Ensuring Security and Privacy in Remote Work Environments

Working from home has become the new normal for many employees across the country. Businesses are beginning to see what a benefit remote work is and are therefore considering extending their operations. However, this does bring with it some concerns, as remote work is not as secure as working in the office. It is easier for a company data breach to occur from an employee’s home computer than if the employee were to be in the office. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate this and other cybersecurity issues.

Document Security Practices

When implementing new practices, especially for remote work, it is important to document everything. This will ensure there is no confusion among employees. There should also be a required written acknowledgment of the new practices from the employee so there are no gray areas in the future. If any changes or updates occur, new documentation and training should be provided to employees.

Provide Access to Key Tools

Businesses will need to provide some tools to remote employees to keep company data secure. The first tool that must be provided is a password management system. There should also be a two-factor authentication system for all apps that employees may use during their workday. Lastly, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) must be enabled on all home routers. VPN diverts the web traffic away from your Internet Service Providers (ISP) to the ISPs of the router. This prevents anyone from viewing your web traffic history.

Cybersecurity Policy and Training

Companies must ensure that all employees go through basic cybersecurity training. A clear policy should be established, and it is recommended that yearly security awareness training be mandated. A clear policy will not only ensure both employers and employees are on the same page but also helps to minimize risks. If something does go amiss due to a policy violation, then disciplinary action can be taken since all parties are aware of the policy. It is also important for there to be specific objectives outlined in cybersecurity policies.

Not everyone is aware of scams and how cyber attacks work. This is why companies must provide cybersecurity training. Companies can also regularly test employees on cyber attacks to determine their discernment in identifying a potential scam. If some employees do better than others, the ones who are not as aware should go through more training.

Communicate With Employees About Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a new concept for many employees, especially when working remotely. This is why it is important to send regular communications about cybersecurity and have reminders in place as this is new territory for many employees across the globe. Communications do not have to be an email; they can also come through managers, supervisors, training sessions, and other creative ways to engage and educate employees. These cybersecurity communications should cover:

  • Software updates
  • Creation of strong passwords
  • VPNs
  • Using public Wi-Fi Networks
  • Privacy
  • Connecting to the company server

Being informed is one of the best ways to avoid any incidents from happening during remote working. It is also important to place passwords for any virtual meetings so there are no unwanted visitors. Be sure to use virtual waiting rooms so each meeting participant is vetted before the start of the meeting.

Even though cybersecurity is a serious concern of businesses that have employees working from home, the ability to have employees work remotely has helped businesses survive the pandemic. Video capabilities improved the customer service relationship and permitted more employees to work from home.

Have Employees Sign an NDA

Although there should be some level of trust involved in allowing employees to work from home, there also needs to be balanced. Company culture has become a big selling point for many potential employees, when employees feel they are trusted and empowered they are less likely to participate in a data breach. When employees feel they are part of a bigger purpose they will go the extra mile to keep the company safe from threats.

Many companies have employees sign service contracts, confidentiality clauses, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance agreements, and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) during the hiring process. If these were not implemented during the initial hiring process, it can be implemented at a later date as some NDAs can be backdated. This should be part of every company’s hiring process but it is never too late to implement it.

HIPAA protects the health information of patients from being shared without their consent. Employees in the healthcare industry, or any industry where health care information might be processed or shared, should sign HIPAA releases to ensure that they don’t share this information with the wrong people.

Cloud-Based Solutions

You may be familiar with the idea of cloud-based solutions and programs. These were once only accessible to large companies. However, as technology has advanced small and medium-sized businesses now also have access to cloud-based programs. This allows them to implement these programs into daily operations. Salesforce and Basecamp are popular tools to submit company projects and data securely. This allows teams to work together seamlessly without miscommunication or delays.

VPN Connections

The use of a VPN makes it harder for hackers and scammers to find the exact location of a device. Implementing this service will reroute company communications and data so it is not easily accessible to unwanted parties. It is also important to ensure that all employees know this VPN can only be used for company work and not for any personal reasons.

Help Secure Employee Devices

Many remote workers are using their own devices while some companies can provide equipment. Employees will need to secure their devices and companies should provide the tools to do so. Many services on the market can assess potential problem areas and monitor attacks. Some services will even make security updates to keep company data safe.

Create Unique Passwords

This may sound like a no-brainer, but employees who are new to remote work may not understand how important this is. The reason behind using unique passwords for each site is because hackers can get a password from one account and try to use the same login on other sites. This may sound like a confusing and daunting task, but there are password managers to mitigate any confusion. There are digital password managers as well as the tried and true method of physical password managers.

Employ a Chief Information Security Officer

Investing in a Chief Information Security Officer who will monitor the security of the network and all devices on the network. For a remote workforce, the security officer will establish strong single sign-on, monitor remote work machines, and secure endpoints. They will also monitor and ensure the integrity of client information and data to avoid any breaches.

Final Thoughts

Creating a secure remote working environment is important and can be a new experience for many. It is important to make employees feel as though they are part of something greater, which makes them want to be part of cybersecurity procedures. Supervisors and managers must also be understanding of employees who are not tech-savvy.

Image Source: Pixabay

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