In today’s quickly evolving business world, more employees than ever before are working from home — especially in the wake of a global pandemic that accelerated an already-growing trend toward hybrid work. And unfortunately for IT professionals everywhere, the need to maintain security protocols is by no means lessened when employees work from locations outside the office’s four walls. In fact, remote work often presents even more security challenges than traditional, in-the-office work does.
But by implementing sensible steps to protect themselves, businesses and their remote workers can take big strides toward thwarting cyberattacks and other unwanted intrusions into a company’s shared business network. And in doing so, they can also protect any sensitive and/or proprietary information that intruders might be able to find on the network.
Here are seven tips businesses and remote workers can follow to help ensure that their remote devices and networks are harder for cybercriminals to hack into:
- Implement anti-virus software and test it regularly: When employees do any business-related work from home, it is wise to require that the work be done on a company-provided device that is running dependable and up-to-date antivirus and firewall software. Marking a big step toward securing company devices and information, this software can prevent any malware or spyware that an employee might inadvertently download from infecting the device and/or the company network. And to ensure the software is working properly, a free online tool such as Audit My PC can be used for regular testing.
- Train remote workers to recognize hacking attempts: One of the best ways to keep any device and network secure is to recognize and avoid risky activities such as downloading unexpected attachments and clicking on suspicious links. As such, businesses should be sure that their employees, both in the office and at home, have been well-trained in recognizing and avoiding all of the most common modern cyberthreats.
- Implement a strong password policy: While complicated and unique passwords can be a challenge for workers to remember, they are also much tougher for cybercriminals to crack. And in the business world, when a stolen password grants a cybercriminal access to online or in-house accounts, both the company’s and its customers’ sensitive information can be compromised. For this reason, it is wise for businesses to institute a strict password policy mandating that in-office and remote employees use strong passwords, as well as different passwords for varying accounts. (For those seeking password-creation guidance, this FTC article offers a range of tips for creating stronger passwords.) Further, workers should be required to change their passwords regularly.
- Employ highly secure remote-access tools: Implementing a virtual private network (VPN) or a similar remote-access security solution is another way to protect the sensitive information of a business, its customers and its employees. By ensuring a secure, encrypted connection between a remote device and the internet, such software-based solutions can greatly reduce the likelihood of a cybercriminal being able to spy on or otherwise maliciously access a company’s business-related data.
- Leverage multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication can greatly increase security levels by implementing additional steps a user must take to verify his or her identification when logging into an account containing sensitive information. A common tactic used to accomplish this involves requiring that a fast-expiring emailed or texted code be entered during the login process before account access is granted. And when business-related accounts allow for this kind of extra fortification, taking advantage of it can significantly lower the risks of any unwanted intrusion.
- Step up videoconference security: As the pandemic drove a steep rise in hybrid work, the use of videoconferencing applications such as Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and Skype for work-related communications rose sharply, too. And along with this upward trend, reports of “Zoom bombing” attacks, in which hackers infiltrated businesses’ private online meetings, became all too commonplace. To protect against such unwanted intrusions, companies can employ tactics such as setting a unique meeting ID for each conference scheduled, password-protecting videoconferences and setting up waiting rooms for conferences so all potential attendees have to be screened or approved by the host.
- Keep software updated: The tactics cybercriminals employ to steal information are constantly evolving. And to protect against all the latest iterations, software and application developers make security-focused updates to their codes and platforms regularly. By installing all application and software updates as quickly as possible after their releases, businesses can ensure that their remote and in-house devices have the most current protections against cybercrime in place.
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