Cybersecurity Tips When You Have Remote Workers

Even very small businesses right now tend to have their employees working remotely. Remote work is likely here to stay, even though in the U.S., many people are being vaccinated against COVID-19.

A lot of business owners have discovered there are advantages to having employees work outside of the office some or all of the time.

For example, it reduces overhead and, when they’re properly managed, can also improve productivity.

That doesn’t mean it’s not without challenges. For example, cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges when you have remote workers, but it’s not one that’s insurmountable.

The following are some tips you might consider putting in place if your employees are working from home or anywhere outside of the traditional office environment.

Password Management

One of your first and perhaps most important areas of focus when you have remote workers is password management. You need to have a password policy, and you want to offer self-service options for employees if they forget their password or get locked out of their account.

Passwords are often a major point of vulnerability, but this is one of the easiest things to remedy in cybersecurity.

Put yourself in the shoes of your remote workers. You want them to have secure, complex passwords, but they may be worried they can’t remember. They might also have to log onto many devices and applications throughout the workday, which impacts their productivity. If they’re frequently forgetting their passwords or getting locked out, then that’s also impeding your IT team’s productivity.

Using something like a single sign-on solution will help address all of these issues.

It’s a secure, streamlined way to manage passwords, and it’s going to improve your employees’ overall satisfaction.

Know the Vulnerabilities

Along with understanding the relevance of passwords, if you know the vulnerabilities faced by remote workers in terms of cybersecurity, you’ll be better prepared to provide them with the tools and training they need.

The use of personal devices is a big one.

If you can financially manage it, it’s a good idea to provide your employees with devices so that you’ll have more control over cybersecurity.

You have to think about how strong your business security and technology are, compared to what someone working on a laptop from home or from a coffee shop might have in place.

This will be touched on below too, but Wi-Fi that isn’t secure is a huge and often under-recognized problem for remote workers.

There’s a lack of encryption that makes unsecured public Wi-Fi an appealing target for cybercriminals.

Another general category of vulnerability is human error or bad habits. When an employee is at the office, they may be more likely to follow cybersecurity best practices than they are when they’re working remotely.

A combination of the right cybersecurity tools and employee training can broadly help with this issue.

Network Security

Your employees may have a tendency to use public Wi-Fi, which also means it’s unsecured. That shouldn’t be done with work devices or when accessing work applications. You should make it clear to your employees that this isn’t acceptable.

In addition, when your employees are logging onto their personal Wi-Fi network, it needs to have a strong password and be securely set up and maintained.

The best option, if you can provide it to your employees, is to have them use a VPN. A VPN offers end-to-end encryption.

When your remote workers connect to your internal network, a VPN can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

Of course, not every employee needs full access to all of your internal network.

A lot of employees may need access to just a few cloud-based applications and email.

Even with a VPN, employees also need to be trained to patch them and keep them updated, and multifactor authentication should be used, too, which can help reduce the risk of a VPN phishing attack.

Audit Access

It’s always a good time if you haven’t done so lately to do an audit of who has access to what.

This means who can access what cloud-based apps, who are accessing devices, and what the user controls are.

It’s always true but needs to especially be emphasized when employees are working remotely that you should have everyone on a need-to-know basis. If someone doesn’t directly need access to something to do their job, then revoke that access.

There’s a term called least privilege that should always be applied. This means that there are only the minimum permissions required by an end-user to do the job at hand.

Don’t Forget Physical Security

There are threats to physical security that can be more likely to affect your business when your employees work remotely.

For example, you might train on cybersecurity, but what if an employee leaves their device in the car and it gets stolen?

Then, the person who stole it can have access to a treasure trove of information.

Along with including physical security within your employee training, you might want to have employees encrypt their devices.

Then, if the device is stolen, it’s going to be a lot harder to access whatever’s on there.

It can also be a good idea to use encrypted tools for email and chat, especially if you’re in an industry where a lot of sensitive information is exchanged.

Never Underestimate Phishing

We tend to think that because cybercrime is growing in prevalence, it’s also getting significantly more sophisticated. In some ways, that might be true but still, hackers find the most success with tried and true methods like phishing.

More people working remotely equals more opportunities for a successful phishing attack.

If your employees fall prey to this, it can be a disaster. You should regularly train employees on what to look for to avoid phishing attacks.

Finally, make sure your remote employees have a point of contact if they face technical or security issues. Remote workers need to know what the protocol is for dealing with specific situations they might encounter, who to report issues to, and generally how to communicate about this.

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