Small companies today often rely on remote workers—whether telecommuters who regularly or occasionally work from home or business travelers who work from hotel rooms, airplanes, coffee shops or wherever.

In fact, a Gallup poll found that 43% of U.S. employees now spend at least some of their time working remotely.

But while the trend of remote working can greatly improve a company’s productivity, it also poses a significant concern: How do you protect your business data when people are working from all different types of locations?

“There are a lot of cybersecurity concerns to worry about with remote workers,” says J. David Sims, managing partner of Security First IT LLC, an IT services provider in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here are cybersecurity best practices Sims recommends:

 

Provide devices exclusively for work

Businesses should give employees who work remotely—particularly those with access to sensitive data—laptops, smartphones or tablets they need, and require those devices be used exclusively for work, Sims says. While it may seem more practical and affordable to let employees use personal devices, the total financial and reputational costs of cleaning up after one data breach can be far more expensive. “When an employee shops or plays games online, they need to be doing that from a separate device than what they’re using for work,” Sims stresses.

Providing employees with devices also allows you to ensure the right antivirus solution is installed and that security patches and updates are made to protect those devices. Spectrum Business, for example, offers a security suite that provides real-time protection against hackers, viruses, bots and other online threats that can be installed on employees’ devices.

 

Require strong password protections

Many people use the same passwords on all of their devices and applications—business and personal. This makes it too easy for hackers who get someone’s password on one application to use it to access others, including work applications.  

Sims recommends using a password manager such as LastPass that creates long, random passwords and then stores them securely in each user’s online “vault.” Employees need to remember just one password to access their vault.

 

Segment home networks

When employees work from home, they ideally should not be working on the same network that their home computers and other devices are connected to. That’s because hackers often gain initial access to networks through personal devices with security vulnerabilities. With more homeowners hooking up everything from TVs to thermostats to smart speakers to the internet, home networks are far more vulnerable to being hacked. Many home routers today offer the option to create virtual local area networks (VLANs) that can be used to separate personal devices from work devices. Employees just need to be instructed on how to set up a VLAN, or an IT professional can do it.

 

Use VPNs for public Wi-Fi

Likewise, when working from coffee shops, airports, hotels or any other public spaces that offer wireless internet, employees should be using a virtual private network (VPN), which is basically a technology that encrypts someone’s data to prevent other network users from snooping. There are many VPN services available for small companies, and most charge just a couple dollars a month per user.

 

Train your employees to be vigilant

A growing number of breaches today are caused by hackers who present themselves as reputable people—such as bank representatives or vendors—in order to gain an employee’s trust and convince them to hand over sensitive information. Therefore, you need to train your employees to be extra vigilant when giving out sensitive information over phone or email. They should not click on links in emails unless they are certain those links are legitimate.

Moreover, all devices used for work should automatically lock and be password-protected when not in use, Sims advises.

“Your employees are your biggest threat because they don’t understand all of the risks,” he adds. “I’ve seen people working in coffee shops who get up to go to the restroom and leave their laptops lying wide open. You don’t want that to be your employee.”

Print this article