Cyber Safety Tips for Businesses When Employees Work from Home

With the threat of the Coronavirus, many companies are allowing or requiring employees to work from home. If your company deals with protected information such as healthcare, financial, consumer or personal, you should have policies and procedures in place to protect that data within your normal work environment. However, having your work force suddenly need to access this information from home may not be normal. Systems may be overloaded, sensitive information distributed in a way that you never anticipated and lines of communication disrupted. Do your policies and procedures cover such a situation, like a pandemic? Here are 6 tips to best protect your business and your clients.

Train Your Employees

We are not talking about the once a year standard, boring videos people half heartedly watch so they can print off a certificate proving they did it. Your employees must know key elements of cyber safety that they are regularly reminded of. If nothing else, make sure they know these 3 things.

  1. Anticipate phishing and spear phishing attacks. Word will travel fast that everyone is working from home. Hackers will recognize you are vulnerable and try to take advantage of it. Tell your workforce to anticipate phishing and spear phishing attacks that will attempt to take advantage of pandemic fears. Give visual examples, have your IT on high alert searching for phishing attempts and contact employees immediately when one gets through your firewall.
  2. Do not access sensitive information on unauthorized devices. The biggest culprit: cell phones. Have policies about what devices they are allowed to use to remotely access information and make sure they know. Never store sensitive information unencrypted on a portable device.
  3. Do not access sensitive information on unsecure networks. Like working from Starbucks because they have free WiFi? That may be fine for personal use, but not when you’re accessing sensitive information. Public WiFi makes it easy for a hacker to infiltrate your computer, stealing the information you accessed.

Determine Critical Processes and Access Control

This is a key component to any Pandemic plan. Who is authorized to access sensitive information, and how do you ensure they can actually access sensitive information in a highly distributed environment? Minimize your exposure by controlling access to data. Not everyone working from home needs access to sensitive information. Make sure you lock down access to only essential employees. Follow through by monitoring who is accessing data, what they are accessing and why.

Multifactor Authentication

For those employees who need to access sensitive information, require multifactor authentication every time they remotely access a private server. This is an easy step to implement that can have a big impact on keeping cyber criminals out.  Explain to your employees why the two-factor authentication is an important safety capability.

Network Access Control

While you should train your employees not to access sensitive information on unsecure networks (see tip #1), you can implement access controls that actually block a user if they do not meet a certain level of security. You should implement a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which provides higher security for your workers using their home and/or public internet that are not secure.   It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to implement. For more information on VPNs, click here.

Encrypt Data

If information is stored locally on a device, make sure it is encrypted. Portable devices are often stolen that contain sensitive information. A simple step of encryption protects your clients’ information and protects you from hefty breach costs and fines.

Provide Company Devices

Laptops and cell phones should always be running the most up to date version of an operating system available (i.e. Windows 10 vs Windows 8). They should also have up to date firewall protections and antivirus software. If employees are permitted to use personal devices, it is difficult to ensure these protections stay up to date. Providing company devices that are properly configured and regularly updated help strengthen the barrier against cyber criminals.

Protection doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be intentional. Simple steps taken by the company and the employees can go a long way. While we want to stay physically safe through this wave of the Coronavirus, let’s make sure we stay cyber safe too.

 Concerned if you have the right precautions and planning in place? Contact Third Rock at info@thirdrock.

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