Working with a remote team comes with a laundry list of unique challenges and problems. Perhaps chief among these is ensuring that your data and information is kept secure.
Remote teams can now be stretched across the globe, operating out of different time zones, and often balancing their work with the unique lifestyle that often comes with remote work. In order to get their jobs done, they will require access to whatever accounts, documents, or data that will help them to work whenever they are able to. Even though there have been incredible advances in technology that make this a lot easier to manage, there are also incredible security risks that come with it.
With employees connecting to your business from different locations, the risk of a bad agent gaining access to your business, stealing information, and potentially planting malware is all too real. In many cases, it takes little more than an unsecured network to kick start this process.
To prevent this from happening to your business, here are some key steps you can take to keep your data secure while managing a remote team.
Employee education is paramount
The most important step in maintaining your data security with any remote team is to educate your employees properly. While you might think your team members are maestros at handling any tech and internet problems, it is highly likely that they’re not even aware of the very basic threats and countermeasures that exist.
This might sound unlikely, but in a CNBC study on cybersecurity risks, employee negligence proved to be the most potent threat. With this in mind, it’s better to hold meetings or add content to your company manual upfront so that there are no blind spots in your employee's awareness. Even if your employees are scattered across the globe, you will need to utilize a collaboration tool and find a time where you can all sit down and make sure everyone is clued into the remote team's security risks.
The elements you will need to make your employees aware of include spotting and handling suspicious links and emails, the risks of using free and/or public Wi-Fi, and creating rock-solid passwords. This level of education helps you to take the burden of your company’s safety off you and disperses it through the whole business - creating an environment where security threats are actively anticipated and countered by everyone.
Make sure you use a VPN
Many of your remote workers will find themselves in situations where using public wifi is a necessity - such as airport lounges, hotels, or coffee shops. In these instances, it is critical to your business that remote teams keep your data protected. You can be working your socks off, collaborating across multiple time zones, and making clever use of the latest management tech; however, if your team isn’t using safe Wi-Fi connections, you could be finding yourself on the wrong end of a hacker. The best way to keep safe is to have your team use a virtual private network, otherwise known as a VPN.
A VPN helps to protect your data by adding a secure connection regardless of the wifi you’re connected to. This keeps your activity, data, information, and passwords hidden from bad agents that may be using public wifi networks to obtain valuable business information. Many of these VPNs are extremely affordable, have reliable track records, and function as a simple cure-all for the risks of public networks.
Create strong passwords
It is far easier for hackers to crack a password than most people realize. A five-character password, for instance, takes around ten seconds to be broken. A six-character password takes one thousand seconds. Neither is a lot of time for someone determined to access your business’s data.
To counter this, the best thing you can do is to make sure that you and your team members use secure passwords. The longer and more complex your password, the harder it will be to crack. In length alone, the number of potential word variations and the amount of time it takes to crack increases exponentially. On top of this, you want to set reminders to change your passwords every few months, and, although annoying, use different passwords for different accounts and programs. After all, if one is cracked, you don’t want that to mean they’re all cracked at once.
A useful tool for remote teams is a password manager that keeps your passwords online, behind walls of encryption. These password managers give you the ability to give your team access to any account or program you like without the need to actually give them the password. That way, if they’ve slipped up on their VPN use, you have an extra layer of security.
Use two-step verification whenever you can
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but watch as a hacker gets your password. In instances like this, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in big trouble. But you’re not correct. If you’ve enabled two-step verification, then a bad agent can have your password in hand and be able to do absolutely nothing with it.
If you’re unfamiliar, two-step verification is a process where you are required to input additional login information alongside your account name and password. The twist is that this additional information (usually a unique code) is typically sent to a different device to the one you’re using, such as a mobile phone. This code can only be used once, so in case a hacker spots it, they won’t be able to use it in the future.
This is an incredibly important tool to use, as it takes all the power out of bad agent’s hands, protecting your business from phishing and passwords leaking. It should be mandatory in any remote team you’re part of.
Move your work to the cloud
Finally, you want to move your business to the cloud. As your employees will be working remotely from countries all over the planet, having your business on the cloud will allow them to work from anywhere, and allow them to access whatever they need to securely.
As the cloud company provides secure online storage and an easily accessible working environment, this makes for an ideal situation for remote teams. Likewise, a reputable cloud company will come with its own active security that is capable of tackling issues as they arrive. Also, if you or an employee loses their laptop (in a lost suitcase, for instance), you’ll still be able to access the relevant files on a new device as they’ll be stored in the cloud.
By implementing strategies like this, you can ensure that your remote team's work will be secure, that your company's data will be protected, and you'll be far less exposed to security risks moving forward.
And once that headache is behind you, you can focus on the work at hand.