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The dangers of working remotely

Working RemotelyIt is common nowadays to have a lot of your staff, at some point, working remotely. Whether this be from home, at a client’s office, in a coffee shop or by hiring freelancers, it has never been easier to access your work and continue your job outside of the office.

Despite this freedom being convenient and the fact that it can increase productivity, remote working can be potentially dangerous for the company. Here we discuss what the dangers and risks are and what actions you can implement to ensure online safety for all your staff that take their work out of the office.

Top dangers for working remotely

Wi Fi security issues
A lot of public places such as coffee shops promote remote workers as they form loyal and profitable customers. To entice this clientele in they usually offer free Wi-Fi as an extra incentive. This may be handy to the worker, but Wi-Fi related security incidences are extremely common. Although Wi-Fi related incidents can happen in a range of places, studies have shown a large proportion of them taking place at coffee shops and cafes. Working on public Wi-Fi networks can allow cyber criminals to spy on private data, passwords etc.

Personal Devices
Some companies have BYOD policies (Bring Your Own Device) and allow their staff to use their own laptops, tablets and mobile devices to carry out company work. Although this is a great cost-effective method as the latest tech is expensive, your company is making itself more at risk as you do not have control over these devices and their security measures. Certain studies have suggested a high amount of business owners believe having a BYOD policy has increased mobile security risks. Workers are also likely to let non employees (such as friends and family) use their personal devices for non-work-related tasks, again increasing the risk of a data breach.

Out of Date Software
If you do not have full control over the devices remote workers are using, then you have no guarantee that the software and security measures are up to date and fully enforced by each member of staff.

Although we are focused on risks from an online point of view, it cannot be ignored that when people are working in public spaces, there are at risk of having their devices stolen. If these devices do not have strong enough security on them, you are automatically at risk of having someone access valuable company data. If it is their own device as well, it means their personal data is also at risk.

Tips to help manage the risk

Although there are always risks associated with online activity, here are some actionable tips you can implement into your business.

•    Turn off sharing on your Windows and Mac devices if you are using public Wi-Fi
•    Ensure employees protect documents with passwords
•    Provide employees with work devices if possible
•    Have a remote working policy that is easily accessible to all relevant staff
•    Do not allow personal information on work devices.
•    Never send sensitive information whilst using open / public Wi-Fi networks
•    Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to ensure things are encrypted. This is especially important if you are using a public Wi-Fi source
•    Ensure employees use different passwords for work related tasks
•    Use Find My Device features on laptops and phones to allow you to try and relocate them if they are ever lost
•    Save work on secure cloud-based storage rather than saving everything to the device itself
•    Ensure all work is backed up
•    Ensure security software, firewalls and anti-virus systems are all in place on devices. If they are company property you can regularly check they are updated.
•    Enforce data encryption on all devices (ideally those owned by the individuals as well)
•    Keep software updated at all times
•    Use two factor authentications wherever possible
•    Only allow workers access to the data and documents they need. You can change these settings to ensure they do not have access to everything and can revoke access when necessary

By taking into account these potential risks and implementing as many preventative measures as possible, you can still work remotely successfully. Flexible working is common nowadays, with more and more people embracing this style of working. It is not a trend that is likely to go away any time soon however it is achievable to have remote working and be safe if you ensure the necessary safety measures are in place, and everyone is aware of them. In a lot of cases, the security incidents caused by remote working could have been avoided. Taking these measures now will hopefully avoid such incidents happening within your company.

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