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Tips for Keeping Company Data Secure with a Remote Workforce

More people than ever are working from home, and it looks like this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Beyond the simple matter of health and safety, many employees appreciate the flexibility of remote work. It also allows your company to draw on a larger pool of talent when hiring. However, having a remote workforce does lead to some challenges, especially when it comes to security. If you’re working to improve the security of your remote workforce, the task can seem daunting. After all, when people connect through different networks, the number of potential threats increases exponentially.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. By following these best practices, you can keep your company secure while still empowering your employees to work safely from any location.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network, or VPN, is essential for keeping your remote workforce secure. It acts as a secure, private internet connection between your employees and company resources that malicious programs and hackers cannot intercept. Every employee should use a VPN whenever they access the internet to do work. Using a VPN serves two purposes. First, it encrypts the information that may be confidential, keeping company passwords and customer information out of the hands of potential cybercriminals. Second, it helps protect your anonymity. Outside of the VPN’s administrators, no one can easily identify VPN users or monitor their activity. This combination allows remote workers to do their job wherever they may be without putting the company or its clients at risk. One important caveat with VPNs is that they’re only useful when they’re active. Turning off a VPN completely negates the security it offers. Providing an always-on VPN to remote workers can be crucial for keeping your information secure.

Beware Phishing Scams

Educating remote workers about the dangers of phishing scams is essential to prevent malware and ransomware from affecting your business. Explaining phishing scams to your employees will help you avoid one of the most significant risks of remote work. Phishing scams try to convince people to click links or download files that contain harmful software. They often take the form of convincing, fake emails about important topics, such as new company policies, requests from clients, or new assignments from superiors. Once a harmful link is clicked or a suspicious download started, the phishing software accesses the employee’s computer and scans for passwords, financial records, or other sensitive information. It can infect an entire company’s network in a few hours once it gains a foothold. Taking the time to train your employees on how to spot and avoid these scams can save you from expensive security blunders. It’s possible to avoid most phishing scams simply by putting some simple rules in place, like double-checking the sources of emails and never clicking on unknown links or files.

Install Security Updates Immediately

Requiring employees to perform all security updates quickly is another valuable best practice to implement. New threats, viruses, and exploits are constantly being identified. When a security threat has been discovered, your operating system, antivirus, and security software providers will release updates that patch vulnerabilities. However, until these updates are actually installed on your employee’s computers, they aren’t protected.

Performing software updates as soon as possible is a fundamental best practice for remote workforces. There’s just no good reason to leave your network open to attack by waiting to install these patches. Instituting employee guidelines that require them to update and shut down all devices used to do work tasks nightly will help keep your software up to the challenges of keeping you safe.

Perform a Password Inspection

The weakest point of any security system is often the password. Your security infrastructure can be as robust as you like, but it won’t matter if your employees use passwords like “password1.” To avoid this, encourage or require employees to strengthen their passwords.

A few simple guidelines for creating strong passwords include:
● Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters
● Include numbers and symbols
● Avoid repeating letters or numbers
● Avoid personal information, like birthdays
● Avoid using common passwords such as those on the NordPass list
● Avoid reusing passwords, especially passwords used for accounts outside of work
These rules make it harder for hackers to guess or brute-force their way through a password.

You can take another step to protect accounts, as well. Using multi-factor authentication requires employees to log in with their password as well as a second device. Whenever someone tries to log into a two-factor authenticated account on a new device, it will send a prompt to the account owner’s phone. As a result, hackers will only be able to access the account if they have also managed to steal someone’s personal device, keeping your company safer.

Separate Professional and Private Data

Finally, it’s worthwhile to keep remote workers’ professional equipment and data separate from their personal data and devices. Many online threats target consumers just as often as they go after businesses. Any employee who uses their work computer as their personal device exposes it to twice as many risks. Consider this: an employee who uses their personal laptop to handle work requirements is likely to turn their VPN off when they’re done for the day. Every piece of confidential information is now potentially at risk. If they visit a dangerous website and wind up with malware on their device, your business is now in trouble. This risk is only exacerbated by the fact that cybercriminals are aware of the growing number of remote workers. It may be worthwhile to provide your employees with computers to be used only for professional purposes to avoid cross-contamination caused by their personal use.

Stay Safe at a Distance

Protecting your company from threats like ransomware and malware is the entire purpose of cybersecurity. Your company’s networks, backups, and data are valuable to bad actors looking to profit from complacency. Taking steps in advance to keep your company secure will pay significant dividends in the long run. By using multi-factor authentication, providing your employees with a VPN, explaining phishing scams, requiring the use of strong passwords, and performing regular software updates, you can keep your remote workforce — and your business — safe.

With a remote workforce you need to ensure top security, Contact the pros at BKS, we have 20 years of experience in IT service, we will make sure your company data is secure and your business stays up and running!

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