The last few years have seen a fairly dramatic increase in remote working practice among businesses in the UK. And, in the advent of the compulsory flexible working hours legislation this ‘remote revolution’ looks set to continue in the years to come.
Research from earlier in 2015 showed that there’s been a 37% increase in the number of remote workers in the UK in the past three years alone, with the study going on to suggest that nearly two-thirds of company directors now believe that such a way of working can have a positive impact on productivity.
Whilst the move towards a more remote workforce clearly offers benefits in areas such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, productivity and ultimately, the bottom line, it also brings with it a number of challenges which one cannot ignore. Uppermost of which, is a concern over online security and risks to data. Hacking and other breaches of data security have increased rapidly in recent years, a trend likely to continue for some time.
The ability to work anywhere
A key aspect of remote working is the employee’s capacity to work from any location that has internet access; be it at home, from a hotel, library or local coffee shop. But with this freedom to work from anywhere, courtesy of an internet connection, has come increasing concerns over the safety of our networks, or the risk we may have of losing data, being hit by virus or similar attacks, or the loss or theft of intellectual property.
So how do we go about making it safer?
Robust security across devices
The security of our own devices is paramount to taking diligent precautions, whether we’re remote or office-based. Robust security software to protect against the threat of malware and viruses should be regularly checked and updated as well as ensuring that adequate firewalls are in place to protect against potential harmful attacks.
If your employees are using company equipment for work then this should be easily managed. However, if they’re using their own devices then a degree of vigilance and policing to ensure that the equipment is fit for purpose in a working environment.
Using encryption to protect data has been used in one fashion or another throughout the centuries and remains a powerful tool against theft in the digital age. In I.T. the use of an encryption cipher can ensure that your data is only accessible to those with the encryption key – essentially an algorithm to unlock the data. This can be particularly important in with remote workers as it can give peace of mind that data is secure in the event of a lost or stolen device.
Applying strict data sharing guidelines
Giving employees remote access to sensitive corporate information requires a level of professional trust. Ultimately, if the worker can access data online and at home then there remains the capacity to download and save this data onto their own systems, an issue perhaps should an employee move to a rival company.
To overcome this potential threat a business should ensure they have firm guidelines when it comes to data sharing and the safeguarding of their intellectual property. Guidelines, strictly enforced, that make it clear to employees what can and cannot be shared beyond the company and the penalties they would be liable for should they be breached.
Using secure networks
Public networks generally work off the lowest levels of security. In fact, log in to the Wi-Fi network of a hotel lobby or coffee shop and it will probably even inform you of this. Which makes them ripe for attack by unscrupulous hackers.
Therefore good practice would suggest that when using these networks it’s best to avoid sharing any sensitive material or data, carrying out tasks where the risk is more negligible.
We all use passwords in our everyday life as well as in our work. And, whilst they offer a perfectly good barrier against our files, they can become an easy target for hackers, particularly if your device falls into the wrong hands. Which is why we would always encourage the use of more complex passwords that offer a somewhat better protection that, say, your name with the number 1 bolted on.
Passwords that incorporate personal details are the easiest type to crack – even more so if you happen to store all your relevant passwords in a file on your laptop.
You know, for safe keeping.
Good practice with passwords is to make them as random as possible, mixing numbers, letters, higher and lower casings and, where possible, grammatical symbols; changing them on a regular basis.
And don’t store them on or near your device!
These tips should go some way to ensuring your data is safer, but for complete peace of mind, we would always recommend you consult a professional.