With at least a third of workforces resigned to remote working right now, employees are relying on mobile devices more and more to get their jobs done from home.
Working outside of the office comes with a whole host of security risks if businesses aren’t managing their employees properly.
According to a survey by Malwarebytes, 20% of businesses experienced a security breach caused by a remote worker in 2020.
Nobody wants to be responsible for a data breach, so it’s important to be aware of the ways you’re at risk and how to handle them.
Here are twelve top tips for working remotely and securely in 2021.
Use strong PINs and passwords
Make sure that all of your devices are password-locked and create unique strong passwords for them, including your home wireless router.
While simple passwords are easier to remember, they’re also easier for others to guess.
You should never use personal information in a password or use a series of repeated numbers.
Strong passwords should be at least 12 characters and include numbers, symbols, and capital letters to make them harder to crack.
If you’re using a mobile device with a fingerprint sensor or facial recognition, set up these biometric locks so only you can access it.
It’s also worth enabling two-factor authentication, where you have to provide two pieces of information to confirm your access rather than just entering the password.
Don’t use public networks or devices
Part of remote working involves working on the go – whether on public transport or in a cafe.
Buses, trains, coffee shops, and restaurants often provide free wifi for guests, but these unsecure networks aren’t safe to use if you’re handling sensitive data.
Public wifi is too vulnerable to attack by cyber criminals trying to steal information, so you should avoid connecting to them for both business and personal use.
For the same reason, you shouldn’t use public computers.
It may be tempting if you don’t have a work laptop with you and you’re in an airport or hotel with a business lounge, but it’s not worth the risk.
Set up a VPN
A VPN is a virtual private network which offers a secure encrypted connection, so theoretically it should be safe to use even in a public setting.
VPNs reduce the risk of cyber snooping and data theft, but devices are still vulnerable while they’re logging in and connecting to the VPN.
Corporate-level VPNs can be difficult to manage because of the number of licences and bandwidth needed to support a large group of remote workers.
It’s worth the investment as a security feature when the business can’t control the quality of everyone’s home networks, but individual responsibility is still an important factor.
Employees should only use VPNs when necessary, using strong authentication methods and regularly updating passwords.
Use the cloud
Everyone working separately on individual devices from various locations can cause problems with document storage and access.
Information might be formatted differently or saved in different places with new names, making collaborative work difficult.
It becomes a security risk when people create silos of information on their individual devices.
If someone gained unauthorised access to the device, they’d have a collection of data available to snoop through.
You can resolve these issues by using cloud-based solutions when working from home or on mobile devices.
Everything gets stored in a centralised secure server where everyone with authorised access can find information easily and streamline their working processes, instead of storing it on individual device hard drives.
Encrypt emails and messages
Emails are one of the primary methods of communication between colleagues, but they can be easily compromised.
To avoid anyone but the intended recipients reading messages, you should install encryption software to protect the content from prying eyes.
Many devices have encryption built-in, but you need to make sure it’s activated and your device is configured properly to encrypt data even when it’s not active.
If you’re using a VPN, only access work emails through it to make sure everything is encrypted and nobody can intercept sensitive information.
One of the biggest risks to email security is people being fooled by phishing emails that find their way through the spam filter, so it’s important to be vigilant when checking emails.
Be wary of phishing scams
Cyber criminals are getting better and sneakier at convincing people to hand over their information without realising it’s a con.
These people try to capitalise on fear caused by issues like coronavirus or, ironically, the thought of an account breach to get their victims to click through to another site and enter their details or unknowingly download spyware onto their device.
Impersonation fraud increased by 30% in the first hundred days of the pandemic, with criminals pretending to be people in positions of authority within recognisable organisations.
You’re your own first line of defence in security when it comes to opening phishing mail, so train yourself to double-check the sender before you open or download anything in an email.
If you receive a phishing email or message on your work device or work accounts, report them to your company’s IT staff then block the sender.
Install antivirus software
The best way to defend your devices against malware is to invest in a powerful antivirus system to install on all your devices.
It detects and blocks viruses, or identifies and removes them, constantly sweeping your devices to keep them safe.
Antivirus software runs in the background at all times, automatically fending off security threats that you might not even notice.
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that a cyber attack will happen every 11 seconds in 2021, with the global cost of damages to reach $20 billion.
Antivirus suites are vital in blocking these increasingly frequent attacks and preventing such massive damages.
Keep operating systems and software up to date
There are constantly new vulnerabilities detected in existing software, so the manufacturers release security patches to fix the problem.
It’s important to have automatic updates turned on so that you always have the latest version, especially for security software.
The more you keep clicking ‘ignore’ on those update notifications, the more your increasingly out-of-date software will be at risk of exploitation.
This also applies to any applications you have installed on your devices that you use for work.
As frustrating as it can be to have to upgrade your operating system, especially if it means having to purchase a newer device, it’s a necessity if the operating system becomes so out of date that the developers aren’t supporting it anymore.
Have separate devices for work
If your company had a Bring Your Own Device culture before widespread remote working, people might prefer to use their personal devices for work.
However, using the same devices for both your work and personal life degrades the boundaries between the two.
It puts even more sensitive information in one place, meaning the damage would be even greater if the device was compromised.
It can be harder for businesses to enforce security on personal devices, and you might not be happy with the thought of every move being monitored.
When you have a separate work device such as a business phone, you can maintain your privacy on your personal phone while making sure your work device has the necessary enterprise-level security.
Enable remote wiping
Strong passwords keep criminals at bay for a little while, but if a work device is lost or stolen, you need to guarantee that they won’t find anything important on it.
You should enable ‘find my device’ features to help police if your phone gets stolen, but also have remote wiping technology in place so you can delete any significant data on it.
It’s far less of a loss to replace a device with all the information backed up in the cloud than it is to have to replace the device and deal with the consequences of data theft.
Always lock devices when you’re not using them
Depending on the type of office you worked in, you should be familiar with having to lock your devices when you walk away for a break.
No matter how quickly you’ll be back at your desk, you need to make sure that nobody gets access to anything they’re not supposed to see.
You might have relaxed that habit while working from home, feeling like there’s no point if you’re just nipping to the bathroom or making a coffee.
But even in that short amount of time, anyone could gain access to what’s on your unguarded device.
If you live with anyone else, even children or pets, it’s not worth leaving a device and keyboard open to disaster.
You should enable automatic locking if your device is idle for a certain period of time, such as 60 seconds.
Stay vigilant about security
Even the best security tools in the world can only limit people’s accidental mistakes.
The weakest link is always workers themselves, shown by the fact that 95% of security breaches are a result of human error.
To avoid making costly errors, you should be aware of security risks like the ones discussed in this list and always stay alert while working.
Make sure your applications are up to date and your internet connection is secure before you do anything.
Avoid silly mistakes like writing your passwords down and leaving them in easily accessible places, and always lock your home office door if you have one.
If you follow these security tips, you’ll be able to work remotely with the peace of mind that your information is safe.