Establishing a Secure Long-Term Workforce Outside the Four Walls

Upholding security has always been a top priority for business leaders, and in light of the recent shift to a nearly universal remote workforce due to COVID-19, which many companies claim is here to stay, business leaders must address and prepare for long-term working outside the four walls of their organization.

Maintaining and prioritizing security is a shared responsibility. Business leaders must provide employees with effective training and education to spot phishing attempts and malicious activity. From there, it’s up to the employees—everyone from the C-suite executives to the administrative assistants—to remain alert and recognize the importance of upholding security and maintaining data privacy.

How can business leaders ensure security is prioritized across their organization? Beyond employee communication and training, processes such as leveraging a cloud platform can help a business working remotely to be secure as well as operate more efficiently. Implementing additional layers of security such as multi-factor authentication and a virtual private network (VPN), working with a partner company and leveraging tools and IT management software to detect anomalous behavior are also effective ways to maintain cybersecurity.

Employee Communication and Education

Without education and training, employees can pose the greatest risk to their organization. Unfortunately, security is only as good as a company’s least informed employee. However, with adequate training and the right processes in place, leaders can transform employees across their business into cyber-defenders. Employees are the first line of defense against many cybersecurity issues, so providing them with the tools and training necessary to identify and avoid attacks is crucial. It’s ultimately the responsibility of business leaders to ensure that all employees understand and prioritize cybersecurity best practices. Educating end users and holding them accountable for good cyber hygiene is more important now than ever before.

Required training programs should include:

  • Best practices for at-home working and bring your own device (BYOD): Without training and security measures in place, employees connecting to a home Wi-Fi network with a work device could put an entire organization at risk. Employees must consider (or be made aware of) how devices riding on the home network that are never tested or patched—such as family laptops, tablets, gaming systems or even appliances—open up security vulnerabilities that make it easy for hackers and malware to find and exploit gaps. Employees outside the security team are likely unaware of their impact on network security, so it’s up to security and business leaders to ensure they are educated on the risks and their responsibilities.
  • How to spot and avoid suspicious activity: It’s important for employees to understand how to notice (and subsequently avoid) phishing attempts and signs of malicious activity that could lead to a ransomware attack, virus or other detrimental security breaches, whether that’s opening a suspicious email, clicking on a link without an SSL certificate or sharing data through unencrypted channels. Ensure employees know the right person to contact should they encounter (or even suspect) a problem.
  • Train for the job: In addition to general best practices for maintaining good cyber hygiene, training must be tailored to employees according to their specific job to remain secure. Be aware of which individuals in your company are privy to confidential or privileged company or customer data and train them accordingly. What are their touchpoints with security and privacy, and do they truly understand their responsibility?

Leveraging the Cloud

Storing company data and enabling file-sharing via a private cloud or public cloud platform can significantly streamline work and business operations while helping security teams more efficiently enable secure remote access. A cloud platform can also serve as part of the 3-2-1 data backup strategy—three copies of data (production data and two backup copies) on two different media with one copy offsite for disaster recovery—to avoid an organization becoming a data disaster statistic.

Adding More Security Layers

Incorporating additional layers of security, such as a VPN, password manager, multi-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption to access business files is key. In many cases, using multi-level authentication is the best defense against compromised accounts or passwords. Ensuring data is secure at the file level can also help avoid ransomware attacks and data breaches that may take hold of an IT infrastructure and wreak havoc across an entire organization.

Working With a Trusted Partner and Adopting Security Tools

Regardless of business size, consider working with a trusted partner company and leveraging security software and tools to help learn, understand and combat potential issues.

  • Leverage a partner company: Organizations with limited budgets or resources or without a security team will benefit from working with a partner company. Outsourcing security to a company that keeps servers up-to-date, uses an encrypted network and constantly monitors for security breaches and problems are key to avoiding issues and ensuring data is protected and overall security is upheld.
  • Integrate security tools: If a dedicated team is managing an organization’s security, it’s important to also consider implementing a security information and event management (SIEM) tool to help monitor and manage, flagging anomalous behavior and potential issues before they become catastrophic.

Implementing a Disaster Recovery Plan

Too often security is addressed on a reactive versus proactive basis, and when security is addressed after an issue has already taken place, it comes at a much greater cost to an organization. Having a plan in place before a crisis hits ensures that crisis preparation isn’t an afterthought and decreases the potential for organizational damage. Without a plan or strategy in place, disaster response becomes a series of real-time tactics to put out fires and bleeds resources and time. With this, prioritizing proactive security measures should be an organization’s top goal. To help get in front of potential security issues, organizational leaders should develop, or revisit if it hasn’t been recently updated, a business continuity and disaster management plan. Creating a real plan that takes into account the challenges business leaders face and the resources they have access to provides a template for working their way back to success.

Extending Security Beyond the Four Walls

With hackers capitalizing on the increase in remote working, maintaining security is crucial. Business leaders must train employees to be aware of potential threats and issues. Management must build a security strategy that addresses these core aspects of a business, ultimately ensuring that avenues for vulnerabilities are protected. Employee training and communication, leveraging the cloud to make a business more efficient and secure remotely, implementing additional layers of security and working with a trusted partner company can help establish a secure remote workforce for successful long-term working outside the four walls.

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Chris Wayne

Chris Wayne is the Chief Technology Officer at Yahoo Small Business, where he oversees engineering, production operations, support and more. Chris joined Yahoo in 2004 as a manager at the HQ Desktop Support, became the chief information officer for Yahoo Small Business in 2015, and the Chief Technology Officer in 2018. He is a certified Data Center Management Professional (CDCMP). Prior to joining Yahoo, Chris was a combat engineer for the 82nd Airborne Division for the U.S. Army.

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