There’s no denying that 2020 has irrevocably changed the way we operate on every level. In the corporate world, remote working has become reality. A vast majority of businesses have had to pivot their operations to allow employees to work from home.
While the advancement of technology and the internet has allowed for this pivot, the sudden change in the work environment comes with its own set of issues. Now, more than ever before, data is at risk.
To a large degree, companies made the move to remote working without first implementing proper security protocols and procedures. This opened them up to vulnerabilities, both internally, and from external elements.
In order to mitigate these risks, the need to educate employees and implement updated security features has become paramount in preventing data theft.
Identify The Areas Of Concern
Companies who may be vulnerable to data theft need to identify areas of concern and act on them. The most common of these include:
- Information now all needs to be stored in the cloud
- No control over devices used to access the cloud
- Having proper backup and recovery systems
- Ensuring you remain compliant with data protection regulations
Once you’ve identified the areas that apply, quick action is required. Data breaches have cost companies an estimated $3.86 million on average, and these costs can be ruinous both financially and in reputation.
Start With Passwords
Your first security measure on devices and cloud storage will always be passwords. These have to be unique and suitably complex, as it only takes a hacker a few seconds to crack through a five or six character password.
The longer a password is, the harder it is to crack. The more variables added with each new character, the greater the number of sequences a hacker or cracking software will need to run. Using a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters in a random configuration is best practice when creating passwords.
You also need to change your passwords regularly. Yes, this is time consuming, and may lead to employees writing down each version, which is not ideal for safety. However, if you enforce the use of a password manager, you can alleviate this annoyance and security threat.
Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is fast becoming a standard for internet security. Essentially a private, encrypted digital tunnel, VPN’s allow you to work remotely using just about any Wi-Fi connection – including one that is unsecured – without compromising your company’s secure data.
This means that every single one of your employees working from home will be secure on their home connections too.
A VPN creates a secondary network for you once you’ve connected to the internet. This second network is unique to your device and masks your online activities from anyone else using the same internet connection as you. A hacker will have to work harder to see what you’re doing, and this can often be a deterrent.
Even without COVID-19 and remote working, you should have a VPN in place that employees can use whenever they go off site.
Implement Multi-Factor Authentication
The more layers you can add to a platform or system, the harder it’ll be to penetrate. Passwords are always your first port of call and should never be neglected. After that, you can opt for several different secondary security options such as eye scanners, facial recognition, fingerprint scanners, one-time pins, and two-factor verification.
At a minimum, two-factor verification should be implemented for anyone in your company who has access to sensitive data. The more sensitive the information, the more layers of verification you should add.
This means increasing your IT budget, especially if you’re going the biometrics route. You’ll need devices that can scan fingerprints, the eye, or face before they’ll allow access.
Another option is to link the software to an app on your employees’ phones. Once they log in with their username or password, they’ll need to access an app that facilitates facial or fingerprint recognition. Alternatively, they can receive a one-time pin, which will need to be submitted to your system for authentication.
By implementing a secondary authentication factor, you’ll reinforce employee accountability. While a hacker may breach one layer of security, it’s far harder to breach two, especially if it involves the use of biometrics. Generally, this software creates a log file that stores dates and times of entry, ensuring that the person who gained access is noted and recorded.
Train Your Employees
The most important step to minimizing data piracy is ensuring employees are on board with security measures and understand the severity of a breach. Internet security has become a global focus, and a breach won’t just cost your company money and a potential loss of reputation, it can also have legal ramifications. Data regulations that govern the protection of sensitive and confidential information have been instituted on an almost global basis, and failing to adhere to them can result in massive fines.
Keeping employees informed of regulations and the protocols that need to be followed is critical. Especially when you consider that human error and negligence are two of the weak points that hackers will target in any company.
It’s essential that you assess their level of awareness and ability to judge what is and isn’t a risk. Regular security training programs should become part of operations, and these can be run remotely too.
Don’t be shy to start with refresher courses that start from the ground up, focusing on online security, being aware of phishing emails, and the dangers of using public Wi-Fi access. These basics are important, and you can build on them to ensure your company is kept safe at every level, regardless of where employees are working from.
While attacks are almost impossible to stop entirely, their impact can be reduced, and they can be prevented wherever possible. A well-informed, well-equipped remote workforce is the best defence against a security breach.