Cybersecurity and Working from Home During COVID-19 Outbreak

cybersecurity and working from home

Savvy employers read the writing on the wall about COVID-19 a few weeks ago and began formulating plans to keep businesses operational. Supply chains are in check. Communications with customers are ongoing. And employees are working from home. They’re in compliance with government regulations and they feel good about the social distancing plans in place. All is right with the world or at least as right as they’re going to be right now. But not so fast.

Just because employees are working from home does not mean that everything is secure. The people, sure. But what about the cybersecurity of how employees are working remotely? It’s critical to plan for security risks while employees are out of the office for what could be an extended period of time. 

So, how do you protect employees and the business when everyone is working remotely? We have some steps to put into place to make sure all involved are secure.

Set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is critical when working from a remote site because it is a private communication channel established over the internet. A VPN encrypts your employee connections between their computer and a VPN server Think of a VPN as a tunnel through which your employee data will travel. In reality, the data will be encrypted to block any non-approved people from accessing it. 

Essentially, the VPN is a middleman so that when your employees attempt to connect to websites, for example, the website will view the connection as originating from the VPN and not your employees. 

A VPN can also allow your employees to connect to a remote network of computers. It’s the tunnel principle again. The VPN server forwards employee traffic to the internet or another computer in the network with all the security steps in place. Work won’t stop because employees can connect to other employees securely.

Replace consumer grade firewalls

Firewalls prevent any unauthorized access to or from a network and work as another great security tool. Again, great in theory but the increased number of employees working remotely now can easily put strains on any security measure. You can no longer coast and think that just because your firewall worked before, it will continue to do so. The sudden burden on your network probably can’t be accommodated by your current security measures.

Your firewall may also be limiting performance speeds because it can’t keep up with current internet speeds. Typically older and consumer grade firewalls are capable of only 100 MB speed, however the internet is now at 150 MB to 400 MB. You may be paying for all that additional speed but not using it because your current firewall just can’t keep up. Employees will experience much slower speeds when working remotely and productivity will naturally drop.

If you upgrade your firewall, you’ll not only get better security but better overall performance from remote workers and newer models normally have better security since they’re getting periodic updates. 

Limit employee use of personal computers

It may seem logical to workers, especially those who don’t usually work remote, to just log on to their personal computer and get to work. There are some inherent challenges with this such as the possible risk of new cybersecurity threats. Any use of a home computer has to be managed by an IT provider as if it were a computer sitting in the office. Another option is a company issued laptop or computer which is already setup with Managed Services monitoring.

It’s also a good idea to remind workers about being diligent regarding good cyber hygiene. Just because they’re home doesn’t mean their home system is properly secured. Employees should be counseled on identification of email coming from an external source to minimize risk. 

They should also be reminded about safeguarding confidential information such as account passwords, personal and customer information and proprietary business information. This is especially true of those employees working in shared spaces or those sharing devices.

It’s also a good idea for employees to delete their personal, confidential and sensitive data to prevent problems in the event of hacking and other intrusions into the system.

Stay home and stay connected

The COVID-19 virus has thrown the world into a tailspin and no one is sure when it will be prudent to return to busy office spaces. In the meantime, employees can remain productive and connected to minimize any impact to business operations. Working from home or other remote locations will probably be the norm for quite awhile and it’s critical that employees stay safe. Ensuring the safety of your business network and data is critical too. But if you step up your cybersecurity protection measures, your business will emerge successfully.

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