More companies than ever are offering the option of working from home — or even requiring it, in an effort to keep their workforce healthy in the face of the spreading novel coronavirus.
Now more than ever, managers and leaders in all sorts of companies are seeing the benefits of allowing remote work or testing it out for their company. However, they are also thinking about the challenges and risks that come with allowing their employees to work from home.
You or your company may be in this situation right now and wondering, what are the risks of working from home, or another remote location? What kind of security or privacy issues could this introduce for our company? How we mitigate these concerns?
We will breakdown the risks of remote working here. And also what you can do to ensure you and your employees are doing your due diligence.
Allowing your employees to work remotely has a number of benefits: a larger pool of talent for roles when hiring, reduced commuting time for employees, more autonomy for workers, and even increased productivity. (Or reducing their risk of being exposed in a possible pandemic.) A recent study of companies in the United States shows that approximately three percent of the entire workforce is currently remote workers. This is growing every year.
However, this growing trend of remote workers is also leading to a growing trend in risks and breaches due to people working on unsecured networks. That can be a big concern for tech vendors with customers who ask about security.
To understand the possible solutions, we will need to first take a look at the risks of allowing remote workers. The most common risks for companies when it comes to remote workers are the following:
A company could reduce all these risks by simply not allowing their employees to work from home but they will miss the benefits as well and could fall behind to their competition that allows employees to work remotely. In order to get the “best of both worlds” by allowing employees to work remotely but also to reduce the mentioned risks, let us look at what we can do to mitigate these risks.
1. Have a Work From Home Policy
Having a defined “Remote,” “Work From Home” or “Teleworking” policy is a must if your company plans on permitting staff to work from other locations that are not your office. This can help reduce the inherent risks of working remotely by establishing a set of procedures that your employees must follow in order to work from home. You should use this policy with additional information security policies to outline all your employees’ responsibilities when it comes to your InfoSec program.
Some examples of procedures that need to be included in your remote working policy include:
While having a policy will help reduce the risks, the policy also needs to remain up-to-date and when it is being created or updated should have the input from your Information Technology team or an information security expert. Any policy involving information technology or data privacy should also involve someone who understands the subject matter and not only a member of the HR team. You must also remember that information security policies are NOT static documents, as threats change and new technologies emerge, your policies need to stay current as well.
2. Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
Having a policy in place will let your employees know what they need to do and how to do it, but providing them with the right tools will also reduce the risks of working remotely. Depending on your company and the role of your employees these tools may vary. The following are examples of some tools that we have seen referenced in Remote Working policies:
3. Take Care of Your Team’s Health and Well-Being
If you or your employees are feeling stressed, anxious, or run down (to name just a few of the many emotions we’re all going through in 2020), that can open up opportunities for cyber attackers. With our feeds inundating us with information on stimulus checks, coronavirus tests, emergency guidance from health agencies, it would be easy for a fraudulent email amount COVID-19 to be open accidentally by an employee.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the burnout experienced by many people today.
4. Don’t Forget About Training and Best Practices
Having a policy and supporting it with tools can get your employees so far, but educating and training them on best practices will help to explain and outline why they need to follow the policy and use the tools. You want your employees to care about cybersecurity.
Many companies offer some form of Security Awareness Training. However, this training is usually done only once a year and can quickly become outdated. Consider having monthly or quarterly training sessions helps to keep your employees informed, educated on threats, and their responsibilities when it comes to your company’s information security program and working remotely.
Remote working can be a great thing for your company and employees but there are risks. In order to ensure the security of your company, its data, and your employees you need to have a foundation laid. This foundation should include a remote working policy (supplemented by additional information security policies), tools to protect your employees and training to ensure they understand their responsibilities.
Companies should take a moment and review remote working within their company. It looks like this may be the new normal moving forward as companies have shifted to remote working and employees seem to be enjoying it. However, if this is the new norm, and the policies and procedures that were implemented still enough, were they only meant to be temporary?
If your company is shifting to more permanent working from home or remotely structure the security team of that company should sit down and review the following:
Answering these questions will help keep remote work secure and help engage the employees as well, making them an active participant in their security.
Does your company have a security policy for working remotely?