Employees generally enjoy remote working and the flexibility it brings, and employers too can recognize the sense in it. However, are employees that work remotely opening up companies to security risks by doing so? The location-independent workforce is growing by the month. More than two-fifths (43%) of employees worked remotely in some capacity, according to a report by Gallup.
There is no doubt that remote working is driving a shift in working culture. Although connectivity and structure remain important to everyday tasks, the way in which people connect and work within a structure is becoming less important. You only have to think about the growing number of conference calls via Skype or Google Hangouts to prove that distance is no longer a barrier to getting things done.
However, the biggest concern among business owners that embrace remote working practices is online security. A recent study by T-Systems found that almost a third (28%) of employees surveyed had never received cybersecurity training to protect their logins and work accounts from the prying eyes of criminals. Furthermore, 31% admitted to utilizing free Wi-Fi hotspots for connectivity when remote working on the move. While 24% said they used free Wi-Fi hotspots to access sensitive work emails and documentation.
Using Wi-Fi hotspots via unsecured connections is one of the biggest dangers to the security of any business. Unsecured connections are prime targets for cyber-hackers looking to snoop on other users on the same Wi-Fi network, allowing them to steal passwords and sensitive data from emails and documents. Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots can be found everywhere from airports and train stations to coffee shops and hotels.
One of the best alternatives for businesses with remote workers is to create a virtual private network (VPN) that all external employees can connect to, ensuring all data shared is encrypted and secured. Most VPN providers will install periodic patches to their software to ensure user safety. If your remote workers are using cloud-based services to share content, you should look to integrate a web application firewall (WAF) capable of securing apps in the cloud from cyber-attackers keen to take down or otherwise compromise services and pinch sensitive data.
As part of best practice measures, business owners should also invest resources in training their remote staff about phishing attacks. Some cybercriminals generally unleash phishing attacks on naïve, unsuspecting web users as a social engineering tool. They will purport to be a legitimate body or organization and trick them into gifting sensitive data such as account logins and giving hackers unauthorized access to online services. Remote workers should also be educated on what to do when an account is compromised. A damage limitation strategy should be drawn up to limit the amount of confidential data exposed.
With more businesses reaping the productivity benefits of allowing remote working among staff, awareness of company security needs to be uppermost in the thoughts of all employees. Let’s face it, cybercriminals are not going to give up any time soon and they are becoming increasingly clever with their approach to hacking. Integrated enforceable security measures at the earliest opportunity, whatever the cost. The consequences of failing to do so could be disastrous for your business reputation.
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