As the remote workforce increases, cybersecurity and staying safe online have come to be important considerations for business owners and employers around the world, writes Amie Thurlow, outreach executive at Further.
In the modern office environment, digital transformation has made it increasingly common for work to take place remotely. However, making this transition can come with increased risk when it comes to cybersecurity, not least as increasing the number of devices used by employees widens the network’s attack surfaces.
4 Tips to Ensure Cybersecurity in a Remote Workforce
What can you do to help keep your employees’ devices safe when they are working remotely?
Mandate strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA)
With a majority of the workforce pushed to working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile working has become a mandate, and restricting access to it is not viable or possible. Instead, simple, achievable measures should be put in place. The easiest way to keep your employees safe online is to reiterate the importance of secure up-to-date passwords and enabling two-factor authentication where it is available.
Secure passwords have long been a mantra for security experts and continue to be for a good reason. Despite countless warnings, people are still drawn to the convenience of simple and memorable passwords over the increased protection offered by more robust alternatives â€“ as demonstrated by the 23 million accountsOpens a new window using the password â€œ123456â€ in April 2019. In addition to complex passwords, it is also vital that they are regularly changed and never reused across accounts.
This is easy to say, but when you are trying to work, a mountain of ever-changing passwords can be a hindrance. A simple way to help staff balance convenience and security in these situations is to provide a Password Manager tool. With the device storing the passwords, users will only need one password, or a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint, to gain access to their accounts.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds another level of security to the sign-in process. In addition to a password, a code is sent to a separate device to verify user authenticity. This limits the damage that could otherwise be caused by stolen login details. The great thing about 2FA is that it is free and readily available. It’s not always switched on as a default, activating it wherever possible provides another layer of protection immediately.
Introduce regular training for employees
In many cases, data breaches and cyberattacks do not occur because hackers have outsmarted your perimeter software, but that human error has introduced a simple backdoor into your network. Research conducted by ApricornOpens a new window discovered that 63% of U.K. organizations considered human error the leading cause of data breaches. This can be as simple as inadvertently opening suspicious email attachments or failing to apply patches and updates when they become available. The chances of cyberattacks and data breaches are increased further when employees use their personal devices for work, as the security may not be set up to a suitable standard.
To avoid falling foul of easily avoidable weaknesses, be sure to provide regular training for all staff, regardless of their role in the company. While many people use computers during their working day, it does not follow that they all have a suitable level of understanding of security best practices.
Offering regular sessions that teach the basics, provide best practice updates, and act as a forum for flagging concerns will help to build confidence. And make sure that, at the very least, staff will be confident as to who needs to be informed should something suspicious occur.
Ensure both physical and digital security
As remote working does not necessarily mean home working, it is essential to consider how the security implications of your staff working in public places, such as cafes and public transport, may also impact physical security. Antivirus and robust security are essential for protecting data accessed remotely, regardless of location. Still, additional care has to be taken with the physical device itself, which is at increased risk of loss or theft outside the office environment.
To tackle this issue, make sure that your employees are aware of the importance of making sure that devices are always secure. Restricting access to only the data and documents required for an individual’s tasks will prevent unrelated data being put at risk should devices go missing. Cloud backups are another simple method for minimizing data loss.
Make cybersecurity an individual responsibility
A familiar maxim around cybersecurity is that you are only ever as strong as your weakest link. Introducing new training and policies is a positive step. Still, their implementation must be unilateral to avoid cracks appearing â€“ and that means security must become a daily consideration for all staff, not just IT specialists.
To ensure that security becomes a primary consideration while working outside the office, the introduction of a bring your device (BYOD) policy will outline the expectations that an employee will have to agree to meet and maintain before they are allowed to access company documents on personal devices. This should include additional training to ensure that best practices around the endpoint security softwareOpens a new window installed on their devices are fully understood.
Cybersecurity Is a Matter of Trust
For BYOD and more comprehensive security policy changes to be effective, trust is vital. Employers need to trust that staff working remotely will take the necessary precautions to reduce risks, and employees need transparency about what the security software on their devices will be monitoring. If both sides can pull together, the benefits of mobile working can be enjoyed by everyone involved, without taking unnecessary security risks.
How are you enabling cybersecurity as your workforce works remotely? Let us know on TwitterOpens a new window , FacebookOpens a new window , or LinkedInOpens a new window . We would love to hear from you.