It is no secret that 2020 has drastically changed the way in which many people across the world work. Remote work was already starting to gain stride before the pandemic hit. And then stay at home orders have forced many businesses all over the world to transition their employees to working remotely. Working from home certainly has its upsides, but such an abrupt transition holds some risks. Many companies went from working in an office environment with secure devices provided for them to working remotely without office cyber security.
Let’s explore the risks and how to mitigate them today.
Working Remotely and Cyber Security Risks
One of the biggest potential downsides is managing cyber security risks and threats.
Online security is always something that businesses should be thinking about. However, it is a new issue when employees are not able to use company networks and other devices equipped with various data protection measures.
The shelter in place orders spurred on by the pandemic forced companies to transition to a working model that they weren’t necessarily ready for. And many businesses had no time to prepare for the transition.
For now, ensuring that you and your employees are adequately protected against cyber security threats is certainly doable, of course. However, it takes time, resources, strategy, and clear communication. This means explaining to your remote workers how to install data protection measures on their own.
Protecting yourself against hackers and other malicious security threats is extremely important though. Hence, it is definitely worth taking the time to plan your strategy. Devices that don’t have the necessary security measures leave the whole company susceptible to information leakage, extortion, scams, etc.
Luckily, there are some very concrete steps to follow to ensure that you are protecting your company against online security breaches. When it comes to working remotely and cyber security, it is better to be overly cautious and to always double check that you have measures in place.
Tips for Working Remotely and Better Security Measures
Passwords and identity
We’ll start out with a simple one: ensure that you and your employees all have adequately strong passwords. Note the passwords, plural – using the same password for multiple sites puts you at higher risk for data breaches. We highly recommend for all employees to use different passwords for each site they log in to for work.
Of course it is not easy – and maybe even impossible – to remember all of these passwords. It’s a good idea to invest in a password management software that will securely track all of your passwords.
Another way to add even more protection to everyone’s passwords is enabling two factor authentication. This is essentially another layer of security protecting all accounts. It will require a password, plus another other form of identification (a fingerprint scan, facial recognition, etc.) for you to log into your accounts.
Wi-Fi networks are another vehicle through which malicious parties attempt to access sensitive information. When working at the office, employees likely did not give much thought to the security of the company Wi-Fi network.
However, home and personal Wi-Fi networks are generally less secure than corporate Wi-Fi networks. Some might not even have password protection. When handling sensitive work information on their personal computers at home (or on a public Wi-Fi network for travel), employees need to be careful. Easy access to a cyber security guide can help ensure they are doing what they can to protect your company’s data.
First, make sure that all employees working from home have a password protected Wi-Fi network. Next, it is recommended that you change your router’s password from the one it had upon purchase. This adds another layer of password protection. It is also essential to ensure employee’s home networks have firmware updates installed. A WPA2 Wi-Fi network is highly recommended as the most secure.
Firewalls are another quintessential way to boost your cyber security. Installing a firewall essentially creates a barrier between the device and the internet by closing down the portals they use to communicate with one another. In this way they are able to be quite effective at preventing malicious programs from invading your computer, which halts data leakage.
Most operating systems already have firewalls built in, but it’s a good idea to have your employees confirm that they have a firewall just in case.
And in case the firewall doesn’t catch a malicious program attempting to invade your computer, you should also have antivirus software. Antivirus software serves as a backup to firewalls: if malware gets through the firewall, antivirus software is there to detect and remove it.
Data back ups
The biggest threat that comes from malware invading your computer is information theft, but another significant threat is information disappearance. Even if your data is not stolen and used maliciously, hackers can cause your whole system to crash, which can result in the device losing everything.
Luckily, there is an easy fix – back up your data! External hard drives are a good option for this, but the best option is the cloud. There really is no better way to not only back up your data, but also to ensure that it is all organized and in the same place. The cloud can handle enormous amounts of data, so this is not only recommended for individual employees, but also for the company as a whole.
One of the best ways to protect your device from the threat of malware is using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. VPNs are commonly used not as security devices, but as a way to bypass geographic restrictions on certain websites. This is because VPNs are able to streamline a device’s online activity through a server in whatever location they choose.
As you can imagine, not only is this handy for giving location specific content the run around, but also serves as a great way to further secure your computer. They encrypt the computer’s internet traffic, so that even if something is intercepted, the hacker will not be able to decipher it because it will be encrypted.
The one catch to VPNs is that they are quite powerful and thus can sometimes slow down internet speeds. If your company network requires a large amount of bandwidth and you want to invest in a VPN, choose one that stands out for its reliability and speed.
Make a plan together
Perhaps the most important way that you, as a business owner, can ensure that your work from home employees are using safe and secure personal devices is to talk to them. Increasing security awareness is the single most important factor in having a cyber secure workplace.
However, this goes beyond sending out a memo regarding online privacy and cyber security. Thus, we highly recommend you putting aside the time to chat with your employees “face to face” via video conferencing. This way you can impress upon them the importance of taking cyber security measures, outline some simple steps that they can take, and address any questions or concerns they may have.
Installing antivirus software and VPNs are likely measures they have never had to take before – they may be feeling intimidated by it all. Your network and tech manager can help you form a plan to relay to your staff for everyone’s protection.
Final Tips for Working Remotely and Company Security
Here are a few quick and easy suggestions for immediate measures that your employees can take to increase their online privacy and cyber security.
Be on the lookout for phishing. Most phishing attempts are fairly easy to spot: they might have bad grammar and spelling errors, or blatantly false information. But some look so real that employees should be told to verify anything out of the norm. So if they receive anything – via email, text message, or phone call most likely – that may be phishing, don’t open or click on it.
Always lock devices
Tell employees to always lock devices – especially if while working in a public place. This means a cell phone, computer, tablet, or whatever other devices they use. Make sure that the home screen is locked and password protected while the device is not in use.
Only use company platforms
Stick to your company platforms when exchanging information with other employees, no matter how sensitive it is. The web platforms your business uses, such as Microsoft Office 365, are more secure than the platforms you may use in your personal life.
We Can Help Businesses with Financial Security
There is so much more to talk about when it comes to working with a financial advisor, and that’s why our door is always open. We know it’s hard work to own business, and we’re here to help. Our trusted team of business financial advisory experts are ready to work with you to figure out the best plan for your business.
At Saddock Advisory, we can help determine if your business is financially healthy. Get in touch with us here to find out more.