There are many benefits of using a remote workforce, such as lowering overhead costs and gaining access to a larger talent pool. However, this trend also opens up more opportunities for cybercriminals to hack into your system and steal sensitive data.
Cyberattacks can lead to customer loss, brand reputation loss, and productivity/operational loss. In fact, customer attrition rates can increase by as much as 30 percent following a cyberattack!
The high cost of cyberattacks is impacting organizations of all sizes, and it’s important to take the right precautions to fence off hackers. Here are some security best practices your distributed team should follow:
1. Enhance endpoint security
When team members use their own equipment to connect to your system remotely, you have to make sure that the devices they use are secure (e.g., computers, smartphones, and tablets).
Make sure you have a comprehensive data security policy, including a BYOD (bring your own device) protocol. To protect data in transit, all connections to your system should be on a secure https platform. Emails should be encrypted, and remote desktops should be accessed via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Namecheap, for example, is a highly affordable VPN that has built a good reputation as a safe and reliable option.
Your employees should have endpoint protection software installed on their devices. These include basic antivirus software and firewalls, data recovery as well as advanced software that uses machine learning and behavioral analysis to detect suspicious activities or patterns. Consider using virtual desktop infrastructures for easy distribution and cost management. At the end of the day, preventing security breaches is far less costly than curing it if it happens.
2. Enforce password management
Did you know that weak or stolen passwords account for as much as 80% of attacks? Ensuring that your team members are using strong passwords for logging into your system can help lower the chance of attacks.
Each team member should have his or her unique username and password for accessing your network and software platforms. Also, they should not use the same login credential for sites that they use personally.
If you need to share an account and login credentials for specific sites, use a password manager application (e.g., LastPast.) It allows you to generate strong passwords and store them securely so the entire team can have access.
In addition, most software platforms allow you to add 2-factor authentication (also called 2-step verification) to the login process to ensure that a stolen password alone will not result in an account compromise.
3. Set up access control
Not everyone on your team needs access to all your business data. Many software platforms and document management systems allow users to set up role-based access control. This enables you to give access privilege only to those who need specific information to perform their job functions.
Setting up access control can help minimize the amount of data that criminals can steal even if they hack into your system using one of your team member’s credentials.
In addition, many of these applications allow you to track who has viewed, edited, or shared what data and from where so you can identify suspicious activities or unusual patterns that could indicate an attack. For instance, you can take action if you see a user logging in from two different locations at the same time.
4. Provide employee training
Human errors and negligence are the major causes of data breaches so make sure your remote workers knows how to protect themselves and your network from prying eyes.
A comprehensive onboarding process is essential, especially for a remote team, to ensure that every team member understands the importance of following your security policy. You should also provide the right IT support to help them implement the steps, such as configuring their devices and setting up VPN services.
You should also train your employees on how to prevent cybersecurity threats, such as phishing scams, malware, ransomware, and e-skimming. Build ongoing awareness with regular communications on the latest security best practices so they don’t let their guard down.
In addition, implement a comprehensive offboarding process to handle employee separation. For example, it should include a checklist to help ensure that all access privileges are revoked and former employees no longer have access to your systems, network, or sensitive data.
5. Create a response plan
Since a distributed team may be located in different time zones, they may not get the support they need right away when the unexpected happens. You need to design a comprehensive response plan and clearly communicate it to your team so they’ll know exactly what to do in a variety of situations that involve IT security.
For example, the plan should describe the steps employees should take when they lose a device with sensitive data, find out that your infrastructure is accessed by an unauthorized user, recognize unusual account activities, or discover a security vulnerability.
You should also have a backup and recovery plan and share it with your distributed team so they know exactly how to respond in the event of a data breach. This will help you get your system back online as quickly as possible while containing the extent of the breach so you can minimize costly downtime and unnecessary damages.
Using a distributed team is a great way to save on operating cost but you need to make sure you’re not cutting corners on IT security. You should invest in setting up the right cybersecurity measures and communicate the security protocols to your team. This ensures that the proper steps are followed so you can protect the safety of your business-critical data.