Since much of the workforce has gone remote, cybersecurity has become a concern. UK Google searches for “cyber defense” have increased by 126 percent between January and March 2020. “Cybersecurity services” searches rose by 44 percent.
While it seems like concerns for cybersecurity and remote working are heightened, only 34 percent of small businesses update employees on security requirements for personal devices. And 52 percent of workers feel that riskier behaviour is less of a liability when they work remotely.
Cybersecurity remains an issue and businesses should take steps to improve the security of their remote workers. Here are eight actions you can take to help protect your company online while your employees are remote.
Issue Company Devices
If you have the means, giving your employees company devices to use at home is a good way to protect your data. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets issued by your IT department or IT support company will have more built-in security measures than employees’ personal devices. Some small businesses don’t have the resources to hand out laptops to each of their employees, however. If your workers must use their personal devices, ask them to sign up for a mobile device management service. You maintain a degree of control over the flow of sensitive business data and you can wipe the device remotely if needed.
Provide a VPN
Network security is an important factor when working remotely. VPNs (virtual private networks) add an extra encrypted layer of security to ward off external threats. VPNs are accessible and not expensive. However, vet your VPN provider before signing up for their services. Some VPNs come with limited licences and overuse or lack of sufficient bandwidth can lead to throttling. Ensure that the VPN service you go with can handle all of your remote employees accessing it at the same time.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
A VPN can guarantee some safety online while accessing a public Wi-Fi network, but it’s best to avoid public networks completely. During the coronavirus pandemic, most remote workers are staying at home anyway, avoiding coffee shops and coworking spaces so they don’t risk coming into contact with the virus. On public networks, countless other people also have access and there are rarely firewalls or network encryption to protect your data. Consequently, hackers and cybercriminals can gain access to your laptop or mobile device and look at your sensitive business data.
Encrypt Sensitive Data
Encrypting company data on all work-related devices can reduce the financial burden of a data breach by about $360,000. Using encryption software on your devices, especially for data you share across email, is crucial. Additionally, if a device gets lost or stolen, you’ll want all the sensitive data to be encrypted. All company devices should also contain a strong password, PIN, or biometric security like a fingerprint or face recognition.
Secure Home Routers
If your team is working from their homes, ask them to secure their wireless networks. Cybercriminals look for weak passwords on home routers, which people often neglect to change after installation. Checking for firmware updates, restricting inbound and outbound traffic, and setting encryption to WPA2 or WPA3 are also some basic steps to secure home routers. In addition, ask your employees not to make files and folders with company data visible to other computers on the home network. The fewer devices the data is shared across, the better.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Require your employees to use two-factor authentication on their work devices when possible. By logging in after providing two pieces of evidence (usually a password and a code sent via SMS), you add another layer of security. Authentication mechanisms are easy to use, not costly, and reduce the risk of your device security being compromised.
Keep Software Updated
Hackers often target users whose software and operating systems aren’t updated. Updates issued by manufacturers contain bug fixes and security patches that protect your data from these cybercriminals. Putting off these updates for even one day can leave your business vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Ensure Physical Security of Devices
If one of your company devices gets lost or stolen, you want to ensure your data is protected. You should have automatic backups saved online, so if something bad happens with a device, you can wipe it remotely. While situations vary from each employee, encourage them to secure their home-working space. If possible, they should work in a separate room with a closed door. If they don’t have a home office, ask your workers to lock their work computers when they step away from their desks.
It’s possible to work securely while working remotely. It’s true that a great deal of security responsibility falls to individual employees when they work from home, but you still have steps to take as a business owner. By putting a cybersecurity strategy for home working in place, you can protect your company from cyber threats.