Hiring a remote team or allowing existing employees to work remotely has many benefits for your business. However, it can open up some risks, especially relating to cybersecurity.
Technological advancements allowed even small companies to access previously pricy software and hire the best talent from around the world due to improvements in technologies required for successful remote work.
Yet, many employers and employees don’t fully grasp the potential business risks that the digital world can bring.
The Drawbacks Of Remote Work
While remote work enables businesses to find the right employees for their needs beyond their city, to cut costs, etc., new issues are arising together with the popularity of the remote workforce.
Telecommuting brings some pitfalls that can impact the digital security of your business.
Remote employees may have system and software compatibility issues as well as open your business, its customers and its data to serious cybersecurity risks.
The following guide will help you understand the ways remote work can impact your business’s cybersecurity and what you can do to mitigate those risks.
One of the simplest but most important things everyone at your company needs to do in order to mitigate cybersecurity risks is to regularly upgrade your systems.
People still using operating systems that are over a decade old or older versions of software constitute a serious security risk because these systems are no longer fully supported by the developers.
Fortunately, these risks are easy to avoid as long as employees keep their software and operating systems updated.
You can do this by having established software requirements in your workplace policies and reminding employees when a major update from a software publisher has been released.
If major threats are known, send out notices to employees to ensure they download the latest security patches so the risk is minimized.
All devices used for business need to carry adequate antivirus protection. Not all antivirus software is created equal, and viruses are not the only problem to watch out for.
Malware and spyware are also substantial threats. Your business should invest in solid antivirus software built for commercial use to protect all devices used by your employees. If that’s not an option, you can at least educate your team on the good, bad, and ugly of antivirus tools.
In addition to having good antivirus software, it is important for employees to stay on authorized sites and only partake in downloads from safe, known providers to minimize the risk. Cyber-attacks can happen when you least expect them and can bring your operations to a halt.
Remote employees may use their personal computers for work. You can combat this by requiring separate devices for work or certain commercial antivirus software to be installed.
Cloud System Breaches
Most commercial cloud systems are sufficiently secure for most businesses. However, there are certain industries where tighter security options on cloud systems may be necessary, such as if your company works in the medical field.
It is not always a wise decision to use free platforms for commercial purposes because they do not carry the same levels of security and guarantees that paid services do.
Cloud-based file sharing needs to be smooth for successful remote collaboration, but also safe from breaches. Regardless of the industry you are in, you need to keep your client data secured.
VPNs are the digital connections that send data back and forth between an individual machine and the larger Internet.
Most businesses use their own VPNs, especially for remote workers, to provide stronger encryption in addition to the built-in encryption many Internet protocols already have.
If your business has its own VPN, ensure remote employees have access to it and are using it. If not, then at least have an idea of what they are using to determine if it is secure enough.
Unsecured Mobile Devices
Unsecured mobile devices can also be a threat, as they are often the targets of thieves and hackers. Have policies in place for how mobile devices should be secured, such as with screen passcodes, or not accessing sensitive documents while connected to public Wi-Fi.
Businesses should also consider the types of mobile devices their employees are using, as cheaper devices are not often equipped with advanced security features.
While the upper-tier Android devices have equivalent security features, Apple devices continue to be, on average, more secure simply because Apple has sole control over the manufacturing of both the device and the operating system.
Security of Sensitive Information
Many remote workers will access systems containing sensitive client information. This can be in the form of payment information or other confidential information such as medical history or legal matters.
This information needs to be protected behind the right security features, and remote workers need to understand that certain sensitive information is not to be given out without express permission.
Likewise, giving or restricting access to a certain team member should be easy, so you always have control over who gets access to sensitive information.
How To Mitigate The Risks
Perhaps the single most important action business owners and managers can take to mitigate cybersecurity risks from their remote employees is to establish clear rules and expectations regarding the tech and security features that need to be used.
Begin preparing for this from the first moment you decide to bring on a remote workforce. Take into account all devices your remote personnel might use, where they will use them, and standardize your rules into a document that should always be advised.
This consideration should result in less work disruption when starting up and safer practices being followed.
Adding a remote team to your operations can be one of the best choices you ever make for your business. However, to avoid opening your company to unnecessary cybersecurity risks, you need to have a strong plan and policies going in.
By preparing in advance, knowing the levels of security that you need, properly training your employees and investing in the right tech, you lessen the chances of a serious security breach.
Heather Redding is a
content manager for rent, hailing from Aurora. She loves to geek out writing
about wearables, IoT and other hot tech trends. When she finds the time to
detach from her keyboard, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach
out to her on Twitter.