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New Year’s Resolution: Make Sure Data is Secure Even With Remote Work

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On the top of every HR department’s 2021 New Year’s Resolution list should be a data security review among its remote workforce.

A year ago, for many companies, data security and remote work was not a major issue, but in the last nine months the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally shifted where office work is being done.

PWC surveyed executives and found that 77 percent said at least 60 percent of their office workers, if not all of them, were working remotely during COVID-19.

While COVID-19 vaccines are shipping around the country, 2021 is looking like another year with remote work for many with White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci saying, “by the time we get into mid-fall of 2021, we can be approaching some level of normality.”

And that return to normality could still mean many working remotely as executives in that PWC survey said that in a post pandemic world they expected 55 percent of office employees to continue working remotely at least one day a week.

That means more Zoom calls, more collaborative tools, more logging in from home in fuzzy slippers, and more opportunity for bad actors to breach your data.

Thinking (and Working) Outside of the Box

In the rush to get employees up and running remotely many companies relied on out-of-the-box tools that come with default settings that circumvent normal IT data security controls.

Off-the-shelf remote work collaboration tools may come with the following enabled:

  • Remote Printer-sharing
  • Remote Desktop File-sharing
  • Remote USB Connections

Inside the normal office building IT can “police” any risky behavior that could lead to confidential data being leaked. When employees are “outside the box” or office building, IT must work closely with them to ensure data security.

Five Data Security Tips

Here are five data security tips that IT can do to help secure data and remote workers:Stylish brunette working from home in her home office

1. Secure the Connection

If you do not have a secure network for remote work, then nothing else will matter. Consider if a virtual private network (VPN) might be best as it will prevent valuable data being accessed on private computers or being transmitted on an unsecured public connection. Multi-factor identification should be set up on all devices to prevent data breaches. A remote desktop security program can limit an employee's ability to copy or download company files.

2. Fine Tune Your Remote Work Policy

Remote workers need to have a well-defined policy and should know the best-practices your company wants them to use. Your remote work policy should be communicated to all employees and easily accessible. It should cover things as security update schedules, approved collaboration tools and messaging applications, and guidelines on data back-ups.

3. Trusted Menu of Tools and Resources

Your remote work employees need tools and resources to do their job away from the office so IT must supply them with trusted applications they should use – and which applications to avoid. Monitor and support the usage of applications being used remotely. Ideally IT should have a level of oversight over remote devices and applications. IT should be able to monitor account lockouts, password management, firewall configurations, browser privacy and other security concerns.

4. Protect Remote Work Devices

The best remote work set-ups can still be compromised if regular operating system and application updates are not scheduled. Hackers are always looking for ways to gain unauthorized access to your data via viruses, malware, and other malicious means. Ensure that remote workers only install approved security software and keep it updated.

5. Take Advantage of the Cloud

The use of cloud-based services and applications can add a layer of security as these providers have security measures in place to protect their users and their data. Only add a cloud-based provider to your remote work approved list after careful consideration of their track record when it comes to data security.

Finally, IT must be vigilant in 2021 and ready to pull the plug the moment risky data behavior is identified.

Employer Flexible can help your company make sure its remote work policy is up-to-date. Contact us today to learn more about our Texas-based HR services and solutions.