While remote employees’ productivity and job satisfaction have increased, according to experts with Information Services Group, their ability to maintain compliance with increasingly stringent data protection regulations has suffered.
Because remote employees have, at least to some extent, been their own IT support in an environment where security is more often than not just an afterthought, sensitive data are far more likely to end up in the wrong hands.
To prevent noncompliance from causing a costly data breach, organizations must actively strive to increase data protection compliance among remote teams by practicing the strategies described below.
1. Update Your Cybersecurity Policy
If your cybersecurity policy comes from a time before the outbreak of COVID-19, then it’s very likely that it assumes all employees to be working in the same building, just one hallway away from your servers. Such a policy most likely doesn’t address the daily cybersecurity challenges remote workers face, which is why it needs to be updated as soon as possible.
Some issues that need to be addressed in every cybersecurity policy include:
- Where employees are permitted to work.
- What devices are employees allowed to use.
- How employees access and store data.
- The steps employees are required to take when they detect a breach.
- What employees are expected to do to ensure a safe and secure work environment.
It’s important to remember that even the most comprehensive cybersecurity policy is unlikely to deliver the desired results unless employees are formally required to familiarize themselves with it and regularly reminded of its key points during security training sessions.
2. Equip Remote Employees with Technological Solutions
Remote employees need the right tools to do their jobs and be productive. From team communication to project management to file sharing, many routine activities can be significantly streamlined by equipping employees with software applications like Microsoft Teams, Asana, and Google Drive.
However, productivity gains don’t mean much if compliance with data protection regulations cannot be maintained. The good news is that many easy-to-implement technological solutions can go a long way in helping employees keep sensitive business data secure.
Employees should always use a VPN when connecting to remote storage locations and applications to prevent unauthorized third parties from tracking their online activity and potentially even stealing private information.
Encryption tools such as Microsoft’s BitLocker or Apple’s FileVault can encrypt data at rest to combat physical theft.
3. Supercharge Your Security Awareness Program
The move to remote working arrangements has shifted the responsibility for safeguarding sensitive data and systems to remote employees, who have only a vague understanding of the threats they face whenever they connect to the internet.
Because human error is the number one cause of data breaches, it’s paramount for organizations to train their employees in cybersecurity even when they can’t physically gather in the same conference room. Fortunately, online security awareness training sessions can be just as effective as their in-person counterparts.
Here are some topics organizations need to include in their security awareness program to help remote employees defend themselves against the latest and most dangerous online threats: Wi-Fi security, password best practices, phishing, mobile security, cloud threats, safe browsing habits, social networking dangers, and physical security.
Bonus: Encourage Anonymous Reporting of Compliance Issues
When employees work remotely, they are far more likely to ignore potential compliance issues that would otherwise likely reach the management’s attention through informal discussions in the break room or formal reports.
To bring such issues to light, it’s a good idea to formally encourage anonymous reporting and provide employees with multiple reporting channels with varying levels of formality. Employees should feel reassured that their issues will be heard and addressed as soon as possible otherwise, they may feel discouraged and end up not reporting future issues.