Ensuring the Highest Level of Security for Remote Employees: 7 Steps

By Haley Osborne
 

working remotely

 

With 4.7 million geographically distributed employees in the U.S., some employers are hesitant to move their workforce to remote environments over fears of security risks. Indeed, remote professionals can be a valuable asset to any organization. Yet, they do pose unique security risks that require suitable solutions and preventive practices. What this means for companies is that they need to ensure the highest level of security for their remote workers. 

This article focuses on seven essential steps you should take to enable data security for remote employees. 

Step 1. Enable cloud storage

Switching to cloud-based storage is the first step to ensure a safe working environment for remote employees. Cloud storage is an essential tool for remote workflow as it eliminates all security risks commonly associated with local storage. 

Cloud storage is a viable solution not only for remote employees but also for in-house professionals. If you want to minimize the risks of data theft or leaks, you should consider connecting your on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. This way, you’ll keep the data secure while saving the space and cutting the expenses as you don’t need to maintain physical hardware.

Besides the security benefits, cloud storage enables remote employees to work productively and collaborate with other team members. Choose the cloud storage that allows management and sharing of projects across multiple team members. This way, every time the project is updated, every team member can see the changes, add comments, and suggest edits. 

Step 2. Conduct software evaluation 

The next step is identifying which software your remote employees need to perform at a high level with minimum security risks. Experts from Essay Tigers suggest that having a proper set of software allows effective communication between team members and the optimization of workflow management. 

When choosing the right tools for remote employees, it’s easy to get lost in different types of software. To help you evaluate which software your remote team needs, we’ve rounded up the four types of software for remote work. 

Remote desktop software 

The remote desktop software allows you to connect to and access your employee’s computer in another location. This way, you can solve many tasks and manage the performance of each remote employee. Also,  you can transfer files, share the desktop view, and keep track of the time spent on each task.

Screen sharing and recording software 

Unlike remote desktop software, screen sharing tools allow users to share and record screens without additional desktop management. Screen sharing and recording software are particularly useful for remote employees who heavily rely on visuals (e.g. graphic designers) when doing their work. 

Team chat apps 

Effective communication is vital in the conditions of a remote workplace. That’s why you want to ensure all members of your remote team can easily communicate with you and one another. Team chats applications (a.k.a. group chat apps) enable communication between the team members. 

When choosing a team chat app, pay special attention to the safety aspect. Chat apps that use end-to-end encryption are typically the safest solution as only the communicating users have access to decrypted messages. 

Video conferencing software 

While team chat apps are certainly helpful in solving on-spot and managing problems, they can’t fully replace the magic of face to face communication. This is when video conferencing comes into play. Video conferencing apps prove to boost productivity, reduce travel expenses, and promote collaboration. 

Some video conferencing tools offer end-to-end encryption which majorly contributes to overall safety. 

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Step 3. Establish a personal devices use policy

Because remote employees typically use personal devices for work-related purposes, companies have to increase security spendings to battle the resulting security implications. Establishing the personal devices use policy for remote workers is a preventative security practice that will keep your corporate data out of risk. 

Besides establishing and implementing a special policy, it’s important to develop a data recovery strategy for departing remote employees. When remote team members leave your organization, you want to make sure your corporate data remains safe and that your former employees don’t have access to corporate accounts. 

 Step 4. Set up MFA and SSO

Setting up multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) is the next step to ensure the highest level of security for remote teams. 

Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method in which an employee is granted access when they’ve succeeded to present two or more pieces of evidence. MFA is a security mechanism that helps to prevent unauthorized login (even when the password was compromised) as it requires multiple additional credentials: 

  • Facial recognition or fingerprint confirmation 
  • Code sent to work email address 
  • Code sent as a text message 
  • A physical device 
  • Answers to personal security questions 

This image is a great visualization of how MFA works. 

 

authentication

Source: https://www.onelogin.com/assets/img/learn/high-level-mfa.svg 

 

Single sign-on is another authentication method that provides an extra level of security to the work accounts of your remote employees. SSO allows users to log in to multiple related websites (or platforms) with a single password, or if MFA is enabled, multiple authentication factors.

SSO works similarly to ID cards. They allow employees to access multiple enterprises or buildings (websites) with a single ID card (a password + another authentication credential). 

Additionally, it’s useful to enable segmented access to passwords and client information for remote workers.

Step 5. Put protective endpoint security controls 

Putting protective endpoint security controls is a fundamental step towards a safe remote workplace. Here’s a list of security protection software that you can use as a reference when determining which endpoint security controls your remote workers need. 

  • Firewalls 
  • Anti-virus software 
  • Anti-malware software
  • A password manager
  • Device tracking software

Step 6. Ensure secure networks

Back in 2018, studies concluded that 81% of chief information officers said their company experienced a Wi-Fi-related incident in the last year. Moreover, the same report suggested that 62% of Wi-Fi-related security incidents occur in cafes and coffee shops. These studies confirm that many remote employees oversee the importance of using secure networks, while corporate data is introduced to more security risks posed by public Wi-Fi. 

To avoid Wi-Fi-related incidents, it’s important to ensure all of your remote employees have access to a fast and secure Wi-Fi connection. Encouraging your remote team to use virtual private networks (VPNs) is a part of the solution. VPN works by rerouting the device’s connection through a private and safe server. This way, even when your remote workers access work-related files through unsecured Wi-Fi, their connection remains private, which minimizes the risk of data leak or theft. 

Step 7. Educate remote employees on the best cybersecurity practices 

None of these steps are effective if you fail to educate your remote team on dos and don’ts of cybersecurity. Discuss the cybersecurity threats associated with remote work environments and educate your remote workers on how to prevent them from happening. 

Besides encouraging the use of MFA, secure networks, protection software, and cloud storage, educate your remote team about common cyber threats. This includes scams, phishing attacks, viruses, botnets, and other forms of cyberattacks. Besides, explain the importance of using encryption, VPNs, and regularly updating software. 

Final thoughts 

Remote workers pose unique security risks that employers are challenged to address. Following the listed practices will help you ensure the highest level of security for a geographically distributed workforce. 

Before you leave, let’s quickly wrap up what you’ve learned today about enabling a safe working environment for remote employees. 

  • Cloud storage is a viable solution for secure file storage and management. 
  • Software evaluation will help you identify which software is required for your remote employees to do their best. 
  • Designing the personal devices use policy will help you prevent security risks associated with the use of personal devices for work. 
  • MFA and SSO are the extra levels of security that will keep your corporate data safe even if the password information gets compromised. 
  • Putting protective endpoint security controls is essential to ensure a safe remote workplace.
  • Ensuring a safe and fast Wi-Fi connection is fundamental to keep your data secure. 
  • Educating your remote team on the cybersecurity dos and don’ts is essential to ensure the highest level of security. 

Developing a contingency plan for risk management is as important as following the seven steps listed above. A well-designed contingency plan forecasts possible cyber threes and lists step-by-step instructions to solve each of the problems. This way, your remote workers will have a handbook that instructs them what to do in case something goes wrong.  

Haley Osborne

Haley Osborne is an active freelance writer. She is interested in management, web design and writing. Regularly touches on the topics of self-development and modern trends. Its goal is to provide quality and inspiring content.