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How to Stay Secure when Working Remotely

The benefits of remote working for businesses are undoubtedly clear. Remote working provides employees with greater flexibility (so they can work how they want), it saves space in the office, and it can even help to reduce costs.

Lauren Crystal, Manager of Your Creative Agency, says: "For our digital agency we realised that the best designers and developers didn't want to always be working from a traditional office environment. To provide our wokers with the ability to work remotely we made a project collaboration tool called Hassl. It is everyone's digital office with all your files, projects and communications in one place. For security we use Amazon's services so our digital work space can have the same security as Netflix!"

Nikki Knieriem, Owner and Director of Mum-Me Fit Time, adds: "Working remotely can be a very rewarding experience, and I am a big supporter of working remotely. However, it is important to be aware that it isn’t ideal for everyone. For example, if you are an extrovert who thrives on the energy of others, you aren’t going to get that from working remotely in isolation.

"Personally, I have found it a huge benefit for my own mental health and the flexibility that it allows has provided many opportunities for both myself and my family. If you are an organized person who is seeking flexibility, is confident with technology and is pro-active in communicating with clients or colleagues, then remote working may just be for you!"

However, it is not without its risks. So, with the security risks of working remotely being very real, how can you ensure your employees stay secure when working remotely and away from the office?

Practice Better Password Management

Passwords are often the weakest link. A weak password that can be guessed or easily cracked is an easy entry for cybercriminals, so ensure your employees know about the benefits of stronger passwords and that they use them for all of their devices.

Random, long passwords are almost impossible to crack. If you use a password manager like LastPass to keep them safe and secure, there is no need to remember them.

"So, one thing a lot of companies do is to set-up team members with passwords to all the different sites and tools. 

When you've got quite a lot of people and quite a lot of tools, it can be difficult to keep track of everything.

We use LastPass to keep track of all of it, so we have control over all the security. If something happens we can just pull someone's access right away. Makes life a lot easier."

Ensure Docs Are Hosted Securely

When clients or team members are working on business documents remotely, make sure that this can be done securely. The best option is to ensure docs are hosted securely in the cloud store using SharePoint or another secure option. That way the docs will remain secure no matter which devices they are being accessed on.

Keep Physical Devices Secure

Educate your employees on how to keep their devices secure when they are using them to work remotely. The biggest risk is that they will lose their laptops or phones in a public place like a cafe or on a train, so work devices should never be left alone.

The second line of defense is to encrypt the devices themselves. That way, if they are stolen, the data on them will stay safe.

Another way to make your devices more secure is to make them trackable. You should have the option to locate your device on most phones, tablets, and laptops, so set this up and you will stand a better chance of recovering lost or stolen devices.

should also be set up on all devices. This allows you to delete the data securely on a device to provide an extra layer of protection in case it is stolen.

Additionally, you might want to consider using asset tracking. This provides you with a way to track all of your assets, including mobile devices, so that you always know where they are and who has them. This is often achieved by attaching barcodes to the physical devices and scanning them, but other options are available.

Also, you should be investing in other software to help protect your employees. Helen Down is the Chief Marketing Officer at Stay Safe, a easy to use lone worker app that allows businesses to locate staff that are working remotely and monitor their safety. She says: "For employees working alone or away from the office, safety is always a concern. The Stay Safe app was created to address these safety problems, to help give employer's peace of mind their staff are safe and, most importantly, to be able to respond to any safety alerts as soon as possible."

Protect Devices with AntiVirus

Make sure your employees all have up-to-date antivirus software and firewalls installed on their devices. Risks are everywhere, and mistakes happen, but good antivirus software will help to protect devices from viruses and malware. Emma Heuston, principal lawyer and founder of the Remote Expert helps businesses who hire remote team members or want to hire remote team members. In preparing remote work agreements and remote work policies, Emma says that, "employers or businesses hiring remote employees or freelancers to work for them need to have the correct documentation in place to be able to protect the integrity of the material that their employee or freelancer is working on.  For example, is anti-virus software up to date and does the organisation have a remote work policy?"

To add an extra layer of security, encourage your employees to use antivirus software on their personal devices if they use them for work. Or you could ensure they don’t use their personal devices at all for business activities and provide your own secure devices instead.

Premium Security Services

Using security services providing by industry giants is a way to ensure a good level of protection. Lauren Crystal, Manager of Your Creative Agency, adds that using premium services such as Amazon Web Service (AWS) Cloud security ensures quality. You can relax knowing that your security sits alongside the security that Netflix use.

Use Mobile Device Management (MDM)

MDM is security software that is used to manage and secure mobile devices used by your employees. It comprises a range of products and services that provides your organisation with end-to-end security, protecting not only the devices themselves but also the data and apps on them.

Avoid Public WiFi

Ensure your employees avoid using public WiFi to access sensitive information online, which involves any critical business data. They should only access such information via a secure connection. Public WiFi is simply not secure enough, so draw up a set of guidelines for your employees so they know what they can and cannot do.

If, in some cases, this isn't possible - preventative measures can be used. Andrew Bull, CEO of Bright Arts Agency recommends "using a private VPN to access or send sensitive client information. This can apply whether you're working at home or in a cafe. Tunnel Bear offer a great solution which you can use on your laptop or phone. You should also employ a password lock screen saver and use it whenever you leave your desk - sometimes the biggest security is in the hands of your two year old!"

Practice Better Email Security

Email is another easy way for hackers to gain access to your systems. Encrypt work emails so the content within them stays safe and sensitive information can only be seen by the recipients. You should also provide guidelines on how to spot phishing emails, and remind employees of the dangers of opening attachments unless they are sure that they have been sent from trusted sources.

Be Careful with USB Devices

Removable USB sticks can be infected with malware, so your employees should never use these in any of their devices. Don’t allow anyone to plug USB sticks into their computers without first getting them security checked by the IT department, even if they come from trusted sources.

Use a VPN

Kristen Youngs from One Bag Nomad, says: "Because our business operates 100% online, security has been a huge factor from the start. One of the absolute best tips I can give is to invest in a good VPN, which is a software that protects the transfer of sensitive information online. With a VPN, you can access accounts and other private info without worrying about someone else accessing it alongside you, without you ever knowing. Always use a VPN when working remotely."

Keep Remote Employees Safe

Remote working is becoming more popular, and you may want to give your employees the opportunity to work remotely. Even if you don’t have flexible work arrangements, your employees may still need to take their laptops on business trips and carry them on public transport.

Elizabeth Heusler, Owner of Heusler Public Relations, offers the following advice to employees: "It’s all gone wrong, you’ve lost the documents, your computers been hacked and your mobile phone has died. This will all happen at the worst possible time. Make that situation easier on yourself by planning for it.

"If you’re travelling with your device, put all the information you need for your trip on a USB and back it up on a cloud storage device. Have a paper copy of your passport and insurance documents. Tell your bank, and other organisations that you are travelling and provide contact numbers.  Enable the security, trackers and insurance on your devices. Additionally, when it all goes wrong, contact your workplace so they can put their risk plan in place. They may need to do backups, change passwords, notify authorities, clients and stakeholders."

Frederic Chanut, Managing Director at In Marketing We Trust, also provides the following advice for keeping your business secure: "Our distributed team works across 30 different countries and 14 different time zones, so finding a good system to protect our company IP and client data is critical. The following items are designed to mitigate risks in our day to day operations:

"1. We reduce the risk of leakage by partitioning the data and applying the principle of least privilege (those within the business access only the information and resources that are necessary to conduct their work).

2. Use password management tools (such as Lastpass).

3. Take advantage of 2-factor authentification, VPN and IP restriction for sensitive data.

4. We are rolling out more advanced security protocols like security key (e.g. Yubikey) for members of our core team with access to larger amount of information.

5. Have clear protocols and checklist for removal of clients and team members.

6. Regularly audit and review access/usage logs to ensure nothing has been left out."

Every business should take security seriously, so put these measures in place to keep devices and the data stored on them safe. Then you know you are doing all you can to avoid problems with data breaches, data theft, viruses, ransomware and all the other dangers that affect businesses large and small.

Additional tips for remote workers

Jacinta Richmond, a qualified journalist, respected fashion writer, former publicist and published author, says: "My business is 12 years on and has been using remote working practices the entire time. Not just remote working but flexi hours as well. I have always said "I don't care when or where you do it as long as it is done by the deadline and you advise me it is done". This can work extremely well and extremely poorly. In 2018, I installed a weekly team meeting so everyone could keep each other up to date, share wind or ask for support. This made no difference to the work done.

"What makes the difference is your team. They will either have excuses for not getting their work done or they will have it done. It is all down to the individual's work ethic. The key here is communication; if you communicate well with your team, they will work well for you."

Paula Tucker, Founder of Spark CFO, says: "There can be a challenge in building a relationship and rapport with someone you've never meet face to face before, but video conference goes along way to help with it. It partially comes down to personality and making sure you are a good communicator, as well as being able to make sure that meetings include some personal conversation and it's not all just down to business!"

Elena Korolkova, Founder of Kick Consulting, says: "More and more large companies are promoting remote work. Why is that? According to many recent studies, staff wastes between 30-50% of their office time on socialising with others, surfing the net and zoning out. However, working from home encourages managers and companies to use a KPI-based performance management style rather than 'hours spent working'. Spending 8 hours doing a task that should only take 4 hours is an ineffective way to use the company's resources.

"Saying all that, not every person is able to work remotely and be productive. I believe there is a certain type of personality that strives in the remote environment, someone who love hitting targets and goals, ticking tasks completed."

Shemifhar Freytes, MSE, Engagement and Corporate Culture Strategist at Commercial Acoustics, says: "Should we all become remote workers? Not really. Everyone has different work styles. A lot of people need office interaction to be successful and feel comfortable with their job. However, I think every company should give employees the ability to work remote when they need it."

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