Working from home isn’t a new concept, but it’s becoming more desirable for employees looking for a better work-life balance. It’s estimated that about 16 percent of the global workforce works from home.
Thanks to the shift in virtual work due to the pandemic, many companies have started to make working from home a more viable option for current and potential employees. But with that flexibility comes great responsibility: Ensuring a secure remote workspace.
Working from the corner coffee shop on public Wi-Fi? Or sharing the same Wi-Fi connection as houseguests? Leaving your computer unlocked when stepping away to run an errand? All are big no-nos in the remote workspace.
With more business taking place online, firms must practice remote workspace security. We’ll take a look at how this works and cover the requirements that should be found in a remote work policy, why firms must implement consistent security training and what to look for when using third-party vendors for conducting business.
Implement a remote work policy
With larger numbers of employees working remotely, your firm must take steps to ensure data security in remote environments, and that starts with implementing a standardized remote work policy. The policy should outline the requirements for working from home (or remotely) and any required network security tools needed to detect and prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.
A remote work policy can have several stipulations, but we’ve narrowed down the four most important requirements for firms to include.
- Private Wi-Fi connection. Whether employees are working from a home office or the corner coffee shop, it’s important that they use a private password-protected Wi-Fi connection and never use public Wi-Fi. A separate Wi-Fi channel is a must to reduce inadvertent security threats for those who may have roommates or houseguests.
- Multi-factor authentication. Cybersecurity experts highly recommend using multi-factor authentication (MFA) for applications that contain sensitive information. MFA requires more than one distinct authorization (i.e., entering a code, receiving a phone call) to access an application upon login. Applications such as Duo Security and Microsoft Authenticator are mobile apps designed for login verification to prevent unauthorized access.
- Virtual private network. A virtual private network (VPN) creates an encrypted environment over a public network. VPNs should be used in public settings (e.g., the local coffee shop or café, airports, hotels) to safeguard data. Many companies choose to have employees log in to a VPN on a daily basis as an extra layer of security, regardless of whether they’re working from home.
- Antivirus protection. While most computers come with antivirus software preinstalled, firms must offer this protection for all devices—computers, tablets and phones—where employees access information. This type of software protects against malware, viruses and other cyber threats. Some antivirus software includes additional protection, such as firewalls, password managers and secure browsers.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, having a remote work policy that outlines security requirements keeps employees accountable and—most importantly—provides a remote workspace focused on diminishing security risks. Make sure all employees, including remote workers and in-office staff, agree to and sign the policy.
Require continued security training
While creating and implementing a remote work policy is a great first line of defense, employees tend to become complacent when it comes to security. The best way to combat that complacency is to require continuous security training. Ensuring that employees are on high alert to potential cyberattacks should be top of mind.
Security training platforms like KnowBe4 provide ongoing security training, including simulated phishing, vishing and smishing attacks, to keep workers conscious and vigilant of possible threats. Employees who fail simulated attacks must go through additional lessons to maintain good standing regarding the protection of sensitive data.
Continued security training ensures that employees are always attentive and aware of possible attacks against your firm. It also keeps your entire firm updated with new forms of cyber threats. Remember that an entire network can be compromised by one lackadaisical employee clicking on a link in an email.
As a firm with access to personal and financial information, you must take precautions to protect and secure data. Learning how to spot malicious intent from outsiders will dramatically reduce security threats. And don’t forget—your firm can use continued security training as a selling point to clients that you take the necessary steps to safeguard their data, regardless of where your employees are working.
Partner with security-minded third parties
Firms can’t only concentrate on remote workstation security. You must also ensure that any third-party vendors that work with your firm have security protocols in place as well. Do they use data encryption when integrating with other applications within your tech stack? How do they protect your client’s data? Do they have processes in place if a security breach occurs?
Most business takes place in the cloud these days. And while there’s no 100% guarantee that the vendors you work with will carry zero risk, there are some questions you can ask when vetting a third-party vendor, such as:
- Do they have internal security protocols in place?
- Do they require MFA?
- Are there access controls in place (e.g., who has access, what applications or data can they access)?
- Do they conduct internal security audits regularly?
- Will they adhere to a third-party cybersecurity policy?
- What is their process in case of a security incident?
- How do they prevent shared access?
- Do their servers have secure and redundant backups?
It’s okay to be selective—your firm’s data (and your clients’) must be safeguarded. Keep in mind that third-party vendor security isn’t just the vendor’s responsibility; it’s also your firm’s responsibility to monitor and conduct regular security audits to ensure there’s been no unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Take steps to secure the workspace
One click in a phishing email. That’s all it takes for one employee to allow hackers access to your firm’s sensitive data.
It’s important to stay vigilant when it comes to security, which is why firms must implement a remote work policy, invest in regular security training for all staff, and take the time to research and vet potential (and current) third-party vendors.
Your clients trust you with their data—it’s up to you to protect it.
For more information on workspace security, download our Security Essentials eBook today!