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Five Cybersecurity Best Practices For Remote Workers

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, remote working is the new way of working. As organisations and employees gradually adapt to working remotely, this arrangement poses newfound challenges, such as cybersecurity.

Cyberattacks are a major threat in which employees need to consistently maintain awareness and be on guard. As work-from-home situations gradually becomes a necessity, this puts organisation’s cyber defenses in a vulnerable position.

The impact of cyberattacks on businesses can be devastating. Some of the repercussions arising from cyberattacks include damage of the organisation’s reputation, loss of confidential information leading to identity theft, financial and legal penalties, as well as high IT costs to improve cybersecurity measures subsequently.

To minimise the chances of cybersecurity attacks while your employees are working remotely, here are some work cybersecurity best practices that you can implement.

Only use company-issued devices and applications for work

Enforce employees to only use company-issued devices and applications to access their work emails or shared drives. When working from home, it is extremely risky for employees to use their own devices or unapproved applications. As you have no control over the configuration of each employee’s operating systems, firewalls or anti-virus protections, this makes the situation an easy target for cybercriminals to access confidential company information.

If your employees intend to work from home, provide them with company-issued devices that is outfitted with the necessary protections and vetted to company standards. If it is not possible to issue every employee with a company device, you and your IT team should consider how to evaluate employees’ personal devices before they can connect to the organisation’s network and resources.

Establish a secure connection to company systems

To prevent outsiders from accessing organisation’s data and resources, consider setting up a secure, private Wi-Fi connection for your employees. Ensure that the Wi-Fi network is password protected and the provider of the Wi-Fi is kept unknown.

Consider adding an extra layer of security by utilising a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN provides a secure connection between employees’ devices and the organisation network. All data that is transferred between these two points is encrypted, preventing cybercriminals from accessing the data that is being transferred.

An extra benefit that VPN provides is the continuity of operations. When employees log into the VPN, it allows them to access information and perform functions as they normally would in the office but in the comfort of their home or from any location.

Ensure operating systems and software are updated to the latest version

Operating systems and software are constantly exposed to vulnerabilities as flaws are being discovered by hackers. Software updates are designed to fix these flaws.

Organisations should ensure that company devices are constantly updated on these software updates. A good practice would be to ensure that company devices run a scan to ensure that all software and operating systems are updated before employees can access company systems.

To ensure that employees download legitimate and company-approved updates, your IT team should send a direct link to employees to download the updates. Concurrently, remind employees to never scour the internet to download any alternative software updates. In doing so, this may introduce viruses or malicious code into the organisation’s network.

Set up user authentication on devices

To prevent unauthorised access to organisation network, enforce strong authentication such as a username and password before employees can log in to company devices and network.

Set a standard for a good password to ensure that employees do not use passwords that can be easily compromised. This includes using a combination or upper- and lower-case letters, contain numbers and special characters, and have a minimum password length of 10 characters. Ensure that passwords are changed after a set time period such as 3 months, and employees cannot use the same password that was utilised before.

It might be helpful to add an extra layer of security during log in by deploying multi-factor authentication.  Multi-factor authentication (MFA) grants employees access to organisation network and resources only after successfully verifying two or more pieces of factors. Very often, it is employees’ password and another factor such as token, SMS pin or fingerprint. Besides the added layer of security, MFA helps to identify when an unauthorised user is trying to access your system – for instance, an employee receives an SMS pin when they did not type in their password. They can then quickly flag to the IT team that an unauthorised user is trying to access the organisation network or system and mitigating measures can be quickly applied.

Have a work-from-home and data-protection policies

While some organisations may already have remote-working arrangements in place, others may be completely new to work-from-home arrangements.

If your organisation falls in the latter category, it is important to have work-from-home and data-protection policies in place. Clearly written security policies helps to provide valuable guidance to your employees in adhering to security best practices and avoid compromising on the organisation’s network and resources.

The cold truth is that despite how impenetrable an oragnisation’s cyber defenses may seem, no organisation is immune from cyberattacks. If your employees are working from home, there are likely to be new attacks and vulnerabilities that your organisation need to consider.

Having a remote workforce can be challenging and definitely raises potential data security risks. However, adhering to these best practices and educating your employees can help to reduce the risk of cyberattacks when your employees are working from home.

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