How To Manage a Remote Workforce So as To Protect Them From Cyber Threats
As working from home has become the new norm, this article covers the ways you can ensure security and protect organizational data.
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One of the biggest pain points for companies managing remote teams is handling cybersecurity threats.
After dealing with several challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, remote team managers face a challenge that could compromise their entire organizational work plan and workplace security if not handled diligently.
Today, around fifty to ninety percent of employees work from home. This brings about security risks in data protection, the risk of using an unprotected network, lack of immediate access to the IT team, cloud computing issues, and many others.
Three main areas of concern are unsafe networks, usage of personal devices, and physical threats. Not being in the workplace might mean using your personal device and network. This is potentially threatening to work files as your network and device may not have the same level of security as the devices from work. Also, physical threats (which could potentially lead to security threats), such as devices being stolen or destroyed, are more likely to occur when using work devices outside of the workplace.
So how do you manage your remote workforce while protecting them from cyber threats? How can you foster communication among your distributed team while protecting your company’s data?
Below are seven tips to better protect your team from cybersecurity threats.
Acquire Remote Working Tools for Employees
We’ve all heard that prevention is better than cure. A preventative measure that organizations can take to avoid cyber threats is to discourage employees from using personal devices for work because they may be more susceptible to hacks due to the potential lack of required security features. The company should provide remote teams with all the necessary devices installed with the company’s standard security measures.
One of the primary reasons for this is to avoid the possibility of sensitive work data being compromised in a personal computer due to harmful links spread through social media. Because of this, it is best not to have work files on the same computer on which an employee accesses their personal social media platforms.
Install Antivirus, Firewall, and Anti-Malware Tools on Work Gadgets
Now that we've established that allowing employees to use their personal devices can pose a risk and that companies should provide them with necessary devices from the workplace, we need to look at what the company needs to install in those devices to protect their data from being compromised.
In today's digital world, installing antivirus software is a no-brainer. According to a study by Khan, Brohi, and Zaman, one of the top ten cybersecurity risks is organizations having their business emails compromised.
Companies need to be on their toes to provide quality tech support to their remote employees to ensure that firewalls, antivirus, and anti-malware software are up to date.
As a backup for a worst-case scenario, companies need to have remote access to all their employees' devices in case of an emergency where all the data will need to be wiped down.
Train Remote Workers on Cyber Security
Training remote workers involves training them on remote working tools and training them on remote working policies.
Regarding the tools, companies should adequately explain to their teams the basics of working the devices given to them—basically dos and don'ts. In addition to this, they should also explain the security tools in the devices and how to properly use them so sensitive company data is not compromised.
The second measure companies need to take is laying down remote working policies: strict policies and strict guidelines that outline all the necessary steps to use the remote working tools. Having a clear-cut work-from-home policy and explaining it to employees will take care of seventy-five percent of cybersecurity problems. Employees being familiar with these policies will lead to ensuring that they are properly practiced.
Isolate Corporate Files From Personal Data
We earlier looked at the importance of disallowing employees from using personal devices for work. Likewise, it is equally important, for the same reasons, that employees not use work devices for personal reasons to reduce the risk of endangering work data.
Company data and personal data are not limited to files but verbal communication as well. Keeping that in mind, remember not to discuss company-related information via private accounts of teleconferencing/video conferencing platforms or social media.
Always use your company account for such platforms to discuss company information. These can include Hangouts Chat, Zoom, or anything signed under the company email. You can maintain security while having productive teleconference meetings. You don't have to jeopardize one because of the other.
Establish a Data Protection Policy While Working Remotely
An essential step that companies need to take to protect their data is to create and promulgate policies on data protection and educate the employees on them. Additionally, after explaining these to the employees, have them review the content, agree to have understood the terms and conditions, and sign the policy.
Concerning the policies themselves, they should dot every "i" and cross every "t." Every single policy should be laid out and justified. Furthermore, and if necessary, provide a brief explanation on the consequences should the policy not be strictly adhered to.
The idea here is to establish that everyone plays a role when it comes to protecting company data. That's why it's crucial that all employees, whether remotely working or not, are informed about the data protection policies.
Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) Across the Organization
A Two-Factor Authentication sometimes referred to as dual-factor authentication or two-step verification, is a security feature that verifies a user using two different means of authentication. In this security feature, the user is prompted to enter another source of verification in addition to their passwords, such as an answer to a set security question, phone number (to which an OTP is sent), or any other personal verification.
The main reason for implementing a 2FA across an organization is the susceptibility of user passwords being stolen via phishing campaigns.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN is a securely encrypted connection that protects your network when using the public internet. It is one of the most essential tools used for remote work. It allows an employee to securely access the company's network resources without the barrier of physical location. Keep in mind that any network that is not secured with a password leaves your information vulnerable and open to hackers.
There are three benefits to using a VPN: remote access, access control, and cybersecurity. Remote access allows the employee to access the company network from anywhere. A VPN can determine who gets access to the network. And, when employees need to access a private network, a VPN creates layers of encryption that allow for secure data transfers from one device to the other, provided they are both under the same VPN. Common examples of Virtual Private Networks include NordVPN, Tailscale, VeePN, etc.
As the workplace becomes more digitized, we are more likely to see increased cybersecurity threats. To combat these and ensure the safety of employee and company data, organizations need to ensure that they provide their remote teams with the necessary tools and information to be on guard for cyber threats.
Initially, this will take some time and effort due to the amount of work that goes into understanding how to handle various measures, updates, and precautions. But just like any other workplace dynamic, handling threats, and taking precautions will become second nature over time.
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