Remote work has become essential for many companies struggling to operate through the ongoing pandemic. But working away from the office puts employees and the organization at risk of different cyber threats, which is why it’s important to have extra security measures in place.
So what are the best cybersecurity practices to keep the network and devices secure during remote work? Employees and organizations are advised to use a VPN, create strong passwords, use two-factor authentication, keep work and personal devices separate, update the computer regularly, have a remote work policy, and watch out for malware and phishing scams.
7 Security Tips for Remote Workers
According to a study by NorthOne, about 58.6% of the country’s total workforce use remote work due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed many employees to do most of their work in the comfort of their own homes. It also helped many organizations operate and serve customers as usual.
But aside from the convenience it brings, remote work also poses different cybersecurity challenges that companies might not be equipped to deal with. Companies and their employees need to prepare for any potential threat they might encounter during remote work. Boost the organization’s cybersecurity measures with these simple security tips:
1) Use A VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) secures all the transmitted data within the network using data encryption. It’s designed to prevent different cybercriminals from accessing the sensitive data stored or transmitted between users. This may include customer information and financial documents that hackers might use for identity theft, extortion, and other kinds of cybercrimes.
If the company already uses a VPN, make sure to keep it on when working. Turning off the VPN might give criminals a chance to exploit the vulnerability, access the network, and steal sensitive information. Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks when accessing work-related information to minimize the risk of cyberthreats.
2) Create Strong Passwords
Passwords are the first line of defense against suspicious and unauthorized access to computers, devices, and personal information. Having a strong password increases the employees’ protection levels because it makes it difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to the private network.
Here are some of the best tips to follow when choosing a strong, unique password:
- Don’t use common words, characters, and combinations when creating a password. Codes like “mypassword” and combinations like “1234” are terrible choices because they’re predictable.
- Always opt for memorable passwords that are at least eight characters long. Best password combinations usually include three random words with a few digits and symbols.
- Avoid having the same password across different platforms and accounts. If it’s hard for you to remember a couple of different password combinations, use a password manager. It’s one of the most basic security measures that organizations have to protect their confidential business data from cybercriminals.
3) Use Two-Factor Authentication
Even though a strong password already helps minimize cyber risks, they’re not enough to protect the organization from all types of threats. A cybercriminal might “guess” the password using hacking tools that utilize large dictionaries and machine learning. This is when two-factor authentication (2FA) becomes handy.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a layer of protection to the accounts. It also validates the employee’s identity to minimize the room for error. The 2FA may come in different forms like emails, randomly generated PINs, or text messages that only authorized employees may provide. It limits the risk of unauthorized and suspicious access by acting as a “second gate.”
4) Keep Work and Personal Devices Separate
If a remote worker uses a personal device for different work-related tasks, they’re putting the organization at risk of a security breach. Safety protocols like virus scans, malicious site blocking, and regular updates might not work on personal devices, which is why it’s important to only use work devices for accomplishing work tasks.
Always remind everyone to keep the personal and work devices separate. This minimizes cyber risks and prevents both business and personal data from being stolen.
5) Update the Device Regularly
Updates might be annoying for most people because of the downtime and the delays they cause, but it’s important to never ignore these pop-up windows when they show up. When this notification is on the screen, make sure to install the latest software immediately.
These updates are released to patch all the vulnerabilities in the system that might have been ignored in the previous update. They’re especially important for remote workers who access company accounts and systems through their personal devices.
If you and your employees tend to forget to manually update your software, then make sure to select the auto-update option on the computer and other devices. This helps give you and your team a nudge to put cybersafety first for things in your business to continue running smoothly, especially in the digital aspect.
6) Have a Remote Work Policy for the Team
A remote work policy for the employees helps improve the team’s risk management capabilities. The policies should include topics like compliance requirements, data protection, information systems security, alternative worksite, backup and storage, remote access control, and information disposal.
If you’re not sure where to start when creating a remote work policy for the team, here are a few helpful tips to follow:
- Discuss how the employees are expected to work and communicate with each other. Make sure to highlight their roles, communication channels, and even office hours. Talk to the finance, HR, and legal teams before implementing policies to ensure that the transition is smooth.
- Provide them with the right equipment for secure and successful work. This may include work computers and task management software.
- Make time for collaborating and socializing. Time management is one of the most important aspects of remote work, which is why it’s important to leave out a few hours for brainstorming sessions, planning, and even team-building activities.
- Outline the legal rights that every employee has for working remotely. Remote workers should also have the same legal protection that in-office workers enjoy. Make sure to address these and comply with other regulations.
7) Watch Out for Phishing Scams
With more inexperienced companies trying remote work, cybercriminals take this as a chance to flood inboxes with fake and malicious emails. One of the most common scams rampant recently is phishing emails that include malware.
Remote workers should be careful about clicking links and attachments on suspicious emails. Organizations should teach them to recognize the signs of a phishing email. If you’re suspicious about the email in the inbox, here are a few ways to check if it has malicious content:
- Legitimate organizations have their own email domains and company accounts. Don’t open an email if it’s from a public domain and ends with “@gmail.com” or “@yahoo.com.”
- Double-check if there is any misspelling in the domain name.
- Look for spelling and grammatical errors in the email’s body. Most phishing emails are filled with poorly written content.
- Don’t open files you’re not supposed to receive. It’s also recommended to confirm with your co-workers if they sent an email before opening the document.
- Don’t trust an “urgent” email from someone unknown. Scammers often use this trick to make people click the malicious link or download the attachment.
The Challenges of Remote Work and How to Overcome Them
There are many advantages of working in the comfort of your own home, but can also be difficult and demanding at the same time. Many employees experience problems when it comes to managing their work-life balance, and then there’s also the threat of exposing your business or the company you work for to different kinds of cyberthreats.
Cyberattacks lead to loss of money, identity theft, and the leakage of other personal information for a certain ransom. These threats lead to a disruption in the operations, as well as damage to the employees’ safety and the company’s reputation. Recovering from a cyberattack costs thousands to millions of dollars, which is why many small businesses go bankrupt and close their business after getting hit.
Luckily, there are simple ways to greatly improve an organization’s cybersecurity. Strong passwords, recognizing threats, and even simply using a VPN all help minimize the risk of cyberattacks. But if you’re looking for other ways to improve the company’s IT infrastructure and cybersecurity measures, it’s best to consult with a trusted IT solutions provider about the company’s needs and goals.
Work from Home Safely and Securely with Abacus
At Abacus, we understand the importance of remote working amidst the pandemic. You can count on us to provide comprehensive IT solutions that keep the company safe from different cyberthreats. Our friendly and knowledgeable IT experts and support personnel are always ready to coach employees on cybersecurity measures and solve different IT-related problems. We always make sure to keep all your systems secure and efficient to keep your remote operations running smoothly and threat-free.
Experience the Abacus advantage today by calling us at (856) 505 – 6860 to book a consultation.