How to Set up Remote Office Access for Employees without Compromising IT Security
According to findings, among the most significant technology trends of the past decade was remote work habits, which expanded by almost 400%.
The number of people working remotely in the U.S. has increased significantly. It has grown by 44% over the last five years and by 91% over the previous decade.
Remote work has risen in popularity due to the evolution of supporting technologies including high-speed internet connections, cutting-edge mobile devices, and the explosion of cloud and SaaS solutions.
An increasing number of people are realizing that remote work offers a plethora of benefits to individuals as well as organizations. However, it also comes with increased cybersecurity threats, greatly affecting your business’s security profile.
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably planning to implement remote work and want to do so in the most secure manner. That’s a good plan!
Here are a few steps you can take to set up remote office access while keeping cyber threats at bay.
1. Set up a VPN
VPN (Virtual Private Network) refers to a private data network that enables employees and organizations to access a central network securely, irrespective of their location. This technology can be based on your existing IT infrastructure, which makes it convenient to use. It is considered as one of the most supportive infrastructures for remote work. Its benefits include:
- Heightened Security: When an employee connects to your organization’s VPN, the data is stored in an encrypted and secured manner, safeguarding it from cybercriminals.
- Easy Remote Access: Information can easily and securely be accessed from any location, which helps enhance productivity through more efficient communication and instant file-sharing.
- Lowered Expenses: Setting up a VPN is cost-effective as it uses your existing infrastructure.
2. Implement Two-Factor Authentication
As an experienced IT security company, we recommend activating two-factor authentication (2FA), which adds an extra layer of protection to ensure that only bona fide account users can access their accounts. The first layer is the employee’s password, while the second layer can be email or text-based verification, or even biometric verification such as facial or fingerprint recognition.
If an employee’s password for work-related accounts gets compromised, criminals can use it to gain access to sensitive corporate information, despite your team using cybersecurity best practices. To combat this prevailing threat, an increasing number of organizations are opting for two-factor authentication for employees to sign into their accounts.
Hackers can steal an employee’s password, but they probably won’t have access to the phone that receives the verification code or will not have a fingerprint that authorizes access to systems and data.
Apart from this, 2FA mechanism notifies the individual when an unauthorized user tries to log in to their account. This helps the remote employee know that a password-change is in order and to alert you about a potential attack.
3. Restrict Access to Data and Systems
This is most beneficial when the majority of your team works remotely and needs access to information from the organization’s systems and networks.
Findings from a 2018 study indicate that 34% of all data breaches in an organization were caused by insiders. Ask any IT company expert, and they will tell you that this problem is going to get worse.
Unrestricted access to all employees can lead to serious security issues such as misuse of proprietary information and/or selling sensitive data to your competitors. The greater access you provide to your internal data, the graver is the threat.
It, therefore, makes perfect sense to verify the company accounts of all employees and ensure that remote workers have access only to the information they need to do their work.
At the same time, be prompt in terminating account access of any employee who leaves the organization. Unfailing data wipes and account suspension will ensure that a disgruntled employee is unable to misuse their credentials to abuse your company.
4. Secure Mobile Devices
Failure to protect mobile devices that are used at work will pinch your business as well as your clients. Implementing the basic steps for securing mobile devices such as employee training in cybersecurity, robust encryption, software upgrades, and installing antivirus software are non-negotiable.
Other than that, here are a few suggestions for protecting any business when it comes to mobile access:
- Disconnecting networking capabilities when not needed
- Activating firewalls
- Implementing two-factor authorization for access to your business network
- Constraining installation of applications on the device
Moreover, mobile devices are susceptible to lose or theft, which is where a suitable mobile device management solution comes into the picture. It enables you to trace, lock, and remotely destroy any data on the mobile device, protecting your sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands, even if the device isn’t found.
5. Train Your Employees
If your employees plan to use their personal computers for performing remote work, make it a point to train them in cybersecurity before they start with it.
Many a time, employees complain about facing unusual computer activity, without realizing that this can mean that malware is at work. It is necessary that your employees know exactly how to identify and respond to malware. They should also know about phishing and social engineering, and be prepared to deal with attempts to gain forced access.
Train them on how to ascertain if the person asking for access to their computer is authorized to do so, and make them aware about who they should contact for immediate IT support. Provide them with ample knowledge on how they can keep their computer free of viruses and malware, and how they can securely access your systems. Training protects your employees as well as your business from malicious intent.
If, for any reason, you find you’re unable to train your employees, work with a managed IT provider who will train employees as part of their IT security services.
Embracing remote work can prove to be a highly-effective business move. However, securing your systems and networks should be a top priority when setting up remote office access for your employees. You don’t want to end up losing business-critical data and client information to cybercriminals, and you certainly don’t want to become a target for hackers and malware to exploit. From setting up a VPN to training your employees about cyber threats, the above steps should hold your organization in good stead in this upholding your online security.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.