A 2017 study from Polycom1 confirms what we already know: the remote workplace is on its rise. 65% of 25,000 surveyed employees reported that they “take advantage of the flexible, work-at-home practices offered to them.”
Polycom reported that 98% of employees feel working remotely enhances productivity
Working remotely, however, brings with it a problem of data security. Employees may be sharing business-related information through myriad, unsafe internet networks, whether it is in their home office or a local coffee shop. David Zhang, Eko’s CTO, says “online file sharing is the main security concern stemming from remote working policies.”
Other remote work security concerns, according to David Zhang, include:
Unsafe communication platforms
Eko’s latest survey revealed that 100% of employees use consumer-based communication platforms like WhatsApp for work-related purposes. And while WhatsApp promises encryption, it was ranked last by the Electronic Frontier Foundation2 when it came to data privacy. What’s more, it’s lacklustre auditing features means you cannot track messages and information that are being shared.
“WhatsApp is connected to your employees’ phone numbers, meaning they can share contact lists and chats that might contain confidential data with unauthorised personnel without you ever knowing,” comments Zhang.
Employees working conventionally are issued laptops and devices with preset security protocols. Remote workers often use their own devices and are in charge of their own cybersecurity. BYOD trend means that employees are more likely to mix personal and private information on their devices simply because it’s convenient.
Zhang explains the situation, “Imagine if that one device with all the employee’s business-related and personal information is compromised with no security software, or ‘barriers’ stopping the hacker from accessing all your company’s confidential information. That’s a problem.”
So, what are the best practices for a secured remote workplace?
Though it’s difficult to be 100% secure, you can minimise security risks unique to the remote workplace in a few easy steps.
1. Centralise all your communications and file sharing
Using one cloud-based channel to communicate and share information reduces points of vulnerability and eliminates duplicate documents stored in employee inboxes, hard drives, and chat applications.
Storing everything in one location helps with document management and overall efficiency, as everyone in your company can easily find information they need, instead of constantly searching, downloading, and uploading different versions of the same files across multiple platforms.
According to a McKinsey report3, employees spend 1.8 hours every day — 9.3 hours per week, on average — searching and gathering information.
At Eko, we use our own internal communications platform which comes with the following security features:
- Military-grade encryption
Every message and file sent over Eko is encrypted both at rest and in transit via AES-256. All the encryption keys for your data are managed by a separate server on a closed network.
- Security auditing and reporting
Eko’s Admin Panel has a real-time audit log of all the actions performed by employees in your company. Actions include everything from initial log in to messages sent.
- Data control
Eko allows to add/remove users with a few clicks, set permissions and policies granting or limiting access to certain features, and much more.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN allows your workers to safely share and receive information through any internet connection by establishing an encrypted connection. It’s especially necessary for remote workers who opt to work in coffee shops or co-working spaces and use a public internet connection.
Much like a single communications channel can reduce points of vulnerabilities, asking your employees to install a single VPN on their devices can keep all their internet traffic secure.
Additionally, a third-party VPN service allows your company to ensure security patches are applied on all devices at once, and any security breaches are quickly identified and resolved by your IT department.
Other security software to implement:
Firewall prevents unauthorised users from accessing private networks connected to the internet. It also analyses and rejects data packets that don’t comply with your preset security protocols.
Anti-virus detects and removes malicious software like viruses, worms, and trojans from the system.
3. Implement a strong password policy
Strong passwords protect employees devices when they’re lost, stolen or hacked. Ensure your employees know the basics of crafting a strong password. Some key metrics include length, two-step authentication processes, and unique passwords for different accounts and systems.
The remote workplace isn’t fading away anytime soon. By implementing and following through with simple security practices like using centralised communications platforms, installing security software, and enforcing strong password policies, you can rest assured knowing that all your confidential information remains secure, no matter where your employees are.
The Business Transformation Network has shared this article in partnership with EkoApp.