Ed Thornbury, Cloud Hosting Specialist at The Access Group shares his advice on certain risks that should be considered by SMEs and the steps employers should be taking to ensure that they are educating employees on protecting company data from security threats.
The workplace has evolved beyond recognition for many people in recent years, with one of the most significant changes being that more and more people are now offered the option of working remotely. This incentive is a result of a combination of changing attitudes, enhanced technology, and software solutions. All of which has been transforming the way that small businesses are run and how customers interact with them, as well as allowing employees to work outside of the office.
For many SMEs, the biggest apprehension around making the move towards remote working is making sure staff remain streamlined and connected with colleagues and managers at all times, to ensure productivity and efficiency is maintained at normal levels, but one concern which is not being properly addressed is data security considerations.
While this incentive has been well received by employees, and it certainly makes a difference to that healthy work-life balance we are all searching for, it is vital to make your team members aware of the extra security risks that they face when working from home, on the train or at a local coffee shop.
In this article, The Access Group shares actionable advice on certain risks that should be considered by SMEs and the steps that employers should be taking to ensure that they are educating employees on protecting company data from security threats.
Consider transfer risks
The way in which data can be moved around transferred is taken for granted by most people nowadays, as electronic communications are available on the go 24/7. When working remotely, it is likely that workers will still be handling the same sensitive company information and customer data that they would if they were in the office – but without the digital privacy they usually have access to.
Transferring data can take many forms, whether it be over email via your domestic internet connection, through your mobile phone network, or on a physical medium such as a USB stick. Each of these methods has inherent risks that should be addressed:
- Domestic internet, even with WPA2-PSK security, is vulnerable to various forms of hacking and malicious access
- Mobile phone networks can be even more open to attack as information can be accessed without leaving a trail
- Physical media can be lost or stolen (and could end up in the wrong hands)
Employers and remote workers should be working together to tackle this issue and potential cyber security threats; from enforcing security and implementing and remote working policy, to educating the importance of commitment to security best practices. Simple actions such as using a USB data blocker, encrypting sensitive data within emails and avoiding public Wi-Fi will make a huge difference.
Utilise the cloud to minimise risks
If your business takes advantage of cloud hosting, then you are already one step ahead in avoiding potential security breaches. The ease of use that “anytime/anywhere” password-protected cloud access offers means that whatever device or platform your employees prefer, they can still connect with your work systems remotely.
The concept that digital information can be accessed instantly around the world actually becomes part of a security solution, rather than posing risks, meaning the cloud takes the flexibility of working from home to a totally new level.
In addition to being able to access files and documents and log into relevant systems safely, remote workers should also be encouraged to back up data frequently so that a lost device doesn’t mean lost data – and cloud storage solutions are a great solution for this. By migrating to the cloud, you can also ensure that applications are patched and updated regularly to maximize protection.
Whilst ensuring your remote workforce is protected and safe from security breaches is vital, your security policy shouldn’t add to employee’s workload; they should be simple and efficient. It is one of the most important investments you should make as the safety and security of your data and systems has to be a priority, and although it will take a bit of work, you will reap the benefits including reduced office costs, higher morale and increased staff retention as well as access to a wider talent pool.
Although updating technology and investing in new systems seems quite daunting and involves some quite hefty upfront costs – especially for small businesses – the benefits such as increased productivity and process efficiency alone are worth considering updating your systems.