Is Your Data Remotely Safe?
Simple tips to keeping your small business data digitally secure in remote environments
Working from home started out as a short-term fix to comply with the Ontario government’s physical distancing laws. Unsure of how long the new rules would be in place, many employees packed up their personal belongings, their laptop computers if they had them, and headed home.
As the weeks stretch into months, many larger corporations have set up staff to work remotely from secure servers with confidential data being safely shared, stored, and protected. These security measures were likely well established or in place already for travelling executives long before the pandemic scare.
But if you’re a small business owner, chances are your staff might be working from home using their own personal computer and a Wi-Fi connection. There’s also a chance that in the confusion of transitioning to remote work places and simply trying to keep your business afloat, attention to details like secure connections and protecting data and staff’s equipment may have been overlooked.
If you just felt a wave of nausea hit your stomach and a light sweat break out on your brow, take a deep breath. There are some free and easy ways to protect your business, your employees, and your family from cyber threats, so you can sleep at night knowing everything’s safe and secure. Let’s start with the basics.
Tips to protect remote data
Whether it’s a business laptop or an employee’s personal computer, odds are there’s a licenced antivirus software that was purchased and is renewed annually to provide protection. Some of these app-based subscriptions include Virtual Protection Networks or VPN coverage.
VPNs extend a private network across a public network, so users can share data as if they were connected privately. By turning on VPN protection in the antivirus software, small businesses can help safeguard their confidential communications and data even if staff members are working on Wi-Fi connections.
Another uncomplicated way to keep your information safe is by regularly clearing your internet browsing history and cookies. As convenient as it might be to save usernames and password to the sites you visit most, or to stay logged into certain online accounts, this is an unsafe habit that can compromise your privacy and bog down your browser when you’re working remotely on an unsecure network.
This leads to the next easy-to-implement safety feature of changing your passwords often, every 90 days at a minimum, and setting up two-factor identification. The addition of a second step sign-in process helps bolster security and often involves a secure message being sent to your phone or email address for confirmation. Adding the practice of creating strong, unique passwords strengthens this protection even further.
Lastly, let’s not forget the basic step of being discriminating about the messages you open. There has been a rise in the number of phishing emails recently as hackers try to capitalize on people’s fear. Remind staff not to click on anything suspicious that may expose them to malware attacks, identity theft, or even ransomware. And ask employees who see something suspicious to share the information with other remote workers to avoid a security or privacy breach.
In this time of elevated threats to our health, our finances, our information, and our mental wellbeing, staying connected with your staff and checking in with them regularly is paramount. Ensuring that they have the proper equipment and information to stay digitally safe and productive during this extended period of working remotely requires time and effort, too.
In fact, employers have a responsibility to educate their staff on digital security best practices and to give them tools to help protect them from and prevent online threats related to working from home. The next time you have your regular check-in with your team, be sure to ask them what they’re doing to keep business-related information secure, which in turn keeps their personal information and that of their families protected, too. The simple steps listed above help take care of your business data, so that you don’t face any additional threats that you could have easily prevented.
Bensol Consulting hopes everyone is taking care of themselves and staying safe — both physically and digitally. We’re continuing to operate remotely and securely to help you with any inquiries you have about your carrier. Check in with us regularly, as some carriers are providing extra benefits that you can pass on to your employees.