5 Overlooked Security Considerations For Remote Workers

Freelance Worker

There’s never been more freedom and autonomy in the workforce than today. However, with all this freedom comes great responsibility and security tops the list when working remotely.

Hackers love easy targets and when you extend the corporate network by working remotely or taking work devices into public spaces you are unknowingly inviting someone to take a peek.

5 Overlooked Security Considerations For Remote Workers

In a recent survey conducted by TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm “What Leaders Need To Know About Remote Workers,”  on a 1 to 10 scale (in answer to the question, “How happy are you at work?”) remote workers scored 8.10, compared to all workers’ score of 7.42.

Not surprisingly, employees score consistently higher when they work remotely because they “enjoy the freedom and flexibility” than when “they are required to work remotely by their job.”

Another metric that packs a punch: according to the survey, remote workers overwhelmingly feel they’re more productive, with 91% of remote workers believe they “get more work done when working remotely,” compared to only 9% who feel they don’t.

This new model of decentralization is a buffet of business and personal information coming through our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, making it easier than ever for thieves and hackers to steal high-security information, confidential client data and exploit not only single users but entire networks and businesses.

Here are 5 practical security considerations for your remote workers:

Meet Your New Best Friend, VPN

Anyone connecting to a public hotspot can snoop on anyone else connecting to that same Wi-Fi with the right tools, and attackers can spy on the transferred data (emails, messages, uploads, purchases) and steal private logins and passwords. In 2015, a hacker using this technique made off like a bandit with over $7 million in stolen customer payments. 

Virtual private networks (VPN) connections provide a layer of protection and security against these kinds of hacks. Instead of connecting directly to networks over Wi-Fi, VPN creates a virtual peer-to-peer link between the connecting device and your LAN.

What does this mean practically? All data traveling back and forth (emails, files, credit card payment details) is encrypted, so shared resources, logins and conversations stay safe.

Sending emails, interacting with clients, submitting proposals and client 

information over Wi-Fi, particularly public Wi-Fi (coffee shops, hotels, flights), exposes data to many potential vulnerabilities. Hackers can create a pseudo network to an actual network (example: “Joes_Coffee” may be the genuine network, and a hacker may create a spin “Joes_Coffee_Free_Wifi” watch out – this can be a trap. Look for a clear indication from reputable places and STILL use your VPN.

The great news about using VPN? Is it’s easy and convenient to access.

Employees just log in to a VPN client with their username and password (which can be synched with every time they log in) and, they’re ready to roll.

Setting up a default protocol of using a VPN client like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or CyberGhost (Check out: Top 10 VPN Providers for 2018) is one of the most straightforward ways to protect your business while working remotely.

Good Password Hygiene: Can You Pass The 6-Year-Old Test?

Here it is – any device your conducting business on – iPhone, Tablet, Laptop – If a clever 6-year-old could crack your code and log in – then you’re getting an “F” in remote security. Are you using your wife’s birthday 0401 for all of your devices – your 6-year-old could immediately hack into your information world.

How To Have Squeaky Clean Password Hygiene:

  • Keep a variety of passwords (soapin’ up)
  • Make sure they’re long (now we’re talking)
  • Include a variety of symbols (think beyond the exclamation point!)
  • Use an inside joke or a misspelling only you understand (scrubbing behind the ears now)
  • Refrain from using that same password for other applications or sites. (Squeaky clean!)
  • If an application offers an authentication option that’s stronger than a simple password, use it. For example, Google offers free “2-step verification,” a second one-time code you must enter that’s sent to your mobile phone. (Congratulations, you’ve arrived at Mr. Clean status!)

Going Cloud

Cloud-based platforms offer high levels of encryption, so data is not only easily accessible for remote workers on the move but also better protected from threats like ransomware.

With security and confidentiality compliance being the behemoth that it is in today’s business realm, cloud-based solutions and apps have to stay on top of compliance and industry regulations.

Cloud based applications give you collateral help when it comes to keeping up with recent changes like GDPR (GDPR’s Impact on Small Business In The U.S.) and HIPAA standards and how it can affect your business.

Cloud-based platforms add another layer of protection on an inter-staff level by being able to restrict or deny access to a staff member that needs to be let go.

Protect Your Devices 

Loss and theft are often your biggest risks when working remotely. You might have insurance that covers a hardware hit, but what about the data-sensitive inside?

Our practical tip: Enable Wipe from Wherever technology on your device. First, move it all to the encrypted cloud (see tip #3: Going Cloud), then make sure you’re able to wipe your device if compromised or stolen. Install remote-wipe apps on mobile devices like Airwatch and MaaS360 so you can erase data if the device is gone forever.

Don’t Forget About Low Tech Security: Common Sense And Simple Fixes Under $50:

Remember what you first learned when using your ATM card? Just like looking over your shoulder before entering your PIN number in an ATM machine, this same level of discretion is relevant when it comes to working remotely.

Consider these low-tech security tips and tools:

    • Removable Privacy Screen for your Laptop: Globally, 52% of sensitive information was successfully hacked from employee computer screens (See 3M’s Study Here on Visual Hacking.) Prevent this from happening in your business with a simple fix of a privacy screen for your laptop. These range from $25-$45 and are worth every penny!  
    • Privacy Screen for your iPhone: How many emails, conversations, and pages are you reading while on the subway on the way home from work? An ounce of prevention when it comes to inhibiting bystanders ability to snoop over your shoulder is worth its weight in gold.
    • Know where you stand. Or in this case, sit. Sit with your back to a wall and your screen blocked from other people sharing the space. Can someone see and potentially grab a discreet photo of your company sensitive information while you’re in that coffee shop or hotel lobby? Be aware of your environment.
    • Store your devices in hotel room safes when you’re not inside
    • Don’t let anyone else use your business computer or tablet. You can’t manage what sites a friend or child may stumble upon that may expose you to a compromising website or pop-up.
    • While traveling, place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door to deter anyone from coming into your space.

Today’s balance of freedom, autonomy, and technology may present its challenges in your business, but having a Managed Service Provider partner with you in your cybersecurity practices, manage your cloud-based platforms, and create strategy around your preventative IT demands can keep your company and client data safe for all employees, inside and outside your office walls.