Remote Work Security Practices for Small Businesses
Work, an ever-evolving landscape, has rapidly changed over the last two decades with technology innovations and the invention of the internet. Gone are the days of clocking into a factory to start your workday. The industrial age has given way to the information age and with it a new style of work. This new era of work comes with many advantages and exciting features. Yet, there are also new complications. The newest evolution of the information age has been remote work.
What is remote work?
Remote work refers to work that is done outside of the standard office or factory and is usually enabled through an internet connection. The remote work model, as we know it, has been propelled to popularity through blazing internet connections and the rise of capable technology. Today, there are a few different kinds of remote work, ranging in degrees of how remote they are: fully remote, flexible (up to the employee), hybrid (usually set by the employer), and freelance.
Due to the features of certain industries, it’s only natural that some industries lend themselves to remote work more easily. For example, some of the first industries to offer widespread remote work opportunities were marketing, software development, online teaching, sales, and customer service. Once the pandemic hit in 2020, remote work became a necessity, not a luxury.
Some companies are shifting back to in-person work again as we emerge from the other side of the pandemic. But a lot of companies are moving toward remote work as their standard way of operating. Why, despite the pandemic coming to a conclusion, does remote work still have an appeal? Well, it may offer several benefits such as flexibility, improved health, more free time for employees who no longer need to commute, reduced stress, higher productivity, decreased overhead for companies, and more. But, remote work comes with some downsides. Isolation and less employee accountability are a couple of issues remote work has brought to the forefront. The big drawback, however, is the increase in security risks.
Why are security issues on the rise for remote workers?
Remote workers are facing numerous cyberattacks and security issues nowadays.
But why is that? Working remotely opens up multiple new points of vulnerability for companies. Additionally, cyberattacks are focusing on established businesses that have large databases and teams. Some remote workers use public networks to work. They go to cafes or workspaces and utilize unsafe Wi-Fi networks to accomplish their work operations. With information accessible in increasingly alarming volumes, employees are being targeted with email scams. Criminals are shifting their focus toward crime in the digital world. While law enforcement struggles to innovate and keep up, this presents a unique opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of the relatively insecure landscape.
Another reason for an increase in security issues happening with remote work stems from device choices. People are using personal devices for their remote work. This is dangerous for a few reasons. When you don’t use your company’s devices, you don’t have the company-wide security protocols protecting you. Also, when using your work computer for leisure and vice versa, you end up contaminating one or the other. People tend to go on less safe websites when they are not at work, and then forget that they use that same computer for work. This opens up a device to a host of issues.
Lastly, employees are depending on file-sharing services for tasks that used to be as simple and safe as walking down the hallway and handing off an important document to a colleague. Now, it needs to travel through the internet to get to its destination. And it’s vulnerable at every step of the way.
What are some common security issues for remote workers?
With all these points of vulnerabilities that have emerged recently, it’s no wonder that remote workplaces are under threat. Today, any remote worker may inadvertently infect a device with a virus, become the victim of a ransomware attack or phishing scheme, or simply have a device stolen.
What can a small business do to combat looming security threats?
First, companies would do well to assess their own level of risk and audit where there may be holes in their security measures. Companies ought to buy better business-oriented equipment and make sure employees are using company devices for the right things. In other words, companies would ensure better security by resisting a “bring your own device” policy. Purchasing security software and keeping it updated across company devices is an important step toward increased company-wide security. Preferred software might include an antivirus or VPN. For more advanced security measures, companies can consider multi-factor authentication which uses various authentication measures for logging into devices or company portals. These measures include facial recognition or fingerprint reader.
As a final step, companies should educate their employees on cybersecurity and how they can operate to ensure that they remain safe and secure. Part of a cybersecurity training initiative would be to outline and prepare to implement a security breach response plan. For many businesses, cyberattacks and data leaks are a matter of “when,” not “if.” It’s important to be prepared for the worst to minimize the damage.
What can you do to keep your company safe from security issues while working from home?
What can the remote worker themselves do to ensure they keep their company and selves safe from security issues? Here are a few tips to help keep yourself safe as a remote worker:
- Avoid using an unsecured WiFi network while accessing company data.
- Don't use your personal computer for work.
- Don't trust suspicious emails and don’t hesitate to report them to your management before clicking them.
- Keep your systems, programs, and security tools updated.
- Stay updated on your company’s security measures, best practices, and incident response plans.
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