When everyone is working under the same roof, it is relatively easy to control the IT infrastructure. The IT team or managed care provider can lock down the corporate network, set up firewalls to keep intruders at bay and monitor network traffic for suspicious activity on an ongoing basis.
That is all well and good, but what happens when there are thousands of individual networks communicating with the corporate mothership? That is exactly what is happening to businesses from coast to coast and around the world, as millions of new telecommuters trade their cubicles for brand new home offices.
Working remotely can be great for employee morale, and the cost savings can positively impact the bottom line. But if business owners and executive teams are not careful, those brand new telecommuters could become the latest security risk.
Hackers, corporate spies and organized gangs of identity thieves are already targeting telecommuters, sending out phishing emails, posing as tech support professionals and using social engineering to trick otherwise savvy workers into giving up insider secrets and sharing proprietary information. If you want to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, you need a plan in place, including the strategies outlined below.
Start with a Formalized Remote Work Policy
Developing a remote workforce takes time, and rushing the process is a mistake. Even if you need to move fast, make sure you protect yourself and your data with a formal remote work policy.
This remote work policy should cover everything from minimum requirements for computer hardware and software, restrictions on the use of personal devices, to guidelines on how files will be stored and accessed. Training should be an integral part of the transition as well, so at-home workers know exactly what they should, and should not, be doing when they leave their cubicles behind.
Follow Up with Regular Security Audits
Having a remote work policy in place is one thing, but making sure it is being followed is something else entirely. Once that formal policy is in place, businesses should follow up with regular security audits.
These security checkups can be done remotely, through tracking software, network scanning and other means. IT staff can also send out fake phishing emails to test the responses of remote workers, following up with additional training for any employees who take the bait.
Keep Prying Eyes at Bay with a Robust VPN
With thousands of workers scattered throughout the region and working out of their own homes, data will be flying back and forth at a furious pace. Every packet of information is one more chance for hackers and identity thieves to gain access, so IT departments should secure that data with a robust VPN.
A VPN, or virtual private network, creates a secure tunnel between those thousands of home-based workers with individual Wi-Fi networks and the corporate network at the office or managed service provider. Choosing a VPN designed with a remote workforce in place can enhance security even further, reducing the risk that proprietary information will end up in the wrong hands.
Place Restrictions on Printing of Sensitive Information
At the office, it is easy to control access and keep unauthorized individuals out. From key card systems that restrict access to employees and place limits on the times they can enter, to reception desks that require visitors to sign in and provide ID, these actions enhance security and reduce the risk to proprietary information.
None of these safeguards are in place when employees are working at home. You never know who is looking over the shoulders of those telecommuters or who is sharing their living spaces.
That is why it is important to place restrictions on sensitive, proprietary or confidential files. Whether those documents arrive by email, cloud storage or shared workspaces, restricting the printing of hard copies can keep nosy roommates and curious kids and spouses from seeing this private information.
Working from home can be a dream come true for many employees, but it can be a security nightmare for IT staff around the world. If your workforce has recently gone remote, it is important to make sure your data is still secure. Now is the time to enhance security, so you can focus on ramping up your remote capabilities and reaping the many benefits of telecommuting.