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5 Ways to Keep Business Data Secure When Your Employees Work Remotely

• What happens if one, or more, of your employees is diagnosed with the flu or the much-hyped coronavirus and are confined to their home for a week or more?

• How would your business be affected if your local schools are closed due to an outbreak and your staff members and your employees with children have to stay home to care for them?

You may want to take a few moments (or a day or two) to think long and hard of how you keep your business up and running if multiple employees are out of the office at the same time for an extended period of time.

Working remotely could be a business-saver, but telecommuting can have its challenges. Data security is a real concern for businesses. From employees using unsecured Wi-Fi networks to computer devices not having adequate protections, remote work adds additional levels of security considerations for companies and their data.

Business owners, company leaders and employees need to accept equal accountability in doing what they can to protect the company’s information.

It is imperative to educate employees about data security and let them know how everyone is responsible for protecting it. Certain practices and procedures will need to be put in place that will strengthen data security within the business. Remote workers will need to prioritize data security and safe practices. What can be done to protect your company’s data?

Here are five areas to give serious thought to:

1. Establish a Cybersecurity Policy

All employees should know that data security is a priority.

Some employees may think that if they are not working directly with customer data, or if they are not operating at an upper level within the company hierarchy, then they simply don’t need to worry about data security. Organizations cannot assume their employees know anything about cybersecurity or their role in it.

If you don’t already have one, you should establish a cybersecurity policy and require all employees to review and sign it.

The policy should state why you have a policy in the first place, as well as details outlining all the various security protocols employees are expected to comply with. It should also state how the company will support them in complying (i.e., which tools and resources they will provide) with the policy.

Everyone in the company must take ownership in protecting employer data, and by having an established policy in place all employees — remote or not — will be on the same page as to what the expectations are.

2. Ensure all Internet Connections Are Secure

Using an unsecured Wi-Fi network is the most common way to expose your company to a data security breach. The remote worker will need to be educated about how to make sure they can keep the company’s data secure.

The easiest solution is to require employees to use a virtual private network (VPN). Using VPNs before signing on to public Wi-Fi networks will encrypt the internet traffic of the remote worker and monitor for any signs of infection.

To make sure your organization is using the right VPN, verify the VPN you are using covers all of the factors you need it to and not just last-mile encryption.

3. Passwords and Multi-factor Authentication

Password safety is another relatively easy way to protect your organization’s data. Many people joke about password safety, admitting they use the same password from device to device and program to program, but educating remote workers about password protection is key to securing your company’s data.

Offering password security training can be yet another step in cybersecurity training for employees. Start with the basics of how to keep passwords strong and why it’s so important to not use the same one over and over again.

Many organizations are moving to two-factor authentication (2FA) for their data security management. This method confirms a user’s identity by first requiring a username and password, as well as another piece of information, whether it be an answer to a “secret question” or perhaps a PIN that was sent to their cell phone.

This added layer in the security process can provide remote workers and their organizations the peace of mind they need in this digital age, when passwords just aren’t enough anymore.

4. Use Encryption Software

Using encryption software is another way companies and their remote workers can protect themselves. If an employee’s device is stolen or lost, the information on that device can find its way into the wrong hands and expose the company to data breaches and vulnerabilities. Encryption software can protect company data by barring access from any unauthorized users of those devices.

Additionally, businesses should be mindful that any programs used for chatting, email or applications should utilize end-to-end encryption. Popular programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, for instance, can easily encrypt files and documents that your remote workers use and share with coworkers.

5. Don’t Forget Firewalls, Antivirus Software and Anti-Malware

Require remote workers to have up-to-date firewalls, antivirus software and anti-malware on all their devices — including cell phones and tablets, in addition to their laptops. Companies might also want to have the ability to remotely wipe devices in case they are lost or stolen. Having mobile device management platforms in place allows remote workers to continue to use their own devices while ensuring the safety of company data.

Remote work does not have to jeopardize data security. Once remote workers are educated and these top cybersecurity procedures are implemented, they can quickly become standard practices that everyone in a company can commit to with ease, and everyone within the organization can feel confident that they are doing all they can do to protect the security of their employer’s data while also taking care of themselves and their families.

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