Allowing a work-from-home setup has numerous benefits for businesses and the modern workforce. It may sound counterintuitive, but remote employees can actually focus better if they work at home. So not only can you save on office space, you can also improve the productivity of your staff by letting them work in their own time and place.
However, businesses need to deal with the associated risks of having a virtual workplace. Keep in mind that the internet is not exactly the safest place for you to transmit and share data. Without the proper security measures, you are vulnerable to digital eavesdroppers that can steal your data and cause devastating effects on your business.
According to the Cost of Data Breach Study in 2016, the average cost of data breaches is at a whopping $4 million. That should be enough reason for big and small businesses to focus on digital security and Data Loss Prevention (DLP).
To be ahead of the curve, below are the top 10 security tips that will help you secure your critical business data:
1. Keep ALL Applications Up-to-Date
Whether it’s a messaging app or a web browser, remember that publishers release frequent updates to patch any security issue present in an outdated product. That said, be sure to check for frequent updates to your apps—including your desktop anti-virus. As a rule of thumb, you can enable automatic updates for all your business apps whenever possible.
2. Leverage Multi-Factor Authentication
A lot of security breaches can be effectively prevented by implementing the most basic of habits, such as using strong passwords for your online accounts. Aside from using symbols and numbers, you can also implement the use of Multi-Factor Authentication or MFA. A typical example of MFA is swiping a card and entering the right PIN. For remote employees, attaching a USB hardware token to generate a one-time password to a Virtual Private Network or VPN is a good example.
3. Use an Encrypted Messaging App
Communicating with your staff via Facebook Messenger or Skype? Keep in mind that hackers can be very crafty if they really want something from you. To prevent them from eavesdropping on your conversations, you can use an encrypted messaging app such as Signal.
4. Use a VPN
A VPN works by extending the reach of an office network and allowing remote branches to connect with the main server. VPN services also offer additional features to protect your privacy, such as masking your IP address and encrypting your entire connection. With a VPN, remote employees can safely access your data even thru public Wi-Fi networks.
5. Scan Your Site Infrastructure
If you’re working on a website with a remote team, make sure its very infrastructure is free from exploitable issues. Keep in mind that hackers can easily inject malicious code with assets like themes and plugins to steal your data, “leak” backlinks, or simply bring your site down. To detect and clean these vulnerabilities, you can use a CMS scanner like WordPress Security Scan.
6. Enable Activity Tracking
A virtual workplace means any single file can be accessible to a number of people—from contractors to team members. With a real-time activity tracking tool like ActivTrak, you can monitor what your remote employees are doing at any given time. Doing so will help you prevent any misuse of confidential information such as sharing or intentional deletion.
7. Enable Email Encryption
Even today, a lot of remote teams still communicate and share files by email. To protect your emails from prying eyes, a common method is to utilize email encryption to make sure messages can only be opened by the intended recipients. Depending on the email app you use, the process of encryption may range from using PGP encryption (Thunderbird) to enabling built-in encryption features (Outlook).
8. Train Your Remote Employees
At the end of the day, the security of your business data boils down to the competence and awareness of your employees. Don’t just hand over the keys to your cloud-based assets without informing them on the best practices to prevent data loss. Fortunately, you can use free materials from Sophos to train your employees on the do’s and don’ts of IT security.
9. Use Remote and Physical Backups
Remember that there’s no such thing as “too safe” when it comes to digital security. As a failsafe, you can use a remote backup service to quickly restore your files in case of unprecedented data breaches. Keep in mind that even big name brands like Sony, Amazon, and Xbox are subject to cyber-attacks, so you should never feel too confident even if you’re never breached before. Aside from remote backups, you should also keep a physical backup of your most important company files. You can take advantage of encrypted hard drives for this purpose.
10. Use Mobile Device Management Apps
In some cases, the root cause of a cyber-attack is a stolen phone or laptop that contains crucial information. This situation is particularly problematic for virtual offices since there’s no telling where remote employees will work. But with a platform like AirWatch, you can lock or wipe the device clean in case of loss or theft. Aside from remote working setups, a mobile device management app is also useful for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).