Any Remote Workers? Here’s What You Can Do to Manage the Security Risk

securityWith the way modern businesses are run, every company has to function like a global organization. Even small businesses rely on cloud computing to interact with customers, vendors, and partners around the world. As a result, this expansion creates new risks for a company, especially when it comes to network and data security.

Hackers and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to infiltrate corporate systems, whether it’s through an email phishing scam or a brute force attack. If your company is not prepared to handle such intrusions, then it can expose every level of your operations and cause irreparable damage or financial losses.

So how do you keep your systems and people safe? Securing your facilities and internal network is critical of course, but so is the need to take precautions with remote employees. Outfitting all staff members with reliable password managers, databases, and other corporate resources will aid your company’s cybersecurity, helping minimize the possibility of human errors.

Risks of Remote Employees

Those new to IT security may logically think that the focus of cyber protection should be on the main buildings and networks where the bulk of employees work every day. But in fact, a single hack of one remote employee can be just as damaging as an infiltration of your internal systems.

For example, let’s say that a member of your human resources department goes out to lunch at a cafe and connects to a public wi-fi network from their personal laptop or tablet. Then they launch a web browser and log in to the company’s central database to view personnel records.

Clever hackers have found ways to infiltrate wi-fi routers anonymously and intercept web traffic passing between devices. What this means is that your company’s entire data repository is at risk, because the cybercriminals may be able to spy on the password used.

The dangers of allowing employees to work remotely extend to company-owned machines as well. If you allow staff members to take laptops off-site, then that hardware becomes just as exposed as personal devices. You can’t control which networks the computers can connect to, and with a few bad clicks, your entire organization can become infected with viruses or malware.

How VPN Encryption Works

The primary line of defense for remote workers should be a strong VPN service, regardless of the company’s size or a number of employees. The IT team should configure the VPN service on all staff machines, even for those individuals who don’t plan to work remotely on a regular basis.

A VPN service is comprised of two primary elements: the endpoint server and the client tool. The endpoint server will typically either be hosted in a local data center, in a private cloud instance or with a third-party company. All VPN traffic is routed through the endpoint server before being transported out to the public internet. The same is true for incoming data.

The VPN client tool is a piece of software running on each device that requires a secure connection. Most VPN providers offer tool versions for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems, as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS. The client tool is responsible for authenticating the local user and transmitting requests to the endpoint server.

When a VPN connection is first initiated, the user will be prompted to enter their username and password. From that point on, all data requests for corporate resources or public websites will go through a secure tunnel that is fully encrypted. This means that even if a hacker manages to infiltrate the local wifi network, your data cannot be decoded or stolen. The client tool and endpoint server own the security keys for handling all transmissions.

How to Choose a VPN Client

There are a wide variety of VPN solutions on the market today, some aimed at corporate entities while others attract consumer clients. It can feel overwhelming to try to isolate the best options, but when picking a VPN service for your entire organization, there are some key criteria to keep in mind.

First of all, you should consider the price of a VPN solution. When browsing the web, you’ll find some offers for free VPN services based in different countries. Be extremely wary of trusting any of these options with your company’s cybersecurity, as free VPNs typically have unreliable performance and risky data retention policies.

Endpoint servers can see all network traffic coming from the individual client tools, so you need to choose a VPN solution that is trustworthy and will not sell data to outside entities. Speed is also another consideration when it comes to VPNs. The best services offer high speeds regardless of where a user is located geographically.

Fostering a Culture of Security

Most corporate employees will view cybersecurity as a necessary evil. It requires new tools and processes that can often feel like a burden. In a perfect world, a worker could simply connect to the internet from wherever they are and use the corporate resources they need.

As an organizational leader, your job is to foster a culture of security and awareness so that employees are not tempted to take shortcuts or increase risk. To help with this shift, you may need to consider adding restrictions to company devices that limit their remote functionality. For example, a user should not be able to connect to core databases or applications unless they have authenticated with the designated VPN service.

Cybersecurity training should be mandatory for all employees on a regular basis, with new content being included as threats are uncovered both internally and externally. These sessions can emphasize the importance of securing remote connections with VPN and provide an overview of how encryption works. But since one tool cannot ensure the security of an entire organization, you must reinforce the need to be vigilant when working online and to report any suspicious activity or communication that could be indicative of an attack.

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