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Don't Panic! 5 Ways To Keep Your Remote Team's Security Strong

Security is critical for remote teams as they’re vulnerable to unique risks

Andrea Diaz

by Andrea Diaz - December 21st, 2022


As a busy HR leader, it takes a lot of work to keep track of your remote team and the complex security risks remote work can carry. As remote work’s vulnerabilities become a more prominent concern, steps can be taken to address security risks before they become an issue. Developing a strong security policy for your company is vital.

This article will discuss the importance of security for remote teams and how HR can play a role in your organization’s security. So, don’t panic! Here are 5 ways to keep your remote team’s security strong.

What Security Challenges Do Remote Teams Face?

Security is critical for remote teams as they’re more vulnerable to certain risks compared to their in-office counterparts. Being aware of this difference is important as technologies and company policies can only do so much to prevent security risks from happening. Being proactive instead of reactive to security concerns can help protect your information.

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Remote teams often face security challenges of unstable network security, weak passwords, spoofing and phishing attacks, lack of multi-factor authentication, and inadequate data security. While some of these challenges may happen to their in-office counterparts, remote teams are more vulnerable and targeted by these security challenges.

What Is HR’s Role in Remote Team Security?

HR’s role in remote team security is to provide adequate resources for remote teams on how to be proactive regarding their security in working remotely. Resources could take form in many ways such as employee training, establishing strong End Detection and Response (EDR) solutions, and providing employees the ability to report suspicious activity and emails.

Why is Data Security Important for HR?

While data breaches and privacy concerns typically involve IT teams, human resources play a key role in contributing to data security throughout the pandemic. Here are a few reasons why it’s crucial for HR to be involved from the start.

GDPR Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a newer European data privacy and security law that imposes obligations on businesses everywhere (not just in the EU). These data protection regulations come with extremely high violation fines, at two tiers of penalties, depending on the level of violation. The law requires that both consumers and employees must provide explicit consent before a company is allowed to use their data. Users may also ask for the data collected to be deleted.

If a data breach occurs, the company, as well as the HR manager, may be held accountable for what’s lost. HR’s role is to ensure that user data is properly used, regulated, and approved. Working from home expands potential entry points for cybersecurity risks, password attacks, and phishing attacks are expanded, so it is important to make sure you are taking the proper measures to protect your data.

HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA continues to require that businesses safeguard patient data, which is a growing concern as COVID-19 directly impacts employee health, from taking FFCRA paid leave to providing vaccine information. HR must continuously stay on top of confidentiality, protection, and compliance agreements per HIPAA regulations.

Managing terminated employees

Not all data breaches and privacy issues can be prevented, but HR must recognize the potential risk of terminated employees who may be dissatisfied or try to hurt the business. Planning an exit strategy from a data security perspective is a good way to set clear expectations for future employees. This also encompasses restricting permissions for different levels of access to HR related data. HR workflow software like GoCo can help streamline and customize termination checklists, so you can stay consistent with every termination without missing a step.

Privacy policies

HR is in charge of maintaining and creating a privacy policy for the business so users are aware of what options are available in the case of infringement. Privacy policies can be used as key evidence during COVID-19, when cybersecurity risks are heightened and employees are working all over the place.

Top 5 Tips For Improving Your Remote Team’s Security

1. Have a Safe Wireless Network Connection Established

Network security is critical in ensuring your information is secure. Awareness of the difference between public and private networks and how to protect your device on each network is key. So what should your team do on each type of network?

On a Public Network

If you’re using a public network to do work (common in coffee shops, co-working spaces, and other places remote employees work) you must be very careful as without any protection your information can be easily accessible. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a good option to protect your information from getting exploited within a public network. VPNs provide extra security by extending a private network across a public network. If someone attempts to attack your device to get data they would only be able to gain encrypted (essentially unreadable) data.

You can establish a direct way for everyone in your organization to get a VPN by getting a business VPN. Business VPNs are designed for businesses of all sizes and come with more features than personal VPNs. They can connect more devices, more server locations (which is great for remote workers so they can connect to the server closest to them), and a dedicated IP address.

You can also manage your team through a dashboard, where you can grant permission to company data, documents, and apps. Most business VPNs offer volume discounts where the more users are under one account, the cheaper the price will be.

On a Private Network

When using a private network such as your home network, you and your employees can make a few easy changes to make it more secure.

  1. Create a unique and strong password for your network. Using the default password provided by your router will make it easy for others to gain access.

  2. Change the Service Set Identifier (SSID) which is the network name that is broadcast from a wireless router. Typically, router manufacturers create default SSIDs by combining a company’s name with random letters. Leaving your SSID on default could alert others that the network is your home network. Changing your SSID is a quick and easy way to keep your private network more secure.

  3. Ensure your private network is encrypted by enabling network encryption. There are a variety of network encryptions to choose from, but which one is the best? Utilizing its predecessors' strengths and improving weaknesses, Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) is currently the best Wi-Fi security encryption. WPA3 offers high protection, prevents unauthorized access, and is the most desired for public networks as it performs automatic encryption. Whenever possible, you and your employees should enable WPA3 security.

2. Set Up Strong and Secure Passwords

Setting up strong and secure passwords is essential to keeping your accessibility to your work more secure. A good way to establish this is by providing your team with a password management system that automatically generates and remembers strong passwords. They generally come with added benefits such as having the most up-to-date encryption methods, device compatibility, and coverage as well as added features such as multi-user accounts, and password-sharing capabilities. It’s a great way to get everyone access to password security. Similar to VPNs most password management systems offer volume discounts where the more users are under one account means a lower price. Many password management services also come bundled with VPN services!

Even without a password management system, you can teach your team best practices for creating their own strong and unique passwords. But how do you create a strong and unique password? Follow these steps:

  1. Use a different password for each of your important accounts, reusing passwords puts you at a disadvantage and makes you more vulnerable to getting your data breached.

  2. Make your password long, at least 12 characters or more. Make sure to avoid using anything personal in making your passwords. You can use something meaningful such as a favorite song, lyric, sport, artist, etc. so long as it isn’t personal information.

  3. To be confident in your password make sure nobody close to you can guess your password and that your password can’t be guessed with information on your public profiles.

A good resource to make sure your passwords are secure is to check if your password is strong by using Bennish’s Password Strength Checker. This website shows you the average number of guesses needed to crack a password using a strength score with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest.

3. Avoid Spoofing and Phishing

Spoofing and phishing scams are quite common in business settings. It’s important to understand how these scams work and how to prevent falling for one of these malicious tactics used to get your information.

Spoofing is when someone disguises themselves as a legitimate company, higher-up, or even coworker to get your information by appearing trustworthy. Spoofing is a tactic used specifically in phishing scams. Criminals attempt phishing scams by slightly changing the email address, sender name, phone number, and website URL. But how can you tell if you are being sent a phishing scam? Look closely for red flags and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are they asking for personal information such as a password, username, phone number, or email address?

  2. Do they want you to click on a link they provided? If so, is that link very long?

  3. Are there spelling mistakes within the message, email, link URL, name, or phone number?

If any of these are applicable, you’re likely to be a target of a phishing scam. Other common scams can happen as well in the workplace. Remote workers must be aware of the red flags of possible phishing as they’re the most vulnerable target for this type of scam.

The easiest way to prevent getting scammed is by asking the person if they sent the message. Verifying with the person sending you the message that it is actually them is very important to avoid falling for this scam. This can be done in various ways such as in person, through company apps such as slack, or through a trusted phone number.

4. Establish Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is critical in ensuring that your information is secure. It’s a way to verify your identity and establish a foundation of security for your account, making it much harder to hack.

Multi-factor authentication is the most common factor authentication, but how does it work? Users are required to have 2 or more authentication factors at login to verify their identity. Each additional authentication adds another layer of security to the account. Here are some examples of what a typical multi-factor authentication will ask for:

  1. Something you know such as a password or Personal Identification Number (PIN)

  2. Something you have such as a smart card, mobile token, or hardware token

  3. Some form of biometric factors such as a fingerprint, palm print, or voice recognition

5. Have Strong Data Security

While working remotely, it’s necessary to access sensitive data from home. Company policy should outline rules for accessing and managing sensitive data. There are many ways to protect sensitive data, but the best ways to have strong data security are through having full disk encryption and file classification. But what do they do?

What Is Full Disk Encryption?

Full disk encryption protects the data in your device in case it’s lost or stolen. When correctly implemented, full disk encryption requires unauthorized users to have access to your device as well as the password to decrypt the data. Luckily it’s already on your device! You can enable it on Windows devices under BitLocker Settings in Windows settings and on Apple devices under FileVault in Privacy and Security in System Settings.

What Is File Classification?

File classification involves establishing a form of organizing files by identifying the categories of business activities and the files they generate by grouping them in a more identifiable and accessible way. This method keeps track of your company files and separates them from personal files. It makes securing your files easier and prevents losing track of where they are. There are three basic ways of organizing information:

  1. Alphabetic - Good for files grouped by name (e.g., client name, country, building)

  2. Subject - Good for files arranged by the type of activity they reference (e.g., accounting, contracts, personnel, safety)

  3. Numeric - Good for files arranged by year or number (e.g., purchase order, invoice, client number)

It is unlikely for just one way to work for all your files. You will need to use a combination of each to organize your files effectively. But how do we name the files? Here are the following ways to name your files:

  1. Dates - Consider whether your files are best sorted by year (YYYY-MM-DD), month (MM-DD-YYYY), or day (DD-MM-YYYY).

  2. Numbers - Determine which numbers are significant for instance leading or trailing zeros. If you use sectioned numbers should they be separated with a space, dot, or dash?

  3. Names - Using the primary choice you made on organizing information should help decide whether files will be sorted by first or last name and whether the full first name will be used or just the initial.

  4. Acronyms - Many organizations use acronyms to identify departments and programs. Ask yourself if using acronyms in filing is appropriate for your organization.

  5. Abbreviations and Codes - Similarly to Acronyms, it is also common for organizations to refer to functions and activities using abbreviations or codes. Use your primary choice of organizing information to determine if abbreviations should be used in your filing.

These are just some common ways how to name your files. It is up to you to determine which works best for you and your organization. These fundamentals in file classification will help you organize your organization's files and provide a good guideline for storing files more efficiently.

Creating a Remote Work Security Policy

Now that you know some of the basic ways to improve your remote team's security, what's next? Creating a remote work security policy. But how do you do that? Here are steps to begin creating your remote work policy:

Establishing Clear Guidelines

Creating clear guidelines for employees can help establish consistency throughout the organization. All employees need guidance in writing to understand the organization’s values and expectations. Be sure to be thorough in covering all your security concerns and what you want all employees to follow throughout the organization.

Educating Employees

Writing guidelines can only do so much. You can build off the foundation of your guidelines, and educate employees. Be clear to employees on your company policy in terms of security. Providing resources for best practices such as training videos, articles, and security software are great starting points to introduce what is stated in your guidelines into real-life applications for your employees.

Using a Document Management System

Document Management Systems make it easier to ensure that all employees have viewed and agreed to your guidelines and have watched and read any resources you have provided them. GoCo can help you with that! GoCo’s Software Solutions provide HR Document Management in a simple and flexible way that’s adaptable to the size of your organization.

Encouraging Employee Ideas and Feedback

Having employees be able to provide ideas and feedback is essential to HR so why not have them provide it on online security? It is a great way to understand employees' security concerns, and if they encounter any, they can easily reach out. You can also gain new ideas by employees providing information on what strategies they use to be safer online.

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