The effect of remote working on systems security

In the past, most office workers were in the same location most of the time. In the modern business world, however, thanks to flexible working patterns, the need for some staff to be mobile means that it’s increasingly common for staff to switch between locations, work from home, or use mobile devices on the move.

While this is great for business agility and for staff morale, it presents the IT department with the problem of keeping data secure. When it’s accessed from different locations and on systems that fall outside the control of the IT team, there are considerable risks.

A recent survey [1] shows that 90 per cent of IT leaders believe that remote working presents a security risk to the business. Despite this, however, the benefits of remote working are widely recognised. Of people who telecommute, 82 per cent say that they are less stressed, and 30 per cent say they can get more work done in a shorter amount of time. Companies also report significant financial savings gained from allowing employees to work from home.

The implications of remote working are not restricted to data. As more businesses switch to IP-based voice communication systems, it’s common to have access to company phone systems from remote devices so that staff can be contacted via their office number wherever they are. It’s important that measures are in place to regulate and protect any system that is used away from the office.

Policy and training

Remote working policies are now in place in 93 per cent of enterprises, according to the study. In addition, 90 per cent of businesses also carry out specific security training to make remote workers aware of the risks.

IT managers still harbour doubts as to the effectiveness of this, however. Less than half of survey respondents overall say that they believe employees adhere fully to remote working policies. Among senior staff, the worries are greater, with nearly three-quarters believing that remote workers carry a greater risk than in-house staff.

Where staff are allowed to use their own equipment to access company systems, it’s important that BYOD policies are put in place. There are technical solutions too, which we’ll look at next.

Technology safeguards

A number of technical solutions are commonly used to protect corporate data when it’s accessed from outside the office. One of the most common solutions is to use a virtual private network (VPN). [2]

A VPN effectively creates a secure ‘tunnel’ so that data can be sent over a normal internet connection without risk of being intercepted. It does this by connecting to a remote server and then using that machine’s connection to access the data you need. This is ideal for use by home workers using their own broadband links, as well as for mobile staff who may be forced to use public Wi-Fi networks to connect.

The increased use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets presents other problems. A VPN can be used to protect the connection, but what if the device itself gets lost or stolen? Your company data could be open to whoever’s hands it falls into.

The solution to this is to use a mobile device management solution. This has a number of advantages. It allows automatic updating of the apps used to access company data – to make sure they are the latest, most secure versions. It also allows corporate data to be partitioned off from any personal data on the device. In the event that the device is lost, the MDM software allows it to be wiped remotely so that any sensitive data it contains isn’t compromised.

[1] https://openvpn.net/remote-workforce-cybersecurity-quick-poll/
[2] https://www.howtogeek.com/133680/htg-explains-what-is-a-vpn/

How can we secure remote workers?

Cloudworks are experts in Microsoft solutions and can advice on the best products and services to enable a secure environment for your remote workers. We can ensure your systems and data are GDPR compliant and align with your company policies.  Give us a call to learn more: 0115 824 8244 or email us at hello@cloudworks.co.uk