In 2021, the average cost of cyberattacks on businesses was £2,670 a year. To small businesses, this is a significant cost that only gets higher as the size of the company involved increases. Although certain controls can be put in place while employees are in the office, protecting your businesses’ data, information and intellectual property becomes a greater challenge as they start to work remotely.
Whether it’s sharing data securely, informing your employees of the risks or putting security software in place, here are a few ways you can make sure your remote employees don’t become a weak spot in your business’s cybersecurity.
What cybersecurity threats do remote employees face?
Remote working is increasingly becoming the standard way of working for a range of employees and teams. It’s also leaving businesses and teams at increased risk of cyber hacks or attacks. The controls businesses put in place to keep important data and information secure while in the office are no longer adequate for stopping cyber hackers from targeting employees working in their own homes.
Although there are a huge range of scams and threats that can put remote workers at risk, fraudulent emails or websites are one of the most common ways employees fall victim to hackers. Whether they click on a link that leads them into ransomware or enter their details into a website that they shouldn’t, there are a variety of ways that hackers can gain access to a remote worker’s computer and through this, a business’s files or computer network.
Indeed, many remote employees choose to work outside of the office because they feel more relaxed there. In cybersecurity terms, this means their guard is down, putting them at even greater risk of attack. So, to keep the business and employees safe from harm, both need to take action and remain on their toes.
How can remote employees protect themselves?
It might not be a remote worker’s personal data or information that’s at risk of cyberattack, but their role is crucial to keeping your business secure. Making their responsibilities within your cybersecurity controls clear should always be a priority for businesses that are moving towards a remote or hybrid way of working.
As well as taking their role in your cybersecurity seriously, there are a few other steps that remote workers can take to keep your data and information protected:
Keep their WiFi network secure: working from public places like a library or internet cafe can mean they’re sharing sensitive data or information over an open WiFi network. This is essentially an open door to cyberhackers. By working only on secured WiFi networks, such as their home broadband, they can minimise the risk of a cyber breach.
Choose strong passwords: whether they use password protection software or just select a random set of letters, numbers and symbols, ensuring they have strong passwords, particularly for their email and VPN access provides the first level of protection from cyberhackers.
Stay on their guard: it's easy to forget about the risks when you’re working from home. Making sure they’re on their guard and untrustworthy of any email addresses or website domains they don’t recognise will stop them from falling victim to a scan or ransomware breach.
Not sharing unencrypted files: protecting data isn’t just important for your business, but is now a legislative requirement. GDPR is just one of the latest pieces of governance that outlines data handling best practices. Ensuring any data or information is password-protected, encrypted or shared over a secure network rather than by email or message will mean it's not put at risk.
Not leaving their laptop unattended: even if they’ve locked their screen, opportunistic hackers can steal a remote employee’s machine and work to access it later, putting any files on there at risk. Particularly when travelling or working in a public place, it’s key that they don’t leave their machine alone and at risk.
How can businesses protect remote employees?
Your employees might not be based in the office, but there are ways you can help to protect them from cyber attacks:
Regular training: even employees with the best of intentions can let their guard slip occasionally. Running real-life security tests (such as sending them a fake phishing email), providing regular training and communication will help to keep them on their toes and reduce the likelihood of a widespread hack.
Implementing two-factor authentication: as well as a strong password, using two-factor authentication, where a code is sent to another device for users to input, will give their machine and accounts extra protection from attacks.
Using security software: particularly if employees are accessing files on their own devices, investing in antiviral, firewalls and cybersecurity software will add an extra layer of protection from attacks. With automatic updates and real-time safety alerts available, this type of software can help to give you extra peace of mind.
Using secure file and data systems: whether certain files can only be accessed when employees are in the office or you use a secure VPN (virtual private network) that’s protected by a smart card, adding extra layers of protection is essential to keep your information and data safe.
Providing work devices: wherever possible, keeping personal and business data and information separate should be encouraged. This doesn’t just mean you can be sure that all the appropriate security is in place, but that even if an individual employee’s account is breached, your business will be protected.
In short, although there are many cybersecurity risks out there, by working alongside your remote employees, you can make sure your business data and information stays protected from breaches and threats.