How to Prevent Data Leaks When Working Remotely

Data leaks are expensive and can even impact your company’s brand. How can you prevent data leaks when your workers are scattered all over the globe? Read to find out.

Remote working is the present and future workplace. Many companies, even before the pandemic, resorted to the work from home culture. While this culture has many benefits, the chances of having data leaks and breaches are high. So how can you prevent data leaks when working remotely?

According to Shred-It’s 2018 State of the Industry Report, business executives believe that remote working increases a company’s chances for a data security breach. Remote working exposes many companies to higher cybersecurity risks. Many of the attacks could lead to expensive penalties, loss of critical business information, and even sensitive customer data.

Companies should develop a data security strategy and educate their employees on it. Here are a few strategies that companies can use when their employees are working from home:

Establishing remote team policies

The first step is to make all employees aware that data security is a huge priority. Employees should take ownership in protecting company information. This can be done by first establishing a cybersecurity policy. This policy should instruct your employees on how to keep data safe.

After creating one, ensure that all employees review and sign that policy. The document should cover the reasons why this policy exists in the first place, various security protocols employees should comply with, how the company will support them in complying, and may also include a security update schedule and approved messaging applications.

Using the Cloud

Many companies use the cloud in their daily business operations. Cloud resources give employees of remote teams access to company data and information. These employees could be living in different time zones and may have different work schedules. With the cloud, they will have access to company data at all times.

Secure connections

Ensure that your employees know that using an unsecured Wi-Fi network is the most common way to expose your company to a data security breach. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the solution for this.

It provides remote access to company networks and servers while encrypting traffic and monitors for any signs of infection. With a VPN, other telecommuters cannot access corporate data on their private computers. Also, make sure that your company is using the right VPN.

Device protection of users

Data protection is easier if companies provide work devices to their employees. However many companies are adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy as this is less costly for employers and easier for employees. Protection of your remote worker’s devices from viruses, malware, and unauthorized access is very important.

Remote workers can unintentionally allow malware into their network by opening malicious websites or emails. Ensure that they all install trusted security software and that they regularly update their software. They should enable data protection which could improve data security and should set up their devices for remote monitoring and maintenance. Have automatic updates activated on their devices.

Using password manager

Ensure that all your team members are using strong passwords to minimize the chances of attacks. Make sure that they do not use similar passwords while logging into their personal social media accounts. Offer password security training. Educate them on how to keep passwords strong and why it is important not to use the same passwords repeatedly.

Password management applications like LastPass can be used to generate strong, randomized passwords. You can also store them safely for the entire team to use. With password managers, you will only have to remember one password of your own. The password manager will do the rest. Thus employees would not have to struggle remembering all of their passwords. Install two-factor authentication, also called 2-step verification, in which employees will have to verify their identities using something else.

Provide training

Plan training sessions on the established data security policies within the company. Train your employees on the new security tools, protocols, and processes they will have to use in their daily activities. Schedule follow-up meetings to check if employees are following the security policies. Design a response plan so everyone knows what to do when a data breach happens.

Your employees will still need help so make sure that your IT or cybersecurity team is available to respond to questions or doubts.

Encryption

Encryption software can protect company data by not allowing access to unauthorized users. If there is a breach, your encrypted data will be useless and illegible. If your laptop or mobile is stolen or lost, the encryption locks down the files. Unauthorized users cannot view the data.

Check if the applications your company uses for communication utilize end-to-end encryption. Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat can easily encrypt files and documents. Ensure that the devices of employees are encrypted. Employees can encrypt the hard drives of their macOS, Android, iOS, and Windows devices.

Final Thoughts

If your employees are unaware of how important data security is, then no matter how strong your policies are, it won’t be sufficient. Human error is, for a reason, one of the major causes of data breaches. Implementing the above strategies, emphasising proper training, can help in preventing data leaks when working remotely.

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Hanan Ashraf
A strong believer in the power that words have over people, Hanan works on producing content that is creative but at the same time graspable for readers. A content writer and digital marketing intern, she loves to write about automation, HR, performance management, and employee wellbeing.