Nearly 4 million workers in the U.S. telecommute at least half the time. That means businesses have to adjust to an increasingly mobile workforce.
While this offers plenty of flexibility for employees and cost savings for businesses, it can lead to a variety of security issues.
Amr Ibrahim is a remote workforce consultant and CEO of cloud-based telecom company ULTATEL. Through the years, he has seen many companies struggle with security on multiple levels. He said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “When it comes to security, there are a few different angles you can approach it from. You need to be secure in the way you deal with your customers so that you don’t lose those valuable relationships. And then there’s also the more traditional version of security that deals with securing your data from hackers and other threats. Those two areas are different but still very important to a business.”
Security Measures for Remote Workers
Here are some tips for fixing all of those different types of security issues when you have remote or multi-location team members.
Your team might not all be working in the same space. But you can still set workplace rules for them to follow. For example, you might have a policy against using public wifi to connect to your company’s network. Or you could require strong passwords or two-factor authentication on all accounts. Identify the threats that are most likely to plague your business and then create guidelines to help your team avoid them as much as possible.
Require VPN Connections
One policy that’s a good idea for all businesses to adopt is the use of a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to company networks. Hackers can snoop on connections made over wifi, which is a major concern for companies that don’t have all of their devices physically connected to a network. So a VPN can greatly reduce those risks.
It’s not enough just to have policies and hope your team follows them. You also need to show them exactly how to do so. For example, explain what you consider to be a strong password or walk employees through exactly how to set up two-factor authentication on the apps your company uses.
Invest in a Cloud Based Phone System
On the other side of the security spectrum, remote employees who connect with customers via their own personal phones can potentially cost your company customers. First of all, you have no access to the call activity, so you’re unable to measure the effectiveness of your sales or service strategies. And secondly, clients who get used to working with a particular salesperson or rep could end up calling them rather than your business number, which hurts you any time an employee moves on.
Ibrahim says, “When you have a phone system in the cloud, all of your remote employees or multi location employees can use the same phone system from any device, whether it’s a desk phone or an app on their smartphone or their laptop or PC. When they make calls, the customer’s caller ID is still going to show your business phone number. So your team can make calls and do business on the go, but everything still comes back to your business.”
Switch to Cloud Storage
Similarly, the written messages and documents that you use to collaborate can also go onto the cloud. This gives you a way to clearly see and manage all interactions with customers, while enforcing team security policies.
Investigate All Cloud Tools
However, don’t just choose any cloud tools for your remote workforce. Make sure you research the security features of each one. Find out if they have secure APIs, multi-factor authentication or any other type of protection before sharing sensitive information using those systems.
Make Sure Communication Tools Are Industry Compliant
In some industries, like the medical and legal industries, there are also strict compliance issues at play. In those instances, you’ll want to find tools that will let you set specific permissions for certain calls, messages, or documents. This can help you avoid inadvertently sharing protected customer information with others inside or outside your organization.
If you provide your team with laptops or cell phones for work use, make sure they’re encrypted. Encryption basically encodes the data on the device so it’s harder for hackers to access. It’s not a completely bulletproof solution, but it can provide some peace of mind for companies that aren’t able to monitor their employees in person throughout the work day.
Enable Automatic Updates
Having the latest software installed on your devices gives you access to security patches and other features that are helpful for protecting your data. If you have access to your team’s devices, set them up to update automatically whenever a new version is available.
Remind Workers About Password Security
Even when your employees know about security best practices like updating passwords regularly, it can be easy to forget in the daily grind. A periodic email or training session can provide a much-needed reminder for everyone to take just a minute out of their work day to enhance security.
Photo via Shutterstock