Data breaches are on the rise as remote employees use diverse locations and devices. Discover effective strategies to safeguard sensitive data in your business or organisation.
Katherine Robinson is a writer for Osmose, a leading service provider safeguarding North American utility infrastructure since 1934
Technology has revolutionized the usual office-based 9-to-5 workday, paving the way for the rise of remote work. The new development has various benefits, including saving business costs and increasing employee work-life balance. However, the modern work arrangement has many risks, especially data security, in part because companies must now entrust employees with sensitive data.
Data breaches grow exponentially as these employees work from diverse locations using different devices. Therefore, your company must strategize and implement serious measures to safeguard sensitive data.
Data security is critical for any business, regardless of size, because it protects confidential information from disclosure, unauthorized use, modification or destruction, and disruption. Many remote workers make this protection more critical because data is no longer confined within an office network. Therefore, companies must take extra precautions to keep data secure and safe whether accessed in the office or remotely.
Remote work exposes a company's data security to potential vulnerabilities and threats. These include the possibility of human negligence or error, unsecured network connections, and a lack of sufficient security for devices. Due to cost and logistic challenges, companies may not be able to afford to provide these remote workers with secured work devices or establish central working stations.
Companies can implement the following six strategies to safeguard their data when relying on remote employees:
A strong password is the first defense strategy against data breaches. Companies can educate employees on creating strong passwords that combine upper and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers. They should also use password managers that generate and store random passwords like 1Password and LastPass.
These tools restrict the use of the same passwords for different accounts, which increases their access to hackers. It's advisable to change these passwords regularly and ensure you log out of all sessions. Saving passwords in browsers can lead to data breaches in case of device loss or theft; hence, there is a need to use a secure password manager.
Apart from using strong passwords, adding an extra layer of security with two-factor authentication minimizes the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data. It requires users to enter a unique code sent to the email or a mobile device linked to the account, making it harder for hackers to gain access.
Companies must establish a clear cybersecurity policy outlining the procedures and protocols for remote employees. It should cover safe usage of secure internet connections, personal devices, and other data safety measures. Once complete, they should brief employees on the practical application of these policies, to ensure they fully understand how to observe and maintain the protocols to avoid a severe security breach.
Companies should give remote employees the necessary online safety programs, including anti-malware, firewalls, and antivirus software. The internet has many options, but companies should select and provide high-quality software they are confident can prevent and flag malicious activities that could compromise the company's data. The management team must enforce regular updates and scans to enhance maximum protection.
They should also provide reliable remote access software to help employees work on their office devices. It's a better option because the data remains intact on secure devices. For example, they won't need to download sensitive files to their personal devices, which could lead to unauthorized access from other users. Examples of reliable remote access software include TeamViewer, AnyDesk, Chrome Remote Desktop, and ConnectMe.
Encrypting sensitive data makes it unreadable without a decryption key if it falls into the wrong hands. Companies must prioritize encrypting all sensitive data, whether accessed remotely by employees or on the company servers.
A protected network connection like VPN secures the connection between the company's network and a remote device, encrypting all transmitted data. This layer of security protects sensitive information from potential cyber-attacks. Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks are dangerous for remote workers, but using a VPN mitigates the risks. Companies should provide remote workers with a trusted and suitable VPN to allow them to work freely without worrying about data security.
Besides technical solutions, employee awareness and education are crucial in maintaining data security. Companies and the management team must ensure that remote employees get proper data protection training and know how to cope with cyber attacks. This could be done through:
Consumer data protection is paramount in the current digital economy. Businesses must know the importance of transparent data practices and informed consent. Additionally, they should strictly adhere to international regulations and standards by following these tips:
They should ensure their service providers comply with international standards, including GDPR, PCI DSS, CCPA, SOC-2, CDPA, HIPAA/HITECH, and NIST SP 800-171. These providers collect massive amounts of consumer data; hence, there is a need to observe top-notch security strategies. Bleaching these regulations can lead to reputational damage and substantial fines. These standards make businesses handle consumer data responsibly, including its usage, storage, capture, and sharing.
They must protect non-digital data, such as that collected through consent forms, paper surveys, and feedback forms. They can secure it by secure storage, digitizing it promptly, and destroying physical copies that they don't need in the future.
Consumer data should remain limited to authorized individuals who require it for their role. Password access control and multi-factor authentication mechanisms can safeguard it and avoid misuse.
Despite having proper measures, the management team must monitor their device and network activity to detect potential threats and breaches. It'll help them prevent security incidents and ensure the data remains safe. The consequences of a data breach can lead to massive financial losses and integrity. Remote work risks the chances of such breaches, which can lead to strict non-compliance penalties from CCPA, GPDR, and other data protection bodies.
Data security must remain every company's priority as remote work becomes more prevalent. Organizations can remain safe and mitigate the risks associated with remote work by educating employees, implementing safety strategies, and complying with data protection regulations. It'll secure their assets and build trust with clients and and consumers, helping them overcome competition in the dynamic digital landscape.