Over the years, we’ve seen a diverse set of companies come to us for support for their remote workers to improve security without minimizing collaboration capabilities. It’s a multi-tiered task that requires expertise in IT to execute effectively and we’ve been happy to see our clients flourish. As expected, these clients are currently surviving the brunt of COVID-19. As more businesses scramble to find solutions, we thought we’d take a moment to impart some of our knowledge. 

You’ve probably experienced an inundation of advertisements for collaboration and productivity apps since the start of your quarantine period. While many of these applications are necessary to keep your business moving when your teams are working remotely across different devices, the risk of data breaches exponentially increase: putting your business at risk of coming to a complete hold. 

Since the start of COVID-19, cases of cyberattacks have been on the rise. Those in manufacturing and healthcare experiencing supply chain shortages have already been victims to e-mail phishing scams. SMB’s, who are statistically less likely to have cybersecurity measures in place compared to their enterprise compatriots, is where hackers are enforcing their focus.  So what can you do to prevent this from happening? Follow these steps to ensure better protection for you and your employees and your business.

1. Invest In Information Security

Most small businesses keep their corporate information secured in their local hosted network; however, when your employees start working remotely without proper IT security and policies, there is a risk of data sprawl. Your corporate information can spread across users’ home computers and personal devices, which may not be equipped with the right security protections.

You already know local network security is a must, but with remote workers these lines are blurred and the security parameters expand into users homes that may be vulnerable.

One common method to solve this impending crisis is to keep the information secured in a central place so that it is not saved across multiple users and their devices. 

Setting up remote access through virtual desktop technologies and secured shares can help balance the requirements of security with ease of use for your remote workers or teleworkers. Depending on your business needs, your IT team or provider will pick a technology most appropriate for you. Among the solutions we like: remote desktop services from Microsoft, Citrix, Sharepoint, and secured VPN’s. Whatever solution you move on with should allow easy but secure access to all your data and corporate applications.

2. Set A Policy

Successful remote work in any category begins with strong company policy. Sit with your department managers and draft all the different challenges and problems that may arise when your employees are working from home. Consider how communications will inherently change, availability expectations may increase, and what tools your employees will be using to do their work.

The goal of your policy is to outline what are the company do’s and donts; similar to what you would provide employees during onboarding. One major challenge for those working from home for the first time is accessing corporate applications or their inability to efficiently communicate with coworkers. It’s possible that without a secure network to get to them, they are downloading applications from the internet or finding new ones to be able to streamline teamwork and make communications easier.

Employees introducing new applications to company data without company knowledge can be disastrous. Viruses, malware, or applications owned by companies with minimal security or data privacy features can prove costly for companies. It is best to set a policy on what your team is allowed to use and introduce an approval process for if they want to use something new. It’s often best to ask your IT team or provider to help handle this and work on a security policy with you. At the end of the day, your employees will use what makes getting work done easier. Unfortunately, most employees are unaware of the backend of the app they use or the terms they agree to. Problems begin to arise when they use a multitude of different apps which makes it difficult for you to keep a lock on your security and outside intruders.

E-mail phishing scams are also on the rise. Look to your IT team or provider to setup Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) and help setup eLearning for your employees about e-mail scams, how to spot one, and how to avoid becoming victim.

With employees working on their devices on their own internet networks and visiting less secure websites, your company data is exposed to several vulnerable opportunities. Keep reading to find out how to fix this.

3.  Pick Secure and Reputable Tools That Work

The internet is chockfull of productivity tools, web conferencing applications, and automation software that claim to make remote teamwork faster and easier. While some may work, their others have security policies are too vague for us to ever recommend to our clients. Popular apps like Zoom are used by businesses but at the risk of webcam hacking, data theft, and other threats that confront businesses with challenges that far outweigh the pros.

Do your research and pick collaboration tools that are well-known, made by companies with a reputable history, and are backed by security experts. Technical aspects of software can be difficult to understand, so working with your IT team will substantiate your choices. Further, pick tools that can support multiple parts of your employees’ workflow. Using multiple tools to collaborate makes work less effective, less secure, and your team may try to take shortcuts to complete a task that could prove problematic down the road.

Using a suite like Microsoft 0365, which includes Microsoft Teams, is a reliable and secure way to give your employees access to all the collaboration tools they will need within one ecosystem that works together. In Teams, you can chat, call, video conference, co-author documents, take meeting notes, and much more from a single platform. Data is not shared with advertisers or any 3rd party company, and it does not save any of your document content.

4. Data Permissions

People from outside the company should be unable to access all your company chats and documents with a link. Detailed abilities to choose what and who you give access to should be available. You should also have the ability to restrict your employees from completing certain tasks that could potentially result in outsiders getting to your data.

Read more about our solutions for a virtual workplace here. Through COVID-19, we are providing customers with free consultation services. Contact us for more details.