Cybersecurity Protocols for Remote Workers
Cybersecurity protocols for remote workers are becoming increasingly important as more and more people are working remotely.
Remote work is increasingly becoming a popular and common practice for most businesses and companies globally, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, while remote work improves employee productivity, increases flexibility promotes work-life balance and other benefits, it also has several downsides.
The sudden transition from in-physical offices to remote work left businesses struggling to establish remote work policies, especially cybersecurity protocols, to protect company and customer data. This article highlights cybersecurity risks that come with remote work and best practices to mitigate these risks.
Common Cybersecurity Challenges of Remote Work
Even with great policies, remote work presents a wide array of security challenges. This can be broadly classified as either security risks for businesses or remote work security risks for employees. Common cybersecurity risks to be wary of include;
- Phishing Scams
- Using public networks to access sensitive data
- Working using personal devices
- Using weak passwords
- Unencrypted file sharing
- Video attacks, such as Zoom bombing
- Weak and unreliable backup and recovery systems
Cybersecurity Best Practices for Remote Workers
Whether your workforce is already working remotely or looking to make a transition, below are some cybersecurity best practices to safeguard your company and client’s data.
1. Establish a Data Security Policy
Creating a data policy specific for remote workers is the first step of safeguarding your data. The policy should outline remote work protocols that all employees should comply with and the consequences of non-compliance. Your remote work policy should capture the following;
- Outline positions eligible for remote work – since not all positions can work remotely, you should list job positions suitable for remote work based on job functions. Otherwise, your work from home approvals won’t be termed fair without clear guides.
- List tools and platforms to be used – your on-site and remote employees should know approved collaboration and communication tools. This includes cloud storage options, video-conferencing tools, project management platforms, and more.
- Educate employees on what to do in case of an incident – your policy should also outline a clear guide that employees should follow in case of a cybersecurity incident. This includes improving the strength of their passwords, reporting, and more.
2. Provide Your Employees With the Right Tools
Establishing a remote work policy is the basis of safeguarding your data. Once your employees are up to date on these policies, the next step is providing them with the right resources required to remain compliant. This includes VPNs, password managers, and strong antivirus software to keep your remote employees safe. With this, remote workers will worry less about compliance and focus on completing their tasks.
3. Frequent Updates of Network Security Systems
You should also ensure that devices used by your remote employees to access customer and company data have the latest security systems. Therefore, you should ensure that they have spam filtering tools, antivirus software, and firewalls and ensure that these security systems are up to date. The best way of ensuring this is using a mobile device management system that allows managers to wipe off sensitive data from lost devices.
4. Regulate Use of Personal Devices for Work
A major downside of remote work is the increased use of personal devices for work. The current tech-savvy world has also prompted some organisations to embrace the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy in their workplaces. While such work policies are beneficial for various reasons, they pose serious cybersecurity risks for remote workers.
For instance, personal devices may have outdated antivirus software or not password-protected. This gives cybercriminals and malicious hackers a leeway to access sensitive company data. That said, even if your company embraces the BYOD policy, restrict your on-site employees, and ask remote workers to use devices only provided by the company.
5. Introduce a Zero-Trust Policy
You can as well introduce this Microsoft policy to your organisation. Microsoft developed an effective system and network security approach that revolves around a simple principle: “never trust and always verify.”
The Zero-Trust approach provides excellent cybersecurity protection by controlling access based on verified identities. That said, you can implement a zero-trust approach by restricting every request for remote access, especially if it originated from uncontrolled networks.
6. Encourage Employees to Use Strong Passwords
Weak passwords are a major cause of cybersecurity risks that affect most organisations. This is poised to increase if you adopt a remote work policy in your business. The National Cyber Security Center suggests that some of the commonly used passwords are “qwerty,” “123456,” “111111,” and “password.”
That said, you should encourage your employees, both on-site and remote, to use strong, varied, and difficult passwords. They should also avoid reusing the same passwords on different accounts.
Password reuse is a common yet avoidable practice. Besides, most people use easily guessed passwords, such as their middle names, favourite football team, favourite town, and more.
Advise your remote workers to use complex yet memorable passwords that hackers and malicious players can’t guess. Encourage them to use password managers to track and store passwords in digitally encrypted vaults to ease remembrance.
7. Use Two-factor Authentication
Another strong cybersecurity practice is adopting multi-factor authentication, which requires platform users to provide separate sets of information that verify their identities.
Commonly used multi-factor authentications include personal security questions, personal identification numbers, biometrics, and push notifications. TFA is probably the easiest way of securing remote devices.
8. Encourage Employees to Use VPNs
You should provide remote workers with company VPNs to secure remote access from unsecured networks, such as Wi-Fi, even when working from home. VPNs are a basic level security tool that reroutes traffic from your remote workers to your company’s specific private network. Network connection through VPN is encrypted, and while malicious hackers can intercept it, they cannot read or decrypt the information.
While VPNs provide unmatched security, most businesses, especially large corporations with many employees, overload their VPNs, compromising their safety. Therefore, to avoid overloading and VPN slow-down;
- Use VPN providers with a large server network.
- Prioritise VPN for specific employees and services
- Manage your VPN traffic through split tunnelling
- Use a VPN server location that is close to your actual location
- Monitor users of your VPN closely
Other beneficial work-from-home cybersecurity best practices
- Monitor remote employees’ work practices – mischief and any form of data abuse from remote workers should be watched closely. Keep in mind that insiders are responsible for most data breaches.
- Watch out for phishing scams in malicious emails – remind your employees to remain alert and watch out for emails coming from unknown sources. They should also not open attachments or click links to unknown destinations.
- Encrypt confidential and sensitive information – sensitive data, such as medical and financial records, should be encrypted. This ensures that company data won’t be accessed, even if hackers access the devices.
- Provide frequent cybersecurity training – you should routinely train your remote teams on various cybersecurity best practices. Remote teams should also have clear access to IT personnel who can sort arising technical issues immediately.
Unlike on-site networks, cybersecurity for your remote employees requires constant vigilance. As remote work continues to become a viable work model for most businesses, the need for excellent data security becomes more paramount. Companies should ensure that they address these risks before allowing employees to work outside their offices.
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