Keeping Employer Data Safe With Remote Staff
Updated: Oct 27
Like online shopping and grocery delivery, the past year has changed the way many people work and where they work. These trendlines were already occurring, but the shift has accelerated with the past year's unusual events. And it is unlikely to go away even after we get back to whatever the new normal looks like. This shift left businesses to figure out how to maintain security when employees work remotely.
Working from home has many benefits for employees and employers alike. It gives employees more flexibility and can improve that all-important work-life balance. It can also reduce business overhead costs as they shrink the office-space footprint and save on rent and utilities.
However, working from home or telecommuting does have some challenges. Data security is always an issue for businesses, and with increased work from home employees, keeping employer data safe is even more of a concern. From employees using computer devices without adequate protection to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, remote work requires additional security measures for businesses and data.
When employees are doing their work in an office, their work is usually saved and protected by their employer's security. But all bets are off when employees are using their own equipment to access remote servers for tasks that may require potentially confidential information.
How to Maintain Security When Employees Work Remotely
Remote work doesn't have to put a business's data at risk. By developing and implementing a cybersecurity policy, businesses can help keep their information safe and secure. Once remote employees learn about cybersecurity procedures and they are implemented, they can become standard protocols that everyone uses to keep their employer's data safe.
Establish Cybersecurity Policy
The first step to keeping a business's data safe is establishing a cybersecurity policy and disseminating it to the employees. Surprisingly, some employees may not be aware that they should be concerned about data security, both for themselves and their employer.
Many employees assume that if they are not working with customer data directly or are not high up in the company hierarchy, they don't touch anything that is confidential and doesn't need to worry about data security. Employers cannot assume that their employees know very much about cybersecurity and that they play a role in it.
That's why establishing a cybersecurity policy is key to maintaining data security, whether employees work remotely or not, to be honest. All employees, new and existing, should review and sign this policy. New employees need to understand your security policy, and it's a good idea to have current employees refresh their memories on a regular basis.
You can do this by having new hires read and sign during onboarding and implement a yearly review for all employees. This helps mitigate any gaps and makes all employees aware of any changes to the policy.
The cybersecurity document should explain the reasoning behind the policy and detail all the security protocols employees are expected to adhere to, how the business will help them comply, and a place for employees to sign that they commit to adhering to the policy.
All employees, from leadership down, must take ownership of their role in protecting the business's data. By establishing and implementing a policy, all employees, whether they are working remotely or in the office, will know how they are expected to keep employer – and their own – information safe.
How to Establish a Cybersecurity Policy
When establishing a cybersecurity policy, businesses should supply guidance to their employees on:
How to handle and store sensitive information
The acceptable use of online materials and devices
What type of business information can be shared, and where
The policy should include the following areas:
Password requirements – guidelines for setting strong passwords, how often passwords should be updated, and the importance of using unique passwords.
Email security measures – only open attachments from trusted sources, block spam, scam, and junk emails, how to identify and report suspicious emails.
Sensitive data – how to identify sensitive data, how to store physical and digital files, what data can be shared with others, how to destroy sensitive data.
Handling technology – storing devices when not in use, accessing devices away from the office, reporting theft or loss of a device, system updates, when to shut down computers, laptops, tablets, or cell phones, locking screens when devices are unattended, protecting data on USB sticks, scanning mobile devices before connecting to business systems, and more.
Social media and Internet – what business information can be shared on social platforms, appropriate use of work email accounts, guidelines for accessing websites and social channels during working hours.
In addition, since technology continuously changes, cybersecurity procedures and policies should be updated regularly.
Encryption software is another key way that businesses and their remote employees can protect their data. If an employee's device is lost or stolen and the information it contains falls into the wrong hands, the business could be vulnerable to a data breach. Encryption software protects company data by keeping unauthorized users from accessing those devices. Businesses should ensure that email and other applications use end-to-end encryption.
How Effective Is Encryption Software?
Encryption is essential to keeping business data safe and protected, but it's important that it be used correctly. Encrypting data thwarts cyberattacks and makes it so that hackers cannot read the data they've stolen, rendering it useless to them.
Encryption is one of the most effective ways to secure data and keep it hidden from unauthorized users. A sophisticated algorithm is used to scramble data so that it is unreadable by users who don't have the key. The data can only be decrypted with a decryption key.
Encryption is a powerful tool in the data security toolbox but is just one piece of the overall data security mix. It is often paired with end-point security solutions such as firewalls, antivirus software, and anti-malware, as well as strong password protocols and multifactor authentication.
Firewalls, Antivirus Software and Anti-Malware
Remote employees should have current firewalls, antivirus software, and anti-malware on all their devices, but especially any they use when they work from home. This includes tablets and cell phones. Businesses may also want to think about having the ability to wipe devices remotely in the event they are stolen or lost.
Strong password protocols are another easy way for a business to keep their data protected. Many people joke about password safety and often use the same one from device to device and program to program. Educating remote employees about the importance of password protection is crucial to securing a business's data.
Providing employees with password security training is one way to help ensure they know how to create strong passwords and the importance of not using the same one. Another option is to use a password manager that randomly generates passwords and stores them safely.
Two-Factor of Multi-Factor Authentication
Businesses are increasingly moving to two-factor authentication to keep their data secure. The methods verify a user's identity by requiring a user name and password and another type of identification, either a PIN or the answer to a secret question.
Passwords can be stolen, compromised, or may not adhere to strong password protocols. With two-factor authentication, the odds of someone having the PIN or knowing the answer to the secret question are slim. This added layer of security can give remote employees and their employers the peace of mind that comes from knowing their data is safer.
Businesses that want to take it a step further can use multi-factor authentication, which requires additional verifications such as biometrics including voice, fingerprint, or retina recognition.
How to Ensure Secure Internet Connections
The most common way to expose business data to a security breach is to use an unsecured Wi-Fi network. This can be the employee's home Wi-Fi network or one that they use when they feel the need to duck around the corner to the nearest coffee shop for a snack and a change of scenery. In these instances, offsite employees need to be educated about how to keep the business's data safe and secure, no matter where they do their work.
Employees can take steps to make sure their online activity is private, and their business data is protected from unauthorized use and hackers. A safe network connection should meet the following criteria:
The employee has control over the connection
The employee trusts other devices they connect to it
The employee has WPA/WPA3 wireless password setup
The connection is encrypted through a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Control over the Network's Connection
This means that the network is private and password protected. When the network connection is private, it allows the use of the Wi-Fi to be controlled. This is critical not only to data security but also to connection speed.
Employees can enhance the security of their home Wi-Fi connection by renaming their wireless network and requiring a password to use it. Internet routers come with a preset administrator password, so changing this to a strong, unique password will keep the system safer.
WPA/WPA3 Security Protocol
Ensure that employees are using a Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA3) security protocol for their internet connection. This security protocol encrypts the activity, making it more difficult for unauthorized parties to follow online activity back to a device and gain access to business and personal data. WPA3 is the most current and secure protocol. Employees can check whether they have this security protocol by checking their settings.
WPA3 helps keep online activity private even if the users have a weak Wi-Fi password and makes it easier to connect smart devices without compromising data security. If the Internet connection has WPA2 or WPA3 security, layering a VPN on top of these protocols will offer additional protection.
Trusted Devices Connected to the Network
Whether at home or the office, all employees should be using devices that have the most recent operating system and robust antivirus software. It is also critical that everyone on the network gets regular cybersecurity training. This helps significantly reduce the chances that someone will fall for a phishing attack that could threaten the security of the entire network.
When employees are working in a public space, such as a coffee shop, securing the public Wi-Fi connection with a VPN is recommended. A VPN offers employees control over their network instead of forcing them to share their connection with unknown and possibly untrustworthy users.
The Connection Is Encrypted with a VPN
A VPN makes use of encryption to effectively hide online activity and IP addresses, making a user's location and activity pretty much untraceable. Investing in a VPN gives businesses and their employees the most secure Internet connection, no matter where they are working.
The easiest solution is for employees to use a virtual private network (VPN) before signing onto a public Wi-Fi network. This will encrypt the data as it travels across the Internet and monitors it for signs of infection. This way, remote employees can still get out of the house when they start to suffer from isolation, and businesses can rest assured that their data is safe.
Importance of a Secure Internet Connection
Without a secure Internet connection, businesses are susceptible to cyberattacks, and their employees can be subject to unauthorized tracking of their online activity. This makes a secure Internet connection a critical component of a business's security strategy. However, not all employees have the same level of technical expertise, so businesses concerned about remote work security solutions in Florida should contact Flagler Technologies today. Fill out the form to submit an inquiry, and someone will get back to you shortly. Or, give us a call today at 561-229-1601.