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Cybersecurity Tips For a Smooth Transition to Remote Work

Vector Illustration Work from home

Over the past few months, much of the corporate world has switched to a remote workforce, almost overnight. For many organizations, this was their staff’s first experience working remotely. With such an adjustment, there are a number of best practices and policies that must be implemented for an effective and efficient transition. One key element to a smooth remote work transition is a strong cybersecurity policy. Here we’re sharing tips on how to best set your company and your employees up for success while working from home.

Security Infrastructure

Beyond the human element of good cybersecurity is the need for the right equipment. Without the convenience of your IT team being a mere desk away, all IT infrastructure must be set up for defending your company data against cybercriminals, especially without the quick response of your colleagues. 

Updated software

Software updates have a reputation of being inconvenient, however, neglecting to complete these updates greatly increases your risk of becoming vulnerable to an attack. Installing antivirus and patch management software into all company maintained devices contributes to an optimized cybersecurity protection plan. 

Patch management refers to any vulnerabilities within your network that cybercriminals seek out to infiltrate your system and the defense against them. Keeping vulnerabilities “patched” is critical to data security and though historically complicated, patch management software simplifies the process by tracking patches on employee devices and distributing the most recent updates on a company-wide scale. 

Similarly, antivirus software and firewalls should be enabled on all operating systems and hardware devices. These extra layers of protection provide greater security against malicious infiltrators, especially when employees do not have the convenience of an IT team nearby. 

Secure internet connection

While transitioning to remote work, employees adjusting to their new environment may choose to work from a variety of locations to feel out where they are most productive. This opens up an opportunity for employees to work from different locations such as coffee shops or parks. While it’s important to encourage your staff to figure out their preferred work arrangement, you must also emphasize the importance of cybersecurity best practices in these public settings. Using an unsecured network is one of the most common ways to expose your data to the risk of a breach. Due to the high volume of people generally working off of public WiFi networks, it’s the perfect opportunity for cyber criminals to make their strike on a number of individual systems. Educating your employees on these precautions and the importance of being aware of their surroundings is the first step in improving the security of your company data.

The recommended solution to preventing criminal infiltration through unsecured networks is the implementation of an SD-WAN IT infrastructure. Secure SD-WAN solutions are ideal for remote teams due to the fact that they provide improved flexibility and accessibility to all business-specific applications, plus embedded security. Because network traffic is encrypted and the network is segmented, there is a heightened security level to all file transfers; keeping your business and employee data secure.

Another potential security option is the use of a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs used while working in public WiFi networks encrypt the internet traffic of the user and monitor for any signs of infiltration. The utilization of either of these solutions is essential for remote team security as your employees’ transition. 

Communication tools

One of the starkest adjustments to remote work is losing the ability to communicate with co-workers in person. Considering communication is not something that a successful company can compromise on, it’s important to set up your newly remote team with the proper tools for secure and effective communication.

In business, there is a myriad of types of communication that occur in a single business day. Occasions call for a formal conversation among multiple people, while others just require a quick comment between two individuals. Fortunately, there are several excellent communication tools available for remote teams to meet all of these needs with ease. 

Video conferencing

Video conference software has grown exponentially in popularity over the past several months for its convenience and usability. By providing remote teams the opportunity to replicate in-person meetings with video-based communication tools, they are viewed as the best solution during unfortunate circumstances. Platforms like Zoom and Skype allow for file sharing, messaging systems, and more while remote, making them amongst the most popular options.

While these tools provide immense benefits, they also come with a need for extreme precautions. It’s important to remind staff that the information they share on these video conferencing tools can become vulnerable to hackers if best practices are not followed. Fortunately, management has the ability to enforce these best practices through setting preferences and rest assured their staff is set up securely. 

  • Password protect meetings: Use the default setting to require a password for all video-based meetings. This helps prevent unwanted or uninvited guests from joining your meetings.
  • Restrict screen sharing: Limiting screen sharing abilities when working with a large group can help reduce the risk of inappropriate screen sharing.
  • Enable a waiting room: Do not allow meeting guests to join a meeting until the host has arrived. This further prevents unauthorized access. 
  • Disallow meeting recording: Meeting recording should be restricted to the host only and should not be stored in the cloud.

Hardware

When working in an office, it’s generally assumed employees will use company-owned and maintained devices. When transitioning to remote work, however, depending on your organization’s resources, leadership may have to face the decision of whether or not to provide employees with company-owned devices, or request they work off of their own. In terms of cybersecurity, the recommended practice is to always require employees to use company maintained devices. The reasoning behind this lays in the fact that personal laptops and computers are often not equipped with enterprise-grade antivirus software. Similarly, should an employee utilize their personal computer for work tasks and personal activities, they may be unknowingly subjecting company data to unsecured platforms. 

When possible, requiring staff to work off of company hardware is best for cybersecurity. However, should you need your team to work off of their own devices, set up a time for employees to meet with IT and ensure their devices are equipped with cyber protection to the best of their abilities.

IT Staff 

While in the early stages of a transition to remote work, employees will likely need to rely on the IT department more than ever. To ensure your IT staff is prepared for best supporting the potential influx of tickets and requests, there are a couple of best practices to implement. The first being the creation of an IT Helpdesk to serve as a one-stop resource for employees to submit their requests. If you already have a helpdesk, we recommend enlarging your helpdesk capacity to support remote employees, at least in the initial few months. Secondly, it’s important to have designated individuals to cover all cybersecurity issue reports in order to ensure each report is acknowledged and dealt with in a timely manner. Finally, assign someone to focus on hardware, servers, and antivirus systems and make sure they stay up to date.

The switch to remote work comes with a number of benefits and, when handled properly, can contribute to great successes within your organization. Maintaining a strong cybersecurity program with these tips can help your team enjoy their new working style without the risk of infiltration. 

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