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Remote work environments and cybersecurity? Not as difficult as you might think

As the working world evolves, we are seeing a difference in how we approach our jobs. Most of us used to go into a physical office to complete our tasks, but these days companies are allowing people to work from home more than ever before. There are great benefits to a remote environment, such as the ability to cut costs on utilities at the corporate office and the elimination of a commute, but there are some disadvantages as well. One of the largest is the potential for cybercrime.

Many employees and managers think remote workplaces and smaller businesses like theirs can fly under the radar when it comes to the attention of hackers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You need to ensure the security of your remote work environment, and you can do it with a bit of knowledge and some common sense security.

Why cybersecurity is important

Every manager and remote worker needs to understand that they’re responsible for watching for the potential signs of a data breach. If customer data is stolen from any computer within your organization, it can lead to customer distrust and hefty fines that could bring your company to its knees. Even an email address or birth date can be used by hackers to launch other scams like phishing emails or simply be sold on the black market. If your business is found to be responsible, then your reputation may never recover.

Just because an employee works from home doesn’t mean that they’re safe. In fact, studies show that one in three homes have computers that are infected with malicious software, so it is even more important to protect the corporate network while working remotely. For that reason, it is essential that your company invests in training to teach your staff about the warning signs of viruses, malware, and other cybercrime. All employees should be trained on every new piece of software that you introduce to them. Along with learning how to use it, they should also be trained about how it can be breached by hackers and what they can do to avoid that possibility.

Cybersecurity training should also be a part of employee orientation whenever a new agent comes onboard. They should be taught about the basics of proper passwords, how to avoid common scams, and the proper way to report any suspicious activity if they see it. Once the class is concluded, have each employee sign a memo of understanding. This signed form is important because it shows what the employees have learned, and it can also be useful if a worker ever intentionally allows a cybercrime and it results in a legal issue.

Know the risks

A significant part of employee training should be dedicated to common cybersecurity attacks, including how to detect them and the protective measures that can be taken to avoid falling victim. For instance, one of the most common cybersecurity threats is the phishing email, where a hacker sends a fake message that appears to be from a figure of authority like a manager, but really, it contains a link or attachment, and if either is clicked, then it essentially opens the door for a hacker to enter your network. The best way to thwart a phishing attack is to know the signs, and if you get a suspicious email, report it to the IT team.

Potential signs of a phishing email include:

  • An email filled with bad syntax and misspelled words.
  • A message that includes a link or attachment that you were not expecting.
  • Any email address that is outside of the company and may come from a common platform like Yahoo or Gmail.

Another threat that can be particularly damaging is ransomware. Essentially, ransomware is when a hacker infects a remote employee’s computer with a virus, and they cannot access their device again until your company pays a hefty ransom. It can be scary to see your computer get hijacked, but employees must report it immediately.

Even if you pay a hacker the ransom, there is no guarantee that they will not destroy your files anyway, so it’s a good idea for your company to practice data warehousing. Essentially, that is when you store your valuable corporate and customer information on a separate server that is not attached to your main network. If you are infected with ransomware, and your files are corrupted, then you can transmit the data from that external server and keep your business open while you call the authorities for help.

Common sense security

While some of these cybersecurity topics may seem complex at first, you can still prevent many hacker threats by practicing common sense security tactics. For instance, lock every application your employees use with a strong password that includes a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Those passwords must be paired with a form of two-factor authentication, such as a separate code that is sent to their phones or the biometric scan of an eye or fingerprint, which cannot be easily duplicated.

On top of that, every employee should have a good antivirus program installed on their computer to eliminate potential threats. Either the employee or the IT team should be responsible for running virus scans several times per week, and if anything is found, then the threat can be eliminated on the spot. Keep in mind that your antivirus software must be updated whenever a new version becomes available to protect you against the latest threats.

Finally, if your employees are allowed to work outside of their homes, then educate them on the importance of avoiding fake Wi-Fi networks. This scam often occurs in public places like coffee shops, where a hacker will create their own network and advertise it as free to use in order to lure in potential victims. However, when you connect, you are really connecting to the hacker’s computer, and from there, the criminal can get into your corporate network. Instruct your staff members to always ask an employee at the establishment for the correct network before connecting.

As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of advanced knowledge to protect your remote workers from the threat of cybercrime. Managers who follow these tips and educate their staff will have confidence that their team is safe and secure.

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Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and eco-warrior. Though he writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind and help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn't working on new content, you can find him with a coffee in one hand and searching for new music in the other. You can follow him on Twitter @danielmatthews0

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