Remote work wasn’t just a pandemic-era trend. It’s here to stay. Employees love the improved work-life balance it offers, and employers like the cost savings and reduced turnover. Remote work is great…mostly. It does require extra precautions.
Remote Work is Here to Stay
Anyone who thought working from home at least part time would disappear once the pandemic faded was mistaken. Fewer than one-quarter of US workers anticipate working fully on-site in 2023 and beyond, according to Gallup.
Hybrid work is becoming the new normal for many organizations, with employees splitting time between home and the office. The trend is positive for employers, who can save more than $11,000 per employee per year by having workers stay home just half of every workweek.
In fact, 24% of workers say they won’t return to the office at all—a larger number than those who expect to be in the office full-time (23%). Only 9% of employees want to work full-time in the office.
Working from Home Is a Security Risk
Remote work is great for both employees and employers. Unfortunately, it’s also great for cybercriminals. Working from home increases the frequency of cyberattacks by 238%. There are lots of reasons why, but a few cybersecurity risks of working from home stand out.
Remote workers tend to use personal devices, often not properly secured, for work tasks. They also do the reverse, using work devices for personal tasks. And they’re far more likely than office-only workers to let other people—think kids or spouses—use their work devices.
The casual mixing of business and personal use greatly increases the risk of somebody, be it a kid, a grandparent or even a worker in a casual mood, clicking on a phishing email and launching malware into an organization’s networks. A cybersecurity gaffe committed by a worker at home can lead to a catastrophic breach and critical data loss for an employer.
The same goes for business travel, which is rebounding, however unevenly, in the aftermath of the pandemic. Working while on the road is remote work, too, and carries many of the cybersecurity risks of working from home. A road warrior who uses public Wi-Fi without logging into a virtual private network (VPN), for instance, puts your business at risk.
How to Work Safely from Just about Anywhere
There are a few essential policies every business should have for remote work. The first is to run all critical business applications in the cloud with a trusted service provider. Why? The cloud offers several significant advantages over an in-office server:
- Central platform. Users can work in files and applications at the same time with no need to worry about lost data, errors or problems with version control.
- Digital standardization. Along those same lines, your employees and clients need access to a single set of data anytime and from anywhere. That’s hard to provide with an in-office server, but it’s standard in the cloud.
- Managed updates. Whether you have remote workers or not, you don’t want to have to update your own server. You’re busy enough as it is. Updates can be critical for security and functionality. Let a professional service provider handle them.
- Security. This is the biggest issue of all for most businesses. A cloud provider provides security updates automatically so you don’t have to worry about them, and a provider can also stop security breaches from leading to theft of your business’s data.
There are a few other considerations regarding remote workers that business owners need to consider:
- Only connect authorized equipment to your business’s network. Either mandate that employees use only business-owned devices at home or carefully verify security settings if employees use their own devices while working remotely. Do not let an employee attach a “rogue” device to your network.
- Keep an inventory of your business’s equipment. If you do allow employees to use their own secure devices, mandate that they cannot share those devices with family members or friends.
- Limit the applications employees can install. A trusted partner can help with this when you run applications in the cloud. Ideally, installations should be limited to applications approved and managed by a cloud provider.
- Encourage smart security practices for remote employees. Teach employees to use long, complex passwords that don’t repeat from one login to another. Verify that their home internet access is secure. Make sure employees are logging in via a VPN, especially if they’re working in a place with public Wi-Fi. Use multifactor authentication (MFA) for logins. Basic home security is a concern, too; employees should have strong locks on doors as well as digital doorbells with cameras.
Why Is Security Awareness Training Important?
No matter what kind of security provisions you put in place, your employees are your best line of defense against a cyberattack. A rogue click on a malicious link can still sink your business, even if you’ve prioritized security.
A major report from Verizon on data breaches concluded that 82% of breaches occur due to human error. Cyberattackers are becoming more sophisticated all the time, and they’re now backed by vendors that develop technology for cybercrime and even by governments looking to spy on foreign businesses.
Technology can help avoid attacks and can remediate damage caused by one, but the first line in preventing attacks is always people. Every business needs to train employees in how to recognize and avoid security threats, and mitigate the cybersecurity risks of working from home. That’s especially true in an organization with remote workers who will likely be working on devices outside work hours and might be susceptible to fatigue or just plain laziness.
The right cloud provider can help. For instance, Security Awareness Training from Right Networks is an employee education program that provides best practices for staying safe online. It uses a gamified training program developed by experts and tests users regularly on how to identify and avoid an attempted data breach.
It’s very likely that you have staff who already and will continue to work at home. Make sure your business is safe by putting the right protocols in place and helping employees know how to protect themselves, your data and your business.
Ready to get started with cloud hosting? Have questions about security training? Get started here.