9 Security Tips For Working Remotely

security tips for working remotelyForty-three percent of American workers said they spent at least some time working remotely last year.

Flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities are an increasingly attractive option to employees, especially during the holidays. But they come with security challenges.

Benefits of Remote Workers

Let’s start with the benefits of flexible and remote work schedules. If there are so many security risks, why do people bother?

Flexible work schedules have several benefits that make it worth the extra security precautions:

  • They improve employee retention and productivity.
  • Flex schedules are a huge draw for potential employees and boost recruiting efforts.
  • They reduce company overhead costs by eliminating the need for office space.
  • Flex schedules eliminate the work commute, reducing car emissions and your carbon footprint.

Security Risks for Remote Employees

Now let’s talk about the risks.

Employees check their email constantly. They move seamlessly between work and personal devices, accessing company data when and where they want to.

This new mobile workforce has increased productivity — and puts your company data at risk.

How Remote Workers Changed IT

IT infrastructure used to be unified. Every employee operated out of secure desktop applications housed in the same network.

Today it’s a little different. Remote employees routinely access data outside of their company’s physically secure, centralized IT system.

Everyone from freelancers and full-time employees to consultants and partners are working on a slew of smartphones, Macs and PC’s in a mash-up of different operating systems and networks. As a result, they’re more vulnerable to network threats that are less common in the office.

Remote workers are typically the first to face security threats. They’re often the source of network security incidents that can ripple quickly through the rest of the organization. Even if you don’t have remote employees, mobile devices like smartphones and laptops pose the same security risks.

Security Tips for Working Remotely

A strong remote security policy is critical to daily operations and network resilience. Here are tactics employers and employees can take to protect their data no matter their location.

Remote Security Best Practices For Employers 

  • Utilize cloud applications: Cloud applications like Office 365 and QuickBooks Online offer 24/7 access. They include updated security features that are compliant with industry regulations.
  • Train employees on best practices: Create clear security guidelines for your employees, so they understand how to protect themselves and their data.
  • Require employees to connect over VPN: Virtual public networks, or VPNs, are similar to firewalls. They are one of the most popular security tools for remote workers because they protect laptop data online while retaining the same security, functionality and appearance as if they were within the company network.
  • Keep employee devices and applications updated: Application updates aren’t just about the latest features. Developers are continually improving security. Activate automatic updates on all remote devices to deploy patches regularly.

Remote Security Best Practices For Employees

Users tend to be complacent when it comes to cybersecurity. Without an IT background, they often assume their company’s IT department is responsible for protecting them even outside of the office.

They often engage in risky behavior including online shopping, “hijacking” neighbors’ wireless networks or Wi-Fi hotspots and using personal devices without antivirus or security software to access corporate resources.

But employees are the first line of defense when it comes to cybersecurity in an organization. Here are security best practices your remote employees should follow.

  • Watch out for email phishing: Cybercriminals use phishing to entice users to share data and login credentials, typically through an email, instant message or text message. While IT security measures can help, phishing defense starts with the employees. Employees should be trained to look out for unusual emails with misspelled email addresses, fishy-looking links or strange requests.
  • Create strong passwords: Excellent passwords are the first line of defense. It’s also a necessary security precaution many employees fail to take. Don’t rely on simple passwords (looking at you “password123”) that are easily hacked.
  • Never leave your bag, briefcase or laptop unattended: It seems obvious but cannot be overstated (remember the Apple employee that left the not-yet-released iPhone at a bar?). While leaving your laptop might not make headlines, it can compromise data and cause serious security headaches.
  • Use caution with wireless networks: Working from a coffee shop or hotel? Use caution when using public wireless networks. Unsecured networks make it easier for cybercriminals to access emails and passwords.
  • Keep your work separate: Nearly one-third of users use their company computer for personal use. It not only affects productivity but invites security threats. Your company laptop should only be used by you and keep personal tasks off your business laptop.

Additional Security Resources

Want more? We go in-depth on security topics on email phishing and password best practices:

Secure Your Company With Helixstorm’s Managed Services

Cybersecurity requires constant vigilance. If you’re nervous about your current security policies, give us a call. We’ll assess and implement the necessary security precautions to ensure your employees can work safely and productively.

Plus, we can take the daily IT management off your hands. Give us a call today to chat about your IT security.