How To Protect Your Business While Employees Work From Home
Getting your employees set up for remote work can be an arduous task in itself. It takes a lot to ensure that your business continues without in-office operations. So, after your team has worked out the kinks it’s smooth sailing moving forward, right?
Not exactly. You see, working from home can open up a pandora’s box of problems in regard to protecting your business. Chances are, you invest in high-quality IT support to ensure that all of your business is protected in the office. Unfortunately, all those precautions and safety systems you have in place do not follow your employees when they go home. As a result, remote work can be very risky for your business if you’re not careful.
Common Cyber Security Myths
There are several misconceptions about IT and data protection. Don’t make the mistake of believing these myths, as they could lead to unnecessary risks that you’ll have to pay for later.
1. It’s safe to access company data as long as you’re using a VPN…FALSE.
A VPN, or virtual private network, is often the go-to for remote workers. VPNs can be beneficial in many scenarios, but they’re not as secure as many people think.
The idea behind a VPN is that you’re creating a secure encrypted connection between a home computer and an office computer. It allows remote workers to gain access to the business network. While a VPN is meant to protect you and your employees, it can create a ton of problems with security.
Viruses from a home machine can quickly spread throughout your company’s network. All those built-in protections are rendered useless. It’s as if you’re reducing the “social distancing” between a home and office networks. Those two networks need to be separate. Using a VPN only creates a direct tunnel between them.
2. As long as everyone has anti-virus, company data is safe…FALSE.
Most people these days have some form of virus protection on their computers at home. With all the malware threats, it’s a no-brainer. However, that doesn’t mean that those home systems are up to snuff.
Free anti-viruses can provide adequate protection for casual use. But, it’s not up to the task to protect your company’s data. Robust anti-virus software has high-tech features like machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide continual protection from threats.
Windows Defender is a good option for Windows 10 users. Any free anti-virus is better than not having one at all, but it’s not going to offer the same levels of security as your office system, which could pose a significant threat to your company.
Plus, there’s the issue of accountability. Your employees could have the most robust antivirus software in the world, but it’s not going to do any good if it’s not updated with patches. Because everyone will be running their own systems, there’s no way to know that antivirus is fully patched and up to date.
3. I’m on a Mac, so I don’t have to worry about security issues…FALSE.
This is one of the most damaging misconceptions people have. Mac computers are not immune to malware. In the past, one could argue that hackers didn’t target Apple’s operating system. But things have changed. Apple’s market share has increased dramatically in the last decade, and so has the demand for Mac ransomware.
Key loggers are a big threat for Mac computers. This malware records keystrokes on home machines. Whenever an employee logs into a company system, the key logger can record the password and give entry to someone else.
4. If the data is not on my computer, the bad guys can’t get to it…FALSE.
Your company’s private data doesn’t need to on a computer to be stolen. Ransomware is your biggest enemy when it comes to data protection. Hackers and digital thieves can use a home computer as a point of attack. All they need is a password to gain access to your company’s systems.
The aforementioned key logger malware is a quick and easy way for hackers to get in. Once they have those passwords, your entire remote system is in danger.
The Risks of Working From Home
While remote work is necessary in these trying times, it exposes your company to many risks. Opening up your company’s firewall ports is a bad idea. It just creates significant vulnerabilities that nefarious hackers will take advantage of.
Despite everything that’s going on in the world right now, cybercriminals aren’t going to stop what they’re doing. In fact, cybercriminals are going to have a field day. There are far too many vulnerabilities that they can expose with at-home workers.
Viruses, malware, and ransomware will run rampant. Criminals can target home computer systems and use them to gain critical access information. This can result in unwanted access to your company’s servers and put sensitive data in the hands of those who can do a lot of harm.
Liability of Company Data
Not only do you have to worry about cybercriminals, but you need to consider liability issues. Once sensitive company data is out of the same confines of your in-office networks, many things can go wrong.
First and foremost, most home computers will not meet compliance standards. If you handle sensitive client information, such as medical records or financial data, you’re opening your company up to lawsuits and fines.
Another issue is the unpredictable nature of employees. Say, for example, that you need to downsize to keep your business afloat. You can’t just ask those employees to wipe their personal computers of your data. This alone should be a cause of concern. What’s stopping those ex-employees from taking company secrets or prospective client lists to your competitor?
Good Work-From-Home Solutions
So, now that you understand the cyber security risks involved, does that mean that you can’t have employees working from home?
Thankfully, there are many ways to keep your business safe in these unprecedented times. You must consult with your IT company and take several steps to reduce your risks as much as possible. Here are some solutions to consider.
The best option would be to provide your employees with company-owned laptops. It should be encrypted and fully protected by your IT company. Your team can work on those laptops exclusively to eliminate many of the risks that come with home computer use.
If you are unable to prepare laptops for your team, home computers can be used, too. However, they need to have paid endpoint protection and patch management. Your IT company can manage those home machines for peace of mind. Check out software like Sophos Home Premium and SentinelOne Core.
Now, onto the software. There are tons of options to help your employees gain access to your business network remotely.
- The most basic choice is through applications. You can try out Team Viewer, Splashtop, and Log-Me-In to gain access to work computers from home.
- An even better option would be to use browser-based solutions. These include Chrome RDP and NoMachine.
- For the most protection possible, spring for a browser-based system with multi-factor authentication. Check out TruGrid.
Of all the options stated we recommend TruGrid. Not only does the protection component check all our boxes, they have also been the easiest to work with. Some companies are using this crisis as an opportunity to increase their prices or extend their contract lengths. TruGrid doesn’t seem to be interested in using this pandemic as a benefit to their bottomline by locking the partners we serve down after the COVID-19 crisis ends. This is something we really care about when choosing vendors to be included in our technology stack.
Finally, there’s communication. Safe communication is key. While email and chat systems are the norm in your office, those methods are easily compromised. We recommend sticking to communication systems with multi-factor authentication, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. Email can be used as well as long as there is MFA involved.
Have your team analyze their Internet connection as well. If they are using a wireless network, make sure that it’s not open. The network should have WPA2 encryption. As for wired connections, it’s a good idea to ensure that vulnerable equipment is not connected to the network. For example, game console cameras and live chat systems should be closed up.
Having your employees work from home is a great way to ensure that your business continues to operate smoothly. However, protecting your company’s data is paramount. These trying times are a big test for IT and security. Consult with your IT company and take those extra steps to minimize risks and protect your business much as possible.