Working from home has been increasing, and in the recent 5 years, it went up about 44%. Technology has much at play here, obviously, but it has more to do with corporations’ beliefs toward working from home. For the longest time, companies believed working from home would churn out poor results. But then the pandemic happened, and we were all proven wrong.
Great Place To Work’s 2-year study, among many others, saw that working remotely is as or more productive than working from the office. It offers several benefits, including:
- Better personal and work-life balance
- Significant increase in productivity
- Flexible routines and schedules for employees
- Less stressful work environment and increased comfortability
- More applicants
- Economical for the companies
With that, 85% of American employees currently prefer applying to employment offers that provide them with work-from-home flexibility rather than attending the office. Therefore, according to a study by Owl Lab, as many as 16% of global companies remain remote even after the pandemic.
But that brings us to a new issue — data security. With remote working increasing in favor, companies are exposed to several dangers, including data breaches, loss of information, identity fraud, and many more. So how do you deal with such a matter? We will give you 5 effective ways to help yourself and your employees protect employer data.
Secure the Internet Connection of Your Employees
One of the main concerns for any company is securing their employees’ internet connection while working remotely. Being on a random, unprotected internet connection has always been one of the major reasons for data breaches and loss because public internet traffic is downright terrible. Yet nearly 72% of employees (surveyed) confirm using public Wi-Fi for their work. So how do you protect data security in such circumstances? Here are a few things to follow:
- Only use trusted networks or Hotspots. If you must use public Wi-Fi, connect with password-protected ones instead of open networks
- Offer Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to employees. These act as a good layer of protection by protecting data while on public networks. Purchase a VPN service exclusive for office use only.
- Ask your employees to avoid accessing private or confidential information while on a public network
- Ensure that your employees have their systems up-to-date
Work Matters Stay Within the Work Devices
Employees are often tempted to carry on with their work on their personal devices. It may be for a glance at the email or a small update in one of the docs. However, a small slip can be a high cost the company may have to pay later. Therefore, always encourage your employees to use their devices for work purposes only.
The major reason behind this is simple — companies invest a lot in the security of data that covers the work devices and networks. However, when employees access work information from their personal devices, devices that are not as well protected, employer data is immediately compromised. Communicate with your employees regarding the dangers that working on personal devices can invite in.
If your office has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, there, too, you need to set proper rules and regulations that will put both the employers’ and employees’ minds at ease. Some rules may include the following:
- Giving a list of eligible devices or models
- Be transparent about the data that the company monitors
- Use Mobile Data Management or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to ensure that company data and employees’ personal data stay segregated while providing security against cyber risks
Opt for Technological Precautions
Here are the top few technological precautions that you must consider to ensure data security:
Adopt 2-Factor Authentication
2-Factor authentication (2FA) is increasingly getting popular globally as reliable protection for information and data. Following the usual protocol of feeding a username and a password into the system, the 2FA system verifies your identity by asking you a further ‘Secret Question’ or sending you a One Time Password (OTP) to your registered number.
This also acts as a good alarm because if a third party attempts access to sensitive data, you will immediately receive an OTP, and you can raise a concern and alert the system.
While using passwords is still a need, sometimes passwords are just not enough and can easily be hacked. Therefore, install a 2FA system in your network and ask your employees to do the following regarding their passwords:
- Mix different characters (alphabet, numbers, symbols) to form the passwords
- Use at least 8 and more characters for the passwords
- Never repeat the same passwords for multiple intentions. Always prefer unique passwords for every website
- Set up a password manager
- Please encourage them to opt for other forms of security, such as biometrics
Regularly Update Systems And Programs
This step will be for your IT team and your employees to follow. It would be best if you asked them to be on the lookout for updates on the systems and programs that your company is using. Software companies are always working to improve their services while improving performance and user experiences, fixing loopholes and bugs, secure coding, and improving security as per the latest technology.
Updating all your programs and software to their latest versions will keep you at the top of your security game. Remember that employees may get lax when updating software, so make sure to set a reminder for timely updates.
Use Encryption Tools For Sensitive Information
A good number of employees have reported their work devices stolen in public places and had no encryption on them. According to the FBI, 97% of such devices are never recovered. You can very well guess the danger a company may face in such a situation.
Therefore, a good way to go about it is to encrypt data. According to Chad Skipper (VMware), there is a steady rise in data encryption (web traffic) from 50% in 2014 to 80%-90% as of today. This is a good indication of awareness and the need for data encryption. Here are a few practices for data encryption that you can implement:
- Use data encryption software. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is highly recommended and has been used by the US government since 2002
- Instead of using social media as a form of communication, rely on professional communication software that uses end-to-end data encryption
- Ask your employees to avoid clicking on random email attachments (the main source of ransomware)
- Always back up your devices and information. You may opt for cloud services with good security protocols
- Stay up to date with government regulations for your industry
Install Firewalls and Antivirus
To ensure the best security for data while your employees are working remotely, offer them antivirus and firewalls to secure their working networks and devices. Firewalls will help monitor the network and prohibit any unwanted Internet traffic, while antivirus will eradicate any corrupt files or viruses that may cause a loss or breach of information. Make sure to update your firewalls and antivirus periodically.
Opt for Physical Precautions
It may be obvious, yet the most common mistakes by employees result in heavy data loss. Therefore, here are a few basic physical but necessary precautions that you may implement:
Ask Employees To Be Careful With Work Devices
While working remotely, you will not have complete control over your employees’ work environment. They may be working from home, in a cafe, or their car — you will never know. In such circumstances, even the smallest mistake can result in heavy losses. Therefore, as a company, you can ask your employees not to do certain things while working remotely. For example:
- Never leave work devices unattended while logged into the network
- Never let a third-party handle work devices
- Do not use random or personal thumb drives on work devices
- Opt for a USB Data blocker while charging work devices on public charge stations
- Always have a unique password for work devices
- Mind your surroundings while you are working in public
- Stay connected to the cloud to ensure that all data is backed up
Train Your Employees In Cybersecurity
The best solution lies in educating and explaining to your employees why you do what you do. While many of us are already accustomed to working from home and the whole deal that comes with it, the technology for all this is still pretty new. Therefore, asking your employees to undertake cybersecurity training will help spread awareness among your teams and the company.
It will allow your employees to protect company data better and make them more aware in general terms, which can also benefit them personally. This will help reduce simple errors and build a strong foundation for cybersecurity for your company and its information.
Lay It All Down in a Policy
When it comes to cybersecurity, there are way too many things to follow and understand. So, lay it all down in a well-compiled policy so that your employees are up to date with what they should and should not do. These policies should be for the welfare of both the employer and the employees for better execution. Here are a few things that you may want to focus on:
- Create a separate set of policies for remote workers
- Specify working hours or use a clock-out technology
- Be specific regarding cybersecurity protocols
- Give specifications on the type of equipment required
- Lay out communication procedures
- Introduce a Response Plan during emergencies and have drill runs for it
- Keep updating the policy as per the latest technologies and trends
Cybersecurity becomes one of the prime concerns while implementing work from home. Yet, there are good and effective measures that will allow you and your employees to enjoy the benefits of it. To sum it up:
- Secure the internet connections that your employees are on
- Ensure that they use their work devices for the intended purposes only
- Offer various technological precautions such as 2FA, system updates, data encryption, antivirus, and firewalls
- Train your employees about cybersecurity and raise awareness
- Enact well-complied policies for cybersecurity and remote working employees