At this point, it would verge on unnecessarily repetitive to talk up remote work. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses must support a distributed workforce. Even once the pandemic finally ends, it is likely that many people will at least occasionally wish to continue telecommuting.
In a recent survey carried out by public research agency Pioneer Institute, nearly 63 percent of respondents indicated a desire to work from home once a vaccine has been developed for the coronavirus. What’s more, 65 percent of respondents expressed a desire to work from home at least two to three days a week, with some respondents even wanting to work from home four to five days a week. Taken together, these numbers paint a clear picture.
To remain competitive, your business must offer flexible scheduling and telecommuting opportunities for remote staff. Then, it follows that you must also find some way of addressing the cybersecurity risks that entails. While employee education plays a critical role in this, it’s equally important to equip them with the right security tools.
Here are a few that I feel are essential for more secure remote work.
A Password Manager
As far as passwords are concerned, my experience goes a little something like this.
We all know the basics of good password hygiene. We’re all aware that we should have a unique password for every single one of our accounts. We’ve all been told that we should change that password regularly to ensure there’s no risk of a breach.
Yet how many of us do any of that?
On some level, that’s not our fault. With the number of online accounts each of us has to maintain now. I expect even someone with a photographic memory might be hard-pressed to practice adequate password security. Unfortunately, from a business perspective, this means most of your users will do one of several things.
- Reuse the same password they use elsewhere, putting your assets at risk.
- Use an incredibly complex or unique password that they promptly forget, requiring constant contact with the IT helpdesk.
- Write their password down somewhere, such as in a plaintext document or on a post-it note.
None of these are ideal.
Here’s where password management software comes in. With a password manager, an employee only needs to remember a single passphrase. The software takes care of the rest, generating and assigning a secure password to each user’s accounts, corporate and otherwise.
In short, until your business can phase out passwords entirely, password managers are non-negotiable for remote work.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Your business likely already has some form of remote desktop software in-place. I don’t doubt you already have VPN infrastructure, as well. I’d advise going a step further.
Encourage your employees to invest in a personal VPN, or provide them with access to one yourself. They can use this for private, secure browsing outside of regular business hours. More importantly, if their workday takes them somewhere the Internet is less than secure, such as a cafė, they can use the VPN to protect their credentials when they connect,
Antivirus and Antimalware Software
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about malware. While security on Windows 10 has come a long way from the days of Windows XP, it still leaves a lot to be desired. And while Windows Defender is halfway decent antivirus software, it’s not going to provide the level of protection necessary to keep your business data safe.
Instead, I’d strongly advise investing in full-featured security software that includes spam protection, virus protection, malware protection, and active threat detection and mitigation. Kaspersky, Bitdefender, Malwarebytes, Avast, and Avira all have decent offerings for both home and business users. Equip your staff, and give yourself peace of mind in the process.
Remote Work and Security Don’t Have to Be Opposites.
Telecommuting, by its very nature, can be risky from a cybersecurity standpoint. But it doesn’t need to put your data at risk. By equipping your staff with the proper tools and providing them with the necessary training, you can help ensure business data remains safe no matter where it ends up.
About the Author
Tim Mullahy is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Liberty Center One, a new breed of data center located in Royal Oak, MI. Tim has a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry.