Remote work is becoming more popular than ever, thanks to advanced technology and changing workplace trends. However, if you’re working with a remote team (or you’re a member of one), there are some extra security precautions you’ll need to take.
Why Remote Workers Are Especially Vulnerable
Why would remote workers be especially vulnerable? There’s nothing inherently wrong with working from home. Instead, remote workers are prone to two special circumstances that make them slightly more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. First, they’re more disconnected from the team, including IT managers and technicians, which means they’re slightly harder to reach; they may not get updates as quickly and aren’t as closely supervised.
Second, they naturally rely on technology more than their in-office counterparts (in many cases). All their conversations and meetings must happen online, which naturally increases their risk of being exposed.
Top Additional Considerations for Remote Workers
So what specific security considerations do remote workers raise for IT professionals?
- Open remote communication. First, remote workers are demanding more apps under unified communication (UC), which collects multiple forms of communication in convenient software and service packages. For the most part, this is a good thing; it means your remote workers will be able to stay connected, even if they’re working flexible hours or are never in the office. However, each device that a remote employee uses and each time they log in poses a potential security risk. If your communications platform isn’t secure, or if your employee isn’t using it responsibly or correctly, it could lead to a massive breach—including the acquisition of all your communication records.
- Company devices on unsecured wireless network. Working at home all the time can be tedious, so many remote workers end up working at cafes, libraries, or other places with publicly available Wi-Fi. In some cases, there’s nothing wrong with this, but most public networks are unsecured, and are therefore potential targets for cybercriminals. If a company device is compromised on an unsecured network, then introduced to the company’s network, it could lead to devastating results.
- Cloud storage. Your remote workers are going to be frequently tapping into your cloud storage platforms, which again, isn’t inherently dangerous. However, if they fail to follow best practices, such as choosing easy-to-guess passwords, or leaving their accounts logged in on public devices, it could mean all your company’s data becoming vulnerable. Choosing the right cloud storage provider can increase your security here.
- A lack of centralized management. Though your IT department will be able to communicate with your remote team via email, chat, phone calls, and other means, there may still be delays or hiccups in this communication that aren’t present with a more readily available team. When responding to an urgent threat, this could expose additional vulnerabilities. You’ll need to compensate for this by facilitating faster communication, or by reducing the likelihood of error on the part of the remote workers.
How to Avoid Issues
Thankfully, there are some simple strategies that can help you avoid a problem:
- Employee awareness. First, remember that most breaches are the direct result of human error, with phishing and related scams responsible for 31 percent of breaches, and basic errors responsible for another 24 percent. Improving employee awareness of common security threats, and making sure your remote employees are following best practices, is the best measure you can take in improving your overall security. You may even consider issuing quizzes or mandatory classes to prevent these common mistakes.
- Regular check-ins. You should also arrange for regular check-ins and meetings to keep your remote employees up-to-date on the latest threats and best practices. Keeping IT and remote workers in touch is one of the best ways to maintain the speed and efficiency of this line of communication, and extend your highly secure core to your most separated workers.
- Redundant backups. Just in case, it’s a good idea to back up all your data, communications, and systems on external servers. Think of it as an insurance policy against the inevitable mistake or security breach.
There’s no such thing as a perfectly secure workforce, but with the additional vulnerabilities presented by remote workers, it pays to be proactive. Fortunately, the vast majority of data breaches are entirely preventable, and if you know the key areas to guard against, you and your remote workers can reduce your risk to the minimum.