HOW TO KEEP YOUR DATA SAFE AS MORE EMPLOYEES WORK FROM HOME
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to shift to remote working. For some employees, this change may become permanent. And while working from home comes with plenty of perks—businesses may pay for less office space and employees can reduce their commute—it also brings new challenges.
Chief among these is keeping your network safe from cybersecurity threats. The COVID era has seen a spike in cyberattacks worldwide, as employers have had to work quickly to put systems in place to support remote workers. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of vulnerabilities in networks to deploy scams, steal data and cause companies serious financial harm. Whether employees are using company-issued computers or their own devices, it’s important that they follow strict security standards when connecting to your network from outside the office.
Protect employee devices
The first step in securing your network for remote access is ensuring that all employees protect their hardware, including routers, desktops, laptops and other mobile devices.
Routers and other hardware often come with preset passwords and network names that identify the type of router or hardware. Ask that employees change these as spec information can be found online if the type of hardware is known. Then, for as long as employees are using the device, encourage them to keep router software current to ensure security features are up-to-date. Though router companies may update their software throughout the year, they don’t always alert their customers. Encourage your employees to check their router company’s website regularly to stay on top of any changes.
For laptops and other mobile devices that connect remotely to your network, consider enabling full-disk encryption, which encrypts a device’s entire hard drive, including files and the operating system, in case it’s lost or stolen. This option is especially important if sensitive information is stored on the device.
Disable automatic connection to Wi-Fi on smartphones to prevent fraudsters from gaining access through unsecure networks. And make sure there is up-to-date antivirus software on all devices.
Safely and securely connect to your network
Employees should always use a secure connection when logging in to your network remotely. When they log in from home, they should use a router with WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. The encryption process prevents outsiders from tapping in and reading information as it travels through your network. Consider buying routers for employees to ensure they have access to these encryption options.
If using public Wi-Fi, employees should always use a virtual private network (VPN). Public Wi-Fi does not provide a secure internet connection, and a VPN will encrypt information sent from an employee’s computer over the internet. Employees can pay for personal VPNs through a VPN provider, or your business can hire a vendor to create an enterprise VPN.
Maintain network security
To maintain a secure network, provide your staff with proper training. Institute policies that cover basic cybersecurity and communicate them to your employees. Take the time to walk them through each policy and explain why each one is important. Include information on cybersecurity and remote access in regular training sessions and when onboarding new hires.
Be sure to provide your employees with the tools they need to maintain security. Start by requiring them to use unique passwords to access the network and any business accounts. A password manager can help them organize multiple passwords.
Require multi-factor authentication to access your network, or the parts of your network that contain particularly sensitive information. Multi-factor authentication requires at least two steps to verify user identity. For example, in addition to a login password, employees might need to answer a security question or enter a temporary code sent to their smartphone to gain access.
Do not allow devices to connect to your network without ensuring they meet your network’s security requirements. For example, when working with outside vendors, be sure that you include a security provision in your contracts if that vendor will need to have access to your network.
Finally, if you offer Wi-Fi to guests and customers, be sure that it is completely separate from your business network.
For many businesses, working from home is becoming the new normal. Taking these precautions will help keep your business secure—no matter where your employees are doing their jobs.