As the social distancing protocols cause more employees to work from home than ever before, businesses of all sizes are exposed to a plethora of data security and privacy risks.
If the majority of your employees are currently working from home, chances are that they are handling sensitive business data and files on a regular basis, outside the safety of your secured office network. Considering that no modern business is immune to cyberthreats today, this can be a cause of major concern for most.
In times like these, you simply can’t afford to handle a cybersecurity breach, without endangering the future of your business. Why not handle data securely, instead? Quite doable, if you ask us!
Having said this, how can you ensure that your employees keep work-related information and business data secure when they are working remotely? In this article, we share some of the top actions you can take right away and defend your business from the cybersecurity risks that are constantly on the rise.
Tips For Ensuring Your Employees Are Handling Data Securely
#1 Carry Out a Comprehensive Data Security Risk Assessment
Without carrying out a proper risk assessment, you won’t be able to identify all the areas where the sensitive data held by your business may potentially be at risk. From cyber-hygiene related issues to physical risk to the hardware, there’s plenty of room for error. The team that carries out the risk assessment would need to consider not just the data housed on your office premises, but also any data that’s taken off-site, stored on the cloud, or held by your employees on their devices.
#2 Define a Robust Data Handling Policy for Your Staff
Consult cybersecurity experts and draft a policy for your employees regarding secure data handling. Make sure your entire staff are aware of it and follows it religiously, especially when working remotely. Staff training and awareness are key to ensuring compliance with the policy (will elaborate more on this topic later, in a separate blog post).
It’s crucial that your company’s data handling policy covers the top causes of concern, including but not limited to:
- User access control: decide which team members receive access to what kind of information; only provide access to data that’s absolutely essential to get their job done
- Data protection: use enterprise-level data encryption, enable two-factor authentication, or keep sensitive business data behind a firewall
- Data disposal: use reliable protocols for disposing of sensitive business data securely, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to recover it by any means
In addition to this, since more than half of UK businesses cite the failure of their employees to follow the corporate data protection policies as one of the top causes for cybersecurity incidents in the past, you will need to strictly enforce these policies without fail.
#3 Consider Network Security as Highly Critical for Data Security
Did you know more than one-third of remote workers would admit to using unsecured wireless networks (such as public Wi-Fi hotspots) for work, if asked? Some experts believe that the actual number could be much higher.
Keep in mind that a bad actor could easily intercept the file transfers, emails, or other pieces of sensitive data, if your employees use such an unsecured internet connection for working remotely. So, if any tasks require working with a substantial amount of sensitive data, ask your staff to delay it until they are able to connect to a secure network.
Make sure they use only secure internet connections for office work, if possible with a strong virtual private network (VPN) connection, which will help them effectively:
- Mask their IP address
- Mask their physical location
- Encrypt data transfers in transit
Also, ensure that all the work devices of your staff are protected with an enterprise-grade network firewall and antivirus software.
#4 Minimise Data Handling and Ensure that the File Transfers are Secure
Limit the exchange of sensitive business data to the bare minimum, especially over email, and ask your staff to use a highly-secure tool or enterprise-grade cloud-based application for it, instead. Consult with your IT team on what software your employees should use for secure file sharing, and make sure it’s user-friendly too.
We would also recommend using an enterprise level password manager to enable passwords to be created with strong complexities, to ensure they are not stored unsecurely or cached within browsers which can all be compromised externally through cyber attacks such as malware.
#5 Enable Two-factor Authentication (2FA) for All Employee Accounts
Once a bad actor has access to an employee’s account, stealing sensitive business data is usually the next step. Hence, a strong password alone is not a sufficient cybersecurity measure, even more so if your employee mistakenly discloses it in a spoofing or phishing scam, or perhaps uses the same password elsewhere for some other online account, the security of which has been compromised.
As a result, two-factor authentication (or 2FA, in short) is emerging as one of the most effective digital account security solutions for most businesses. It adds a layer of security by using a time-sensitive passphrase that’s typically sent to the mobile device of the account owner, in order to ensure that only they can access their account – otherwise, an alert is sent out, in case any suspicious login activity is noticed.
#6 Ensure Your Staff Uses Only Company-controlled Devices for Work
If your employees aren’t restricted to using only company-controlled devices for work, they could potentially expose your business to a multitude of malware infections. According to a research study, close to one-third of cybersecurity incidents that impact UK businesses are the result of employees using personal devices for work. The same holds true if they use their work laptop for personal use, including using a personal USB device or anything that could lead to malware transmission. This is where your IT team can help you put strong device and network control policies in place, in order to ensure such cyber-hygiene related mistakes of your staff don’t put your business operations at risk.
#7 Make Sure Your Staff Double-checks the Recipients Before Sending Out Emails Containing Sensitive Data
Around 24% of cybersecurity incidents in the UK are caused by employees sharing sensitive business data with one or more unintended recipients. Such mistakes could potentially cost your business a fortune!
#8 Train Them on How to Recognise Phishing Attempts
It’s not uncommon for employees who work from home to be more susceptible to spoofing or phishing attacks. In fact, more than 80% of cybersecurity incidents have been linked to phishing attacks. Phishing emails typically appear as though they came from someone within the company. However, with sufficient cybersecurity training, your employees should be able to detect and report any such attempts by bad actors.
Advise your staff to never:
- write down important passwords on a piece of paper, or,
- leave their work devices unattended
Working from home is usually a nice arrangement and has several advantages, for both the employers and employees. However, it can prove to be very costly from a financial, organisational, legal, and reputational standpoint, if there’s even the slightest negligence for cybersecurity on either end. By taking professional advice from cybersecurity experts, most companies can avoid compromising security and ensure business continuity.
If you have any questions related to data security or cybersecurity in general, reach out to our team of experts to find out what we can do to support your company in achieving its cybersecurity goals.