Working from home is the new norm of doing business, brought about by recent technological advancements and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More and more employees are now setting up offices in their homes. As you jump into this transition, how can you make your home a conducive and secure space to work or do business?
As you rely more on remote setups, you may need to focus on investing in security measures for your virtual spaces, rather than in your physical offices.
What Are the Threats to the Remote Working Space?
Cybersecurity threats are one of the top concerns when a workforce goes fully remote. Many business owners are anxious about providing business information access to employees from afar. As such, many are still hesitant to switch to a fully remote setting.
Thankfully, there are many ways to keep your work files and business information secure and confidential, as long as each one in the team has their home offices secured.
Here are some of the best ways to secure your home office from cybersecurity threats or data compromises.
1. Improve Email Literacy
Think before you click. Phishers are empowered by the continuing unawareness of people about these shady tactics.
Phishers usually send mass emails asking for sensitive information, such as your identity or company information. They do this by imitating how emails of legal institutions or well-known companies look. Just a few signs of credibility, such as a copied email header and a logo, are sometimes enough to trick individuals into thinking that the sender is a legitimate organization.
How can you protect yourself from phishing? First of all, email platforms have dedicated spaces for spam emails, where suspicious emails usually get flagged. Make sure to not open these flagged emails or entertain their requests unless they verify their credentials.
If you’re a business owner or a team leader, train your employees or team members to be vigilant in handling sensitive information.
For instance, make it a policy that they secure your permission first before providing sensitive information to requesting parties. If disclosing the information can result in a financial loss, you will be falling into a dangerous trap if you do not verify who is asking for your data.
2. Secure Your Connection
In a virtual office, you’ll sometimes be working in public, or your employees will be on the go. Made possible by technological advances, adapting to this flexibility is seen to benefit many businesses and employees in the long run.
In case you’ll be working away from a secure home Wi-Fi, ensure that you have access to an alternative secure connection. Avoid connecting to a public network. This type of connection is unsecure and can serve as an entry point for hackers to access your device and its data.
Using a mobile data connection is more secure than public Wi-Fi, as data subscriptions can still encrypt sensitive incoming and outgoing information. If you can, provide your employees or team members allowance for internet services, but if you cannot afford to do so, ask them to use data connections when they work elsewhere outside their homes.
Connecting to a virtual private network, or VPN, can be an alternative to this dilemma if using public Wi-Fi cannot be avoided. While it can provide a layer of protection, being exposed to unwanted third parties can still pose a threat when you stay connected for too long.
3. Limit Use of Personal Computers
Even if you issue laptops or desktops, chances are, at one point or another, your employees might still be using their personal computers to access work files.
While this is not an issue for employees not handling sensitive information, you want to stay ahead of any incident where any employee may have copies of your information on their local drives.
The threat here can come from multiple angles. First, when an employee’s personal computer gets compromised, it can spell trouble for you if it contains sensitive company information. This is worrisome particularly when the personal computer does not have updated security tools as the company equipment provides.
When your employee resigns, chances are they still have some information saved on their personal computer. After they leave, you will no longer have control over the files they have downloaded.
The best practice is to provide your employees company equipment with updated security tools and software. This way, you can ensure that the files they access stay on the equipment provided.
The best alternative would be to keep your company files online. You can take advantage of cloud services for real-time collaboration and better data management.
4. Use Multifactor Authentication
Passwords used to be the best security available against identity theft. However, hackers these days can figure out passwords in minutes, now making passwords a weak security measure.
By nature, passwords are harder to figure out when they are more than eight characters and contain numbers, capital letters, and punctuation. However, this configuration makes it difficult for any account owner to remember, so many opt to choose passwords that can be easily remembered – thus making it easier to be compromised.
Using multifactor authentication boosts the security level of your devices and work files. This security layer makes it harder for intruders to gain access.
Biometrics are usually used to accompany passwords. Fingerprints, palm prints, and facial recognition are the most used biometric verification today, thanks to fingerprint scanners and selfie cameras.
Some companies nowadays even use biometrics for monitoring employee attendance, an innovative way to maintain accountability in a remote setting.
5. Use End-to-end Encrypted Messaging
Like using VPN, you should be using end-to-end encrypted messages as the new norm for communication.
Encryption creates an additional barrier against hackers who attempt to access your communications. As your business communication most likely involves operations, planning, and other sensitive information, this becomes a huge liability when accessed by the wrong people.
Unencrypted messaging, such as basic SMS texting, can expose your messages to anyone successful at getting ahold of them.
Encrypted messages, such as those carried out in apps, keep your messages obscure to anyone who has gotten ahold of them. The encryption makes it possible to hide your messages even in plain sight.
With end-to-end encryption, even app developers and the app owner cannot monitor the messages sent through the platform. This can even extend to phone calls and the files sent through the apps.
Encrypted messaging continues to be updated as the code used for encryption becomes extremely complicated to keep hackers at bay. Hence, it is important for you to keep your apps updated to ensure that your messages are well encrypted.
6. Get a Comprehensive Antivirus Software
Free antivirus software only provides the bare minimum protection for your device. If you want to stay protected, you must invest in a subscription service to keep your devices secured.
Like any hacking scheme, viruses and malware can easily change and beat old software. The built-in antivirus software on your devices is not powerful enough for the protection you need when working remotely.
Further, not all devices are made with the best and most updated security. Hence, installing third-party antivirus software can give you standardized protection across your devices.
Third-party antivirus software excels more in combating online threats. It can alert you to phishing emails and unsafe websites to prevent you from giving attackers the chance to invade your privacy.
It can even encrypt your cloud storage, making your accessible files even more secure regardless of the device where it was accessed.
They also excel at scanning viruses and malware your built-in antivirus software cannot detect. The earlier you can recognize trouble, the faster you can assess the scope of its damage and recover any lost data. It also provides better firewall and network protection than your operating system’s firewall.
7. Secure Your Physical Workspace
Security wise, there is only so much you can do to your computer or laptop to avoid physical threats. If your laptop gets stolen, the thief can easily find the resources they need to hack your device.
A secure home is a secure and conducive workspace. A DIY home security system can be a strong and affordable option for you. Of course, you can also opt to subscribe to a stricter home security system.
More importantly, do not let other people, including your household members, access or use your work equipment. Even if it is tempting to use your work laptop for personal use after working hours, other people do not prioritize security measures in the same way that you do.
8. Adhere to Company Policies
Adhere to company policies. Usually, the IT team knows the best configuration and settings for your device. If you notice anything suspicious happening on your device, make sure to alert them immediately.
Company policies also detail the use of specific programs for specific tasks. Even if you have your preferred program, your company must have a centralized approach to security to make all their virtual operations secure and free from intrusion.
Included in this centralized approach is the real-time back up of company data. The data stored within the apps they want you to use are most likely a part of a huge, cloud-based storage.
9. Set Up Emergency Contacts
In a remote setting, there will be times when you will not be able to reach each other. This is where emergency contact methods come in handy.
In the event your company network is under attack, you must be able to reach your employees or team members as soon as possible.
Aside from emails and the usual communication apps, set up one more contact method for important and urgent matters, such as phone numbers or alternative communication apps.
10. Prepare a Solid Response Plan
Better yet, have a plan on hand and prepare your employees or team members to address security concerns should it come from their end. If they can detect and address the first hint of trouble and report it, the whole system can be alerted until the IT team resolves it and prevents any future security concerns.
It is good to have a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan as a document describing what your business needs to do when it experiences a cyber-attack.
The Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan (CSIRP) details the process to contain any security threat: (1) preparation, (2) detection and analysis, (3) containment, eradication, and recovery, and (4) post-incident activity.
With an incident response plan, everyone has a definite role in stopping an infiltration.
Instead of thinking about how you will counter a breach when it occurs, having CSIRP ensures you will be able to determine the source of the attack.
A secure home office is a conducive workspace free of cybersecurity threats. Maintaining the confidentiality of business information in a remote setting is a top concern for many employers. Thankfully, as this workforce transition continues, there are many proven ways to ensure that remote workspaces are secure.
Any security plan starts with awareness. Improve the way you handle email. Train your employees to be aware of phishing attacks and how to handle sensitive information.
Work only using secure Wi-Fi connections and avoid using public Wi-Fi. In instances where public networks are the only option, remind everyone to use a VPN to stay anonymous online.
As an extra layer of verification, use multifactor authentication methods when signing into accounts. Biometrics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, can be used on top of strong passwords.
Adhere to company policies and use only company software and equipment when working. Most companies centralize their apps for cloud storage and services. Prevent your employees and team members from using their own preferred apps. Be sure to have updated security tools on your computers.
Aside from software and equipment, it is also important to keep your home’s surroundings safe. You can install home security systems to keep your house safe, and refrain from letting your family members access your work laptop for personal use.
Lastly, prepare and set up a response plan. A Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan in place is best to have to immediately address cybersecurity threats.
Ensuring the security of a company network is not a one-man job, but a responsibility that must be shared by all. And in this era of remote work, your effort to secure your home office is crucial to keeping everyone else safe.