Top Seven Security Practices to Consider If Your Employees Work Remotely

Few can argue that the advent of the Internet brought opened many doors for both established businesses and entrepreneurs alike – and the continued cyberization of the modern world has only increased these opportunities exponentially. "Remote office" or "home office" is now a much more common phenomenon than it was twenty years ago, when the work one could do from the comfort of their own home or while on the road was severely limited. While a dedicated office space definitely has its merits, a remote setup yields benefits and advantages both for companies and their workforce. However, this practice requires companies to make certain adjustments to their policy regarding employee behavior, with regards to security. With this in mind - here are a couple of examples of excellent practices that employers should implement to drastically improve the security of their business:

  1. Make sure the employee has a dedicated workstation. While it may be tempting for companies just to let employees make do with what they have at hand, as long as the results keep coming in, this can't be stressed hard enough. Make your employees only use dedicated machines when performing their duties. Also, make sure that said workstation is only used for company business, and not for private web-surfing, as that may put the machine at risk if the employee in question is not careful. This dramatically reduces the risk of the workstation getting suffering a malicious attack.
  2. Only the employee in question must have access to their workstation (computer or laptop). No one but the employee in question must have access to the device on which said employee is doing their work. Employers should make that absolutely clear, and make sure to enforce the rule because the alternative leaves them open for potentially disastrous catastrophes. True, the remote employee may be the most honest and tech-savvy person in the world, but can the same be said for their spouse and/or siblings and/or roommate and/or child? Better not risk it.
  3. Restrict employee access to certain networks. Browsing the web through an unsecured network exposes a remote employee's machine to potential hacking. There are various methods hackers can employ to gain access to all of the information sent out through the Internet. Nothing is completely safe when you're browsing from a public network - confidential emails, security credentials, credit card details – anything can be nabbed out of the aether. Better stay safe – make sure that your employees only use secure networks. Or Use VPN.
  4. Make remote employees use Virtual Private Networks. The so-called VPNs are perfect for remote workers who don't want to or for some other reason can't only use secured networks while performing their daily tasks involving sensitive company data and information. To put it simply, VPNs combine encryption protocols and dedicated connections in order to create a virtual peer to peer connections. This connection, in turn, keeps hackers from actually gaining access to meaningful data that they may have otherwise managed to obtain.
  5. Take the time to learn and instruct employees on matters of online security. Even if they may seem like experienced internet users, there's no guarantee that your employees are up to date with the current best practices in online security. If the employee's job involves them browsing suspicious or potentially dubious websites, their machines should be equipped with adequate anti-malware software, and have firewalls running at all times. If their job includes interacting with social media, they should be instructed to be doubly careful of all links and wary of all their sources - clicking or opening them without assessing them critically beforehand can put them at risk of a malware infection. Same goes for emails – remote employees should always keep a close eye on their correspondence, and always examine it with a critical eye. It is a good practice always to check the origin of the email you are reading – because what may look like legitimate correspondence may well end up being a phishing scam or a malware-laden email. Employees should know to be extra careful when dealing with emails that have attachments and links in them. Both of those things are prominent vectors of malware infection – they should be taught how to recognize and avoid the danger.
  6. Employers should be strict on policies. Regardless of other practices and the employer or employee's personal feelings on the matter, it is vital that companies implement and strictly follow their own security policies. No excuses – again, your employee may be the most reliable person in the world. But what about the people around them, the websites that they visit off-hours, the public networks that they use? Employers can't depend on all of those being completely safe. Remote employees usually can't guarantee that said things are safe – and they shouldn't need to. Implementing and enforcing a strict company policy on the matter simplifies things and removes many of the risks involved in remote employment, for both sides.
  7. Communication is key. Remote workers need to be made aware of the importance of reporting problems with their workstations immediately so that adequate measures can be taken by the employer in a timely manner. Such problems may be anything from hardware or software malfunctions and damages to the workstation to data breaches and malware infections. Employers should be very clear – transparency is mandatory in the face of adversity.

December 7, 2018

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