Cybersecurity and Data Protection Considerations for Remote Workers

While telecommuting offers a number of benefits for workers and employers, there are also risks involved. When employees work from home, they cannot use the company’s internet, printers or computers. Because of this, employers need to create thorough security policies for their remote workers. From data protection to computer malware risks, companies must carefully consider the following issues.

Cybersecurity and Data Protection Considerations for Remote Workers

Data Protection and Privacy

In one survey of IT leaders in the United Kingdom, 57 percent of leaders thought that remote workers would expose their organizations to a data breach. A total of 34 percent of leaders said that their workers did not care about security. Unfortunately, only 42 percent of companies provide or approve devices. Instead, many companies simply work to mitigate the risks of employees using their own devices.

In reality, most remote workers just want to do their job. They may not care about data protection. It is also possible that they are simply unaware of data protection and privacy measures. Whatever the case, companies have to be proactive about requiring employees to take security precautions.

If your employees are working from home, they need to have a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts the worker’s connection to your servers, which allows them to access data safely. If an attacker does not have a corporate VPN, they cannot access the same information. You can also protect your company’s data by limiting the information that each employee can access. This naturally reduces the damage that can occur from a single worker’s security lapse.

Whether your data is in transit or at rest, it should be encrypted. Even if there is a security breach, the data will be illegible as long as it is encrypted. To achieve this goal, employees must equip every device, computer and work phone with encryption. Software programs like Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Office offer an automatic option for encrypting files.

Employee Training

Ultimately, the main cause of any data breach is human error. When all of your employees are in a central office, it is difficult to prevent mistakes from happening. It is even harder to control workers when they are working from home.

Your data protection officer should train all of your employees on cybersecurity policies. In addition, you should create a specific policy for your remote workers. Then, your employees have to learn about their new expectations. Your cybersecurity team should be readily available for video calls if your workers have any questions.

Incident Support and Escalation

A remote workforce involves an entirely different approach to incident support and escalation. Normally, organizations have decreased threat visibility because employees are working at home. All of the traffic flows through personal devices instead of corporate computers. Because of this, identifying incidents may take longer. In some cases, it may be impossible to figure out the root cause of an incident.

To make digital forensics easier, companies need to implement centralized log monitoring. Attackers often cover their trail by getting rid of the device’s logs. By maintaining records of these logs, companies can stop criminals from using a common attack technique.

Remote workers may not be able to talk to a specialist in person, but a remote specialist can execute scripts and investigate problems from afar. Trained personnel can respond to most issues and take remediation actions. Because the specialist has to guide a non-technical employee through the remediation process, it can take longer to respond to events.

To make remediation easier, companies need to have clear channels for communication. IT departments must be easily accessible so that team members can instantly reach them when an incident occurs. These specialists must also be trained on who they should contact if additional actions are required. Organizations should create incident response plans that are specifically designed for a remote workforce. An incident conference bridge can also help security team members respond when a coordinated, team-based response is necessary.

Data Storage Locations

Your corporate network and shared files are especially important in a teleworking environment. Team members must be able to access shared resources in order to do their jobs. If one person is hacked, it can affect everyone.

For many companies, the easiest answer to data storage is the cloud. Cloud storage allows you to backup your data at multiple locations around the world. Data is encrypted, and it can be shared among team members. By using cloud storage, you can enable your remote workers to collaborate safely in real time.

Remote Work Policies

Your preventative measures are only useful if employees are aware of them. As you transition to a remote workforce, you should create policies for data security, encryption and other measures. Then, you should train your employees on these policies and how to spot cybersecurity risks. Your employees should also know who they should call if there is a problem.

Computer Malware Protection

Many remote workers are using home devices instead of corporate computers. Because of this, they need to install antivirus and antimalware tools on their home devices. If a device is used for work, it should have a firewall and strong malware protection. You have less control over what an employee does when they are at home, so extra protection is essential.

Document Printing and Security

Document printing is a potential security risk. If an employee prints documents at home, FedEx or a local print shop, the physical documents may not be discarded properly or could be picked up or viewed by someone else. In large organizations, this issue has always been a problem. When there is a surge in demand, employees often send duplicate print jobs to different printers. Once one job prints, they forget to pick up the other print order. In most organizations, multi-technology card readers can ensure that only the correct users are able to receive the printed document.

For teleworkers who can occasionally visit the office, you can enable remote printing. When a document has to be printed, the team member can use the company network to print it. They can select the location in the company’s main offices where they want it to be printed.

If it is not possible to print through the company network, you may want to choose a copy shop close to each remote worker’s location. Then, you can set up an account for each worker and give them guidelines. You can also use technology to track what each person is printing. By creating printing policies and encouraging safe printing, you can increase your company’s document security.

Crisis Plans

Even with the best security measures, you may still encounter problems. You need the right incident and crisis management plan in place to handle potential issues. Your contingency plan should include testing and backup communication channels that you can use if the network is compromised. All of your remote staff should be trained on your company’s crisis and contingency plans.

While many companies switched to teleworkers because they had to, having a remote workforce also offers a number of benefits. Remote workers allow you to save money on office space and overhead costs. To enjoy these benefits, your organization has to safely navigate the transition to a remote workforce. With the appropriate security measures and technology, your organization can emerge stronger than before.

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