The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 is slowly conquering the world and the best way to stay safe is to stay at home. The authorities have urged the pubic to minimize interactions between people and hence the global economy has witnessed a sudden shift to a remote workforce. While it brings its own benefits onto the table, it also poses significant security risks to a company.
Concept of Remote Workforce
Remote working is when employees of an organization don't report to a physical office allowing them to perform all their essential tasks and responsibilities outside the traditional office space. Through a suitable network, communication occurs between these out-of-office employees constituting remote workforce for that organization.
A remote workforce is based on the key principle of work being what you do, not where you do it. Accordingly, workers should be able to achieve same productivity and accomplish all their daily work outside the physical office space.
To ensure the success of this process, organizations or companies should facilitate technology such as video conferencing to guarantee efficient and effective communication within the work community. Employers should keep the workplace cohesion intact, create an effective collaborative environment while preventing employee burnout, and ensure accountability and transparency in the office community.
Embracing a Remote Workforce
Companies shifting to remote workforces became common amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and it is expected that this trend would remain so even after the virus is contained. When the organization’s remote work environment is flourishing, employees prosper and their efficiency and productivity increases. The manner in which you manage a remote workforce could have long-term implications for your organization and its potential to grow.
Working from home inherently take away the expenses generated due to the presence of a physical office. No need to pay water bills, electricity bills, maintenance bills, etc. The organization merely needs to handle employee salaries and the cost of the communication technologies used.
Moreover, research shows that a remote work force, when successfully managed has increased the business productivity. Employees are happier and there by more efficient and productive as they do not have to expend much time and energy on a daily commute and wouldn’t be troubled by trivial matters such as office politics. Furthermore, employees would be less inclined to take days off from work as now they could easily manage their office work as well as their personal matters from home.
Security Challenges of Remote Working
However, with more companies are embracing remote working, most of these companies are now at a risk of facing numerous cybersecurity challenges as the organizations as well as their employees often lack experience, knowledge and understanding and on using secure technologies to enable a successful remote workforce.
Allowing employees to access confidential company data from offsite locations raises many concerns in relation to data encryption, non-secure wireless connections and potential loss or theft of devices and data. Research suggests that there were instances in which personal computers of remote workers have been hacked to gain access to confidential business information. In addition, Moreover, in most instances, remote workers lack an understanding of the severity of common security risks.
For an example, the use of Wi-Fi networks in cafes or coffee shops or other non-secure connections by employees make their data more susceptible to hacking. Furthermore, their devices could be easily compromised through opening emails and attachments from unrecognized senders putting company data at risk.
While some companies provide employees with company computers, some employees would have to carry out their daily office work using their personal computers. Most of these personal devices are not fully protected against viruses and hence the company would be at risk of their data being severely compromised.
Minimizing Security Risks
Business owners should understand the need for better remote access policies. Proper guidance through IT and cybersecurity professionals is necessary to evaluate the security risks and prevent serious repercussions risks such as identity theft, data breaches and data loss.
As the use of public Wi-Fi network is a top concern for security, to reduce vulnerabilities associated with those networks, employers should ban the use of unsecured wireless connections and use geolocation technologies to restrict the offsite locations from which company data can be accessed.
In addition, in order to protect employees’ devices from cybersecurity threats, companies could educate them on use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for remote work. These networks don’t have the potential to compromise employee privacy and reliable VPNs offer end-to-end data encryption and shield IP addresses to enhance security on all types of connections.
Workers using their personal devices should be more concerned about protecting their devices from viruses. They should pay more attention to the “Virus Guards” they are using as the free version with minimal updates doesn’t provide maximum security to the device.
Employers should check whether employee virus data bases are up to date and instruct them to use a reputed virus guard such as Eset, Mcafee, Avast, Kaspersky, etc. Then the risk of data vulnerability due to viruses gaining access to company information can be minimized.
Moreover, companies should spread awareness among employees on password practices and faux pas. Professionals should teach them how to create strong passwords while avoiding the use of weak and compromised passwords. Employees should be taught to avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and suspicious URLs within the emails to ensure optimal security of their devices. Employers could block aces to such links through firewalls.
By Thisari Andrea
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Identity Management Institute®. (2019, November 20). Security Challenges of Remote Workforce. https://www.identitymanagementinstitute.org/security-challenges-of-remote-workforce/
Bowen, K. (2020, April 15). Remote Workforces: Security Challenges Amid #COVID19. Infosecurity Magazine. https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/blogs/remote-security-challenges-covid19/