Security Risks of Working Remotely

Twenty years ago, it would have been a good joke between colleagues to suggest working from home over working from offices. They would have assumed that remote working is an informal easy job that you can do while still in pajamas. They’d picture having the last piece of pancake in one hand and holding the telephone in the other.

The reality, however, is different because working remotely is as hard and tiring as working from offices. Even though you can actually work in pajamas if you wish you still have to attend meetings, deliver reports, and do everything you were doing while being in your office.

Tech revolution and software industry together introduced new tools that have changed the business concepts we used to know in the past. In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of the business world in a blink of an eye. It pushed everyone into cyberspace and forced the notion of working remotely as a perfect solution to overcome the international lockdowns. Of course, working from home started before the pandemic but it became mandatory for most industries during the last two years. Just like the other modes of work, remote also has its challenges, one of the big ones being security risks

The pros and cons of working remotely

Working from home is a new trend, and with new trends, there are always drawbacks. Business owners, managers, and employees can all benefit from remote working. Nevertheless, there are lots of risks, and challenges that will have you think twice before considering to shift remotely. At least it will have you consider the right steps to take, not just make the decision and start.

Remote working reduces costs (e.g., transportation), and it encourages hiring employees overseas which adds lots of diversity. The effect on nature is also important to mention. With less paperwork, less transportation, and fewer crowds on the metro stations every morning and afternoon.

All the above will sound good to hear but what about the risks that accompany working from home? Are these risks so serious that you have to think about them? This is what we’ll be discussing in our article today. We will focus on the risks we don’t mean to discourage you from moving your business into the remote environment. We want you to do that with firm steps and good support to keep your business running with no issues.

The biggest security risks of working from home

Allowing employees to work remotely while maintaining their normal business routine means that they need to access the company’s files and sensitive information using their own internet connection and devices. This raises the question about the reliability and efficiency of this process. How will it affect the privacy of business information?

Work vs. home laptops and computers

Asking remote employees to use their devices while working from home raises two important questions.

Will your company’s data be secure while stored on a personal device?

Without enough training about security risks, you are putting your business in danger. Keep in mind that personal devices are always easier to access than work ones. This doesn’t have to be by means of harm all the time. Someone could unintentionally cause damage to your information or mistakenly expose it to others. Sometimes clients won’t accept the idea of having their sensitive information being stored in a personal device somewhere without enough supervision from the company itself. 

Will their device technically correspond to all your business requirements?

Never underestimate the amount of headache and the cost of having employees working on older devices that do not technically fit for the job. This issue will cost you time and money trying to maintain the same level of performance as in the office while solving tech-related problems like dying CPUs and full RAMs, etc. resulting in unfinished tasks.

Solving these issues requires taking some actions to avoid future trouble

  • Educating employees about possible security risks and how to handle them.
  • Using a proper software solution to maintain the security of information and organize access privileges professionally.
  • Setting technical minimum requirements for personal employee’s devices or providing work dedicated ones that are suitable for the job.

Unsafe Wi-Fi network as a security risk

Remote employees can control who has access to their home networks. However, this isn’t the same when they are using public Wi-Fi to do their jobs. Sometimes remote workers use coffee shops or co-working spaces in as their offices. You might ignore the fact that someone might be sitting next to them and taking a look at their screens.

However, you can’t ignore the possibility of falling into a malicious attack from a cybercriminal. They can use a variety of tools to steal their data or monitor their screens. As a worst-case scenario, they can even get access to their business accounts by stealing their passwords and security information.

Although this doesn’t happen often, the chances still exist, and you need to think of precautions to maintain a high level of security.

Other security risks that unsafe networks pose

Again, education is key when it comes to cyber security. You have to keep all your remote employees aware of what could go wrong and how they can protect their privacy. The rule of thumb here is to avoid sharing any sensitive or critical information while using a public network. And if it’s urgent then better connect their devices to a hotspot of their own before they start sharing. You can also teach them:

  • To only access networks with a WPA authentication,
  • Turn off the auto-connect feature on their devices,
  • Turn on the system’s built-in firewall.

Using security software is also important. It adds an extra layer of protection and reduce the chances of being scammed. Like using a VPN whenever possible so they can send and receive data through an encrypted tunnel. It’s an advice that many security professionals give. You can also protect your data by applying multi-factor authentication to avoid suspicious logins and ensure only your employees are accessing your internal data. Did you know this is one of the main security features in Microsoft Teams? Check out this article to find out more about the level of security teams can bring to your remote environment

Cyberattacks

Protecting your company from cyberattacks might be a lot easier when you have all the employees in one place, and all the devices are being supervised and controlled by a specialist. IT teams can keep updating the security software and control the access to the network on a professional level. This isn’t the case in the remote working environment, and employees are often left on their own to face cyberattacks that can be specifically targeting your business or just fishing for weak prey.

Tech vulnerabilities are the most common reasons behind cyberattacks and adopting the remote business model without preparing for them is like committing suicide ‘from a business prescriptive’. Security can be guaranteed if the right processes were applied and the right software was chosen to control the remote working infrastructure. 

Cloud-based systems like Microsoft Teams are strong against such kinds of attacks. It allows the company to embrace a level of security for remote workers and create a multi-layered access control. With Microsoft Teams, data is encrypted in transit and stored in Microsoft datacenters. Microsoft uses industry standard technologies such as TLS and SRTP to encrypt all data in transit between users’ devices and Microsoft datacenters. This includes messages, files, meetings, and other content.

Dealing with sensitive data

When you allow remote working you will have to accept the fact that some of your employees will have to access the company’s sensitive data from their homes for them to do their jobs. This triggers the alarm for the importance of having all the data organized, backed up, secured while being carefully shared with remote workers to guarantee that nothing could go wrong, or at least you can fix it up if it did.

How to minimize the security risks? 

Choosing the right software to support your endeavor in adopting a remote business model is the first step into securing your data and ensuring all the processes are well organized. Systems can provide the hub for connectivity, collaboration, and productivity that you need to keep the integration of your team as if they were working in the same office, and even better.

Microsoft Teams provides the perfect solution for remote working environments. Its built-in tools and features allow you to focus on the company goals instead of wasting time worrying about technical stuff. 

All chatting, online conferencing and documentation sharing functions of this platform maintain a high level of privacy for all users. Using Teams, employees can chat, create, share, and edit documents in real-time all the while complying with all security guidelines. 

Here are some features and tools that Microsoft Teams offers that will help you manage security risks. 

Governance policies 

Governance policies allow you to protect information shared within the organization. It helps you control what users can and can’t do within Microsoft Teams. For example, what they can do via the platform, who can create teams, what kind of information and data they can share, etc. The last one is a particularly important one. Through a proper governance policy, you can administer the flow and the dissemination of the data stored in Microsoft Teams. Learn more about governance policies here.

Sensitivity labels 

In this day and age when essentially every company deals with an overwhelming amount of documents, it’s very easy to mistakenly share a confidential one. To avoid such mistakes with big consequences, Microsoft Teams offers you to use sensitivity labels. Sensitivity labels are a means to classify your organization’s data in a way that shows how sensitive the data is. It is an amazing feature which ensures that the data you manage is classified according to its sensitivity, so it’s not misused. Learn more about what sensitivity labels do and how you can use them here

Activity alerts 

Another one of our favorite features in Microsoft’s “security kit” is the Microsoft 365 Audit Log. Using the Audit Log, you can create activity alerts for things like external sharing, uploading/downloading files, granting permissions, and other potentially security-related risky activities. 

Learn more about Microsoft Teams security best practices here.

Another way to ensure a higher level of security of your teams and the information they’re sharing is through Collaboration Templates. The allow you to achieve operational excellence at scale while providing your workspace with advanced security settings. You can control the team creation process, team ownership and membership, private channel settings, sensitivity labels and more. It will not only save you time and energy but also provide you with additional tools to manage security risks.

Contact our team to learn how to improve your collaboration efficiency.

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