When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our country, it effectively changed business as we know it. Some companies were forced to close their doors, while others had to move to a remote workforce to ensure safety guidelines, including social distancing. While there was some apprehension, it seems that remote work has proven successful, and many companies may continue to keep remote employees even after the virus stops being an issue.
However, there are still challenges that must be faced as far as training and implementing remote work. This includes setting up communication platforms, promoting employee engagement, and of course, keeping systems secure. Hackers are aware of this change in people’s lives, and their attacks are now more frequent than ever.
As an employer or an employee, it is your responsibility to keep customer and company data secure. Doing so is easier than you may think.
Scare your employees and share the risks
Before you send your employees out into the world to work remotely, you must take the time to teach and express the importance of data security. Hackers target businesses big and small, and with around 62% of businesses experiencing hacking attempts over the last couple of years, the chances are more likely than not that your company could be targeted. The threat is even more likely if you are a marketing agency or a business that uses any form of data mining to improve your marketing and selling efforts because any data stolen can be used to harm customers and your bottom line.
The fact is that any form of data can be manipulated for malicious purposes. An email address can be used to set up a fake account online, and hackers with credit card numbers can take out fraudulent loans that could financially ruin a customer in a matter of hours. If your company goes beyond accepting basic data and delves deeper with elaborate data mining, then hackers could know even more information, which can be used to manipulate the emotions of potential victims via phishing emails.
Hold a meeting or a webinar for your staff to explain the risks that could become a reality if security measures are not followed, which could include an irreversible blow to your reputation as a business. You are likely not the only game in town, and if customers don’t feel that their data is safe with you, they will likely take their business elsewhere. Even if your customers stick around, the cost associated with a breach could put you into bankruptcy, as the current average cost to repair a company after an attack is $8 million. Long story short, if your employees don’t value security, they could be out of a job, and so could everyone else.
Read more: How big data changes the training scenery
Now that your employees are aware of the dangers, it’s time to put the necessary protocols in place and ensure that they’re followed. This starts with good passwords. Hackers can use brute force attacks with computer programs that attempt millions of passwords to guess the correct one. To thwart this attack, all employees should have complex passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Passwords should be updated at least once per month. If an employee ever leaves the company, their access to all programs should be immediately revoked.
All data should be backed up on a secure backup server that is separate from the main system, and the information on that system should be encrypted so it cannot be used if stolen. Additionally, all remote employees should have antivirus software installed, and scans should be run daily. Employees must be told to update this antivirus program and their other messaging and productivity software whenever a new revision is available, as this will protect against the newest threats.
If your organization is new to remote work or you just don’t have the resources or staffing to ensure the required security protocols, you may want to consider moving your business to the cloud. The beauty of cloud computing is that you can limit your physical office space by having all programs and backup servers online so they can be accessed with the click of a button. Even better is that, although you still need to employ smart passwords, many cloud computing companies take care of security on their end as part of your monthly plan so you can rest easy knowing that your data is in good hands.
When working in public
Working remotely allows a bit more freedom than employees typically get when working out of the office, and sometimes, they may take their work on the road. However, if employees opt to work at a public place like a coffee shop or restaurant, then they need to be cautious of common scams. As the first line of security, all employees should be required to have a virtual private network installed on their computer. A VPN will effectively block prying eyes from your work and encrypt the data.
Even with a VPN, remote workers need to be aware of common hacking techniques, including the Man in the Middle attack. This is essentially a fake Wi-Fi network made to look like the restaurant’s official network. However, this is set up by a hacker with the intent of having you connect to their device where they can easily steal the information they need.
When working out in public, it can be easy to get distracted and lose sight of your device or have it stolen altogether. That is why employees must lock their devices when not in use and use two-factor authentication in addition to their strong passwords. This additional measure will require a code that is sent to a secure line where only the intended receiver will have access. This code will need to be entered in addition to the password.
All in all
For some, the idea of securing data from a distance can be daunting, but by educating your staff and employing simple measures, you will keep data protected and retain satisfied customers.
Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of tech, marketing, lifestyle, and culture.