How to Secure Data Among Remote Workers

Remote work has benefits but also raises  concerns

Advances in networking and mobile technology have enabled workers to spend less time in the office and more time working from home, hotels, cafés, client offices—or even the beach. In fact, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 43% of Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely in 2016, up 39% from 2012. In that same time period, the number of people working remotely four or five days per week rose from 24% to 31%. What’s behind this shift toward remote work? Quite simply, working remotely has benefits!

It can increase worker productivity and efficiency.

Companies and at-home employees alike say remote work is a boon to productivity, removing distractions from other employees, impromptu meetings, and more. This also leads to greater efficiency, with 30% of remote workers reporting they could accomplish more in less time.

It recruits younger workers and retains older workers.

68% of millennial job-seekers—today’s largest living generation—say the option to work from home greatly increases their interest in specific employers. But that’s not all; it allows employers to keep valuable senior-level employees longer to better oversee the passing of the baton. AARP reports that 34% would like to work from home versus immediate retirement.

It decreases real estate costs and overhead.

Remote work can significantly decrease operating costs. According to Forbes, Aetna was able to reduce office space by 2.7 million square feet and save $78 million, and American Express reports annual savings of about $12.5 million due to remote workers.

It’s good for the environment.

Everyone is going green, and that has become a big initiative for many forward-thinking companies. In fact, studies show remote work is responsible for eliminating almost 55% of greenhouse gas emissions (the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road each year).

It reduces employee turnover.

According to a Stanford University report, job attrition rates fell by over 50% when employees were given remote work opportunities. With employee turnover costing employers thousands, if not millions each year, this makes the arrangement highly-profitable for both parties.

So, what’s not to love? There is one potential drawback to remote work that keeps employers up at night—security. Decentralized infrastructures can make data security more challenging, and remote devices may be more susceptible to malware that can infect the company's network. Laptops and mobile devices can also be easily lost or stolen, leaving organizations open to data leaks.

There are, however, 5 steps that companies can take to protect their data and still offer employees the opportunity to work remotely.

1. Educate Employees

Companies like to give employees the benefit of the doubt, but the fact is many are not fully knowledgeable in regards to security. Training employees on security measures like how to treat suspicious emails and links, and what a secure password looks like can help keep your organizations sensitive information secure. It’s also important that employees understand work-owned computers are not family computers; it is for their use only.

2. Be Wary of Wi-Fi

Using public wireless networks can be risky. Knowing that employees are likely to logon from cafés  and other public hotspots, companies can set up a system to provide remote workers with secure access through virtual private network (VPN) software, which encrypts remote workers' internet traffic and monitors signs of infection.

3. Use Security Software

Malware that is responsible for data theft usually infiltrates devices through the internet and email. Ideally, companies could restrict personal web browsing and email, however that isn’t very realistic and is bound to result in push-back from employees. Instead, utilize security software along with the latest versions of all applications. Workers may not always make the necessary application updates on their own, so activate automatic updates from software makers to reduce vulnerabilities and ensure patches are deployed when needed.

4. Install Encryption Software

Lost and stolen devices can be very damaging if they get into the wrong hands. Lessen the risk with whole-disk encryption software, which bars access to data by unauthorized users. Also, install remote-wipe apps on all mobile devices so data can be easily erased if the device goes missing.

5. Move to the Cloud

Using a private, virtual private, or hybrid cloud enables employees to work from any location, while handing over most of the data security responsibilities to a cloud service provider. A reputable provider is better equipped to manage and monitor security (especially beneficial for small business), and they are highly skilled and staffed in order to quickly respond to an attack and offer faster recovery times. In addition, a cloud provider generally offers higher levels of encryption so that data is not only easily accessible for remote workers on the move, but also better protected from threats like ransomware.

Working remote can have enormous benefits for both employers and employees, but the risk of a data breach or ransomware is very real. To maintain the integrity of your most critical data, be sure to follow safety protocols. And, if you’re considering a move to the cloud, consider speaking with the experts at DSM. We can make your migration seamless, and the transition successful.

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