mobile devices or computers in use by remote workers should have all the standard security software installed, including firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware programs, web/email filtering, and encryption of both files and messaging. Each type of security software should be updated regularly to cope with new threats.

One important safety measure is installing whole-disk encryption utilities, so the data is useless to unauthorized people trying to access it. It’s also advisable to install applications that can remotely wipe data on devices if they are lost or stolen.

Create Secure Connections

Remote employees should have secure access to your business network. The most common option is a VPN, or virtual private network, which will encrypt all traffic coming from or going out to the internet. This will protect communications even if remote workers are using public Wi-Fi to connect.

Public networks are at risk of malicious cyber-attacks since by nature they’re open to everyone. Off-site workers may be forced to use them while on the road visiting a conference or staying at a hotel. Connecting through a VPN will protect against stolen data or user credentials.

Use the Cloud

Using cloud-based services for your business needs allows you to rely on the cloud provider for security features. They will implement their own protective measures to ensure a good experience for their clients. Cloud services companies are usually more knowledgable and skilled in cyber security than your own in-house staff.

This also creates a secure platform for remote workers to perform their duties. They can access the data or applications they need from anywhere, at any time, with the proper digital safeguards already in place. Business needs from bookkeeping to data analysis, and advanced security measures, are now done over the cloud.

Relying on cloud services will also save you money. You won’t have to go through the expense and trouble of recruiting and paying IT security professionals, or need to worry about purchasing and updating your own security software.

Final Thoughts

Protecting your company network against cybercrime is a vital concern that you can best implement by establishing a sound security policy. This policy should be communicated to all employees, especially remote workers. Provide off-site employees with secure channels, such as a VPN and take advantage of cloud services. Ensure that all devices, both mobile and desktop, are protected with adequate security software before your employees can use them to log in to your network.

About the author

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.

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