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Cyber Protection for Working in Your PJs

Wed, 19 Jun 2019

Thanks to technology, there is a fundamental shift in the concept and design of work. We’re spending less time on productive tasks because productivity is increasingly generated by automated machines. The working environment is changing with less traditional brick-and-mortar offices and more use of shared multi-purpose spaces. Talent assets are becoming a global commodity and employees are more often hired based on task necessities, unencumbered by geographical restraints. With the freedoms that technology offers, more people are working remotely, not governed by employers that reside in their city, sometimes not even in their country. 

Cyber Protection for Working in Your PJsAccording to statistics from 2015, 23 percent of employees reported doing a portion of their work remotely.[i] The average telecommuter may surprise you – it’s a 49-year-old college graduate who works for an organization with 100 or more employees, according to the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey.[ii] And the remote work phenomenon appears to be steadily rising. The annual survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found a significant increase in the number of corporations planning to offer telecommuting than those offering almost any other new benefit.[iii] What do increases in remote work mean for the cybersecurity of your company.

Remote work is widely viewed as beneficial for both employees and organizations. It’s changing the way employers hire talent and manage their employees, increasing diversity and strengthening operations. However, it’s also leaving businesses’ sensitive data vulnerable to cybercriminals. In fact, 86 percent of C-level executives believe that the risk of a data breach increases when employees work remotely.[iv] 

Mobile devices, like smartphones and laptops, are necessary tools for anyone working remotely. These devices have specific vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit to breach your company’s network and access your data. It doesn’t matter whether your employees are working from a traditional office, a home office, their favourite place for a caffeine fix, or on a houseboat on the Seine, it’s your responsibility to keep your remote employees, your company network and your company’s data records, secure.

Cyber Protection for Working in Your PJs[v]

Here’s how …

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

Monitor your remote employees' business-issued devices, ensuring that they are only using the equipment for work-related activities. There are numerous cloud-based employee-monitoring software programs to select from. Some can even monitor what projects employees are working on, tracking the time they are spending on various projects and what applications they are using (especially if they are installing sketchy apps that put your company in danger). All of this data can also help boost productivity and assist with time-management in addition to increasing cybersecurity. With monitoring tools, you can track whether employees are subjecting your business to cybersecurity threats and confirm that they are adhering to company cybersecurity protocols. 

The Same Rules Apply

One of the most effective ways to ensure the security of your remote employees’ data is to put in effect robust cybersecurity protocols across your company. These protocols should include documentation of your organization’s cybersecurity policy, periodic workshops and training, and some sort of confirmation or signed document acknowledging and promising to adhere to the established protocols. For remote employees, the cybersecurity policy needs to include the mandate to perform timely patches and updates to anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, the use of strong passwords that change routinely, as well as avoiding public Wi-Fi usage.

Distance Education

Employees can be your strongest line of defence against cyber attacks. It all depends on how informed they are about the cybersecurity threats your organization faces. From employees leaving mobile devices and laptops unattended in public places, using weak passwords, or storing sensitive data on the local hard drive, to inadvertently communicating confidential information to a hacker during a socially-engineered spear-phishing campaign, human error is the greatest threat to your company's cybersecurity. Almost 90 percent of cyber incidents are caused by human error or uninformed behaviour.[vi] An employee education and training program is a vital part of any-sized company’s cybersecurity defence. The cybersecurity training program needs to encompass all employees, including those who work remotely.

You’ve Got to Keep Them Separated

According to a survey conducted by Cisco, 46 percent of employees working remotely admit to transferring files between work and personal computers.[vii] Typically work devices are more fortified than personal technologies. Supplying remote workers with protected work-specific tools, clearly establishing usage protocol and monitoring for adherence to the policy increases cybersecurity. Having distinct work and personal devices decreases the chances of sharing malware, or spreading viruses, between devices.

Secure Server Service

Email communication is the most common way of sharing critical information between remote workers and the office. Therefore, encryption software should be used to safeguard files. Whether you use a virtual disk drive, Perfect Forward Secrecy, or software that processes data and folders creating encrypted versions of each. 

Keep it Private

Implementing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great way to secure your remote employees. VPNs can safeguard the data your remote employees send and receive online while shielding their internet connections from unauthorized interferences. A VPN allows you to boost the security of their online sessions, data in transit, financial transactions, and personal information, no matter their location. VPNs create virtual peer-to-peer connections. If a threat agent is attempting to access information, encryption guarantees data safety. Be sure that you go with a VPN from a reputable third party that doesn’t log your business’s activity.

Keep the End in Sight

Maintaining endpoint security is critical. For organizations with remote workers, endpoint security is the last line of defence against cyber threats attempting to launch attacks against integral company systems. Installing and maintaining network firewalls and anti-virus software helps to protect the mobile devices of remote employees. Without patching, threat actors can exploit outdated software and gain a foothold in your network, accessing valuable targets, such as consumer data, employee credentials, and intellectual property.

With the many advantages of remote work, the number of employees working remotely either part-time or fully is only going to increase in the coming years. But organizations must be aware of the security issues that can come with the deployment of a remote workforce. Organizations must focus on making remote work safe and cyber-secure for both their employees and for the business itself.

 

 



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