Remote work is here to stay in today’s digital economy. And while it’s great for both employers and employees, it also represents a security risk. Remote workers can use their own devices, which may not be as secure as the ones at the office. So they run the risk of potential cyber attacks that could steal company-related data. The only way out of this problem is to invest in good cybersecurity infrastructure and policies.
Remote Work Is Here To Stay
An estimated 25% of all professional jobs became remote by the end of 2022. This number is expected to rise throughout 2023. This increase in remote working has been an experiment for employers and employees. For example, PwC found in a survey that 90% of Australians supported continuing work from home.
The same survey also found that 75% of Australians prefer hybrid working to in-person working. These results prove that remote work will remain permanent in a post-COVID world. On the employer side, Gartner found over 80% of employers intended to continue with remote working arrangements.
These statistics clearly prove remote work is here to stay in Australia. The only way for Australian businesses to respond to this is by establishing secure remote working environments. Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) specifically need to focus on protecting sensitive data, including their employees’ personal information.
Why Security is important in remote work setup
Security is vital for remote work because employees have access to sensitive information through personal devices. These devices may not always be secure. The personal networks they’re using may also not be secure, which as a result increases the risk of data breaches.
These breaches can result in the loss of sensitive company data. Your business could lose important operational, financial, and legal data. That’s not to mention, your company’s reputation may also suffer. Even worse, your remote workers may not be aware of safe network practices.
Your company needs to implement proper security measures to prevent data breaches. These policies include providing employee training, regularly monitoring employee network use, and updating security protocols.
Steps you can take to improve security in remote work
You can prevent these security risks by taking the following steps.
- Setup VPNs
Virtual Private Networks(VPNs) enable secure remote access to private networks. A VPN creates a secure encrypted connection between a user and their company’s network. VPNs encrypt the data transmitted between a remote worker’s device and the company network. The encryption prevents criminals from intercepting the transmitted data.
VPNs let remote workers securely access the company’s network safely. VPNs do this by hiding the remote worker’s IP address. This prevents hackers from tracking their online activity. That way hackers won’t be able to exploit potential network vulnerabilities.
VPNs especially protect remote workers from cyber attacks while they work on public Wi-Fi networks. VPNS encrypt all data and prevent interception by hackers.
- Secure Communications and File Storing Software’s
SMEs can also protect their data by providing employees with the right tools. These tools include encrypted email, instant messaging, and video conferencing. Skype, Zoom, and Google Teams allows remote workers to safely share sensitive data during real-time communications.
You could also use tools like cloud-based file sharing and data back-up solutions. This allows your business to recover lost or damaged files. Another benefit of cloud-based file sharing is centralised management. A single administrator can manage access to sensitive information and enforce security policies.
- Cybersecurity Training and Best practices
Along with introducing new tools, your business also needs to train employees on how to use them and to maintain secure practices. An example is that employees should be trained to recognise and avoid phishing emails. Another one is to ensure your employees update their devices’ anti-malware protection.
You could also raise your employees’ awareness about potential cybersecurity risks and teach them best practices. Your policies should also focus on continuous improvement through regular cybersecurity training so that your employees are up-to-date on the latest threats and follow the best practices.
Tips on things to focus on When switching to remote work
Below are three tips to secure your data when you switch your organisation to remote work.
1. Use Strong passwords
Your remote workers should always have strong passwords for their professional logins. Passwords are the first defence against cyberattacks. A strong password isn’t easily guessable. The best solution is to teach your employees to use a password manager to generate and store unique complex passwords for their accounts.
Strong passwords reduce the chances of being hacked. For example, a brute force attack is when attackers try to guess your password by trying thousands of combinations. A strong password has a long combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Strong passwords are extremely difficult to guess for that reason.
Strong passwords also save you from dictionary attacks. A dictionary attack involves the attacker attempting to guess your passwords using words from a dictionary. A strong password is resistant against these attacks because it’s harder to guess.
Another aspect of having strong passwords is to use unique passwords for each login. That way, even if one password gets compromised the others are safe.
2. Have the latest security patch and update
All devices that your employees use for remote work should be updated and protected with the latest security patches. Outdated security patches are vulnerable to exploitation from hackers. Installing new patches lets remote workers protect their phones and laptops from hackers and other security risks.
It’s especially important for remote workers to regularly update their devices because there are always new threats that older security patches can’t fix. So your workers need to constantly update their devices to the latest patches.
Regularly updating security patches also improves software performance and productivity because the updates include bug fixes and performance improvements. So regularly updating your security patches is vital for both security and performance.
3. Invest in your Cyber Security Infrastructure
Australia’s government agency, the Cyber Security Research Centre discovered that cyber attacks against small and medium businesses cost $276,000 annually. Not only is that a massive financial cost for businesses, there’s also an indirect cost in the form of loss of reputation. You can prevent this by having better cyber infrastructure.
You should invest in cyber infrastructure to cover potential losses due to a security breach. As an SME, your business has sensitive information, like your financial data, client data, and intellectual property. You need to protect this information from potential data breaches. Unfortunately, sometimes you may not be able to do so.
When this happens, your business runs the risk of downtime, productivity loss, and even potential legal issues. A better cyber infrastructure will minimise the risk of cyber attacks as much as possible.
Good cyber security infrastructure is an investment in your company’s future as it helps your company maintain continuity if you’re attacked. It also helps build customer trust in today’s privacy-concerned age. By having better cyber infrastructure, your small business demonstrates to customers that they can trust you with their data.
Remote work is great for small businesses, but it also represents a security risk. If your remote workers aren’t careful, your business could lose sensitive information. You could then suffer both a financial loss and damage your reputation when this happens. Thankfully, you can avoid this by investing in good cyber-security infrastructure.
If you’re unsure how to build strong cyber-security infrastructure, you can click here to get a free consultation with PowerbITs today. We’ll help you understand how to achieve your cyber security goals.