This week we celebrate World Backup Day, an annual event hosted to educate and encourage tech users to update, clean out, and backup their digital information. As any remote employee will tell you, maintaining the devices you use for work is essential. However, because we’re all human, and regular equipment maintenance isn’t necessarily fun, updates are commonly overlooked. But this oversight can be costly.
According to the State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, 43% of all small businesses operating in the U.S. were victims of a data breach during the 2016 fiscal year. While it’s virtually impossible to guarantee the safety of your information, you can work actively to defend it from permanent loss, breaches, and criminal fraud. Below are a number of helpful tips you can use to improve digital security among your remote workforce.
What’s Threatening Your Technology?
Device Failure and Data Loss
Forgetting to update, clean, and back up data stored within devices can increase the likelihood of device failure that often results in irreplaceable data loss. Data loss can be the the result of a number of issues, but some of the most common are overheating, corrupted files, and human error.
Stolen or Lost Devices
Have you ever left your device unattended and returned to find it missing? Even if this has never happened to you, chances are you know somebody who has either lost their device or had it stolen. As seen in San Francisco, this frustrating occurrence is growing into a serious criminal enterprise, with Bay Area investigators discovering over 2,000 stolen laptops and other electronic devices being smuggled across and out of the United States. If allowed, criminals sell stolen merchandise for cash, or they sell stolen personal information that has been breached from the device.
Cybercrime is a type of virtual crime that takes place completely or primarily online. Using your own information against you, criminals can create lasting damage through financial fraud, data breaches, and identity theft. Combining stolen or compromised information and an internet connection, thieves can open new accounts, share previously secure information, and seriously damage your personal and financial reputation. Commonly used strategies include malware software, viruses, and different forms of device hacking.
Security Tips for Remote Employees
Have a Backup and Recovery Plan
Preparing for an emergency starts with a backup and recovery strategy. A regular cleaning and maintenance schedule will help you stay organized and ensure a properly operating device. Backing up sensitive information regularly allows you to restore data potentially lost due to device failure or cyberattacks. Safely store your recovery disk or removable hard drive under a lock and key to ensure it’s protected against physical theft. Although many business owners implement a recovery plan, the same strategies can be applied to your personal security as well.
Continue Your Security Education
Digital security and privacy rights change extremely frequently. Do your research and educate yourself on current events, data security threats, scams, and other ploys criminals could be using to take advantage of vulnerable information and individuals.
Set Up 2-Step Password Authentication
Enabling the two-step security protocol within your device or account settings helps to prevent unauthorized access to email clients, online accounts, and electronic devices. As the digital landscape evolves, companies like Google are offering a free two-step authentication service across dozens of platforms.
Enable Automatic Software Updates
“Remind me later” is not an option. Although seemingly endless, updates are essential to the operation of your device and security of your stored data. Bombarded with reminders? Try tweaking your device’s security settings to allow automatic updates and patches to be downloaded and installed while not in use. While you’re there, disable your location share settings for an added layer privacy.
Use a Secure Network or a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Some employers offer off-site employees the ability to access a secure network remotely. A secure and encrypted connection allows the user to safely browse the internet without network tracking, while defending the transfer and exchange of private information in and out of a secure server. Remote employees should never use public Wi-Fi; instead, wait until you have access to a secure network, or research your VPN options.
Set Access Controls
Check your share and access settings regularly. Employers have an added responsibility, and as HR administrators will tell you, data security and privacy are their greatest priorities. That’s why the software, devices, and networks they use should have security protocol implemented immediately. The good news? Security doesn’t have to be difficult, especially as evolving software continues to eliminate human error. For example, HR administrators who file sensitive employee documents through Formstack have the option to establish access and share settings, set password security, and enable automatic document storage and updates.
Protect Mobile Devices
How do you protect your mobile devices, including phone, smart wear, and home tech? If you’re saying “I don’t,” you’re not alone. However, as we depend on our phones for more and more, it becomes an increasingly powerful vulnerability. Mobile devices and applications can be protected using password, photo, biometric, and pattern authentication, but two-factor authentication remains the most secure. You can also research trusted third-party security applications and follow the exact same protocol you would with a desktop device.
It’s no secret that remote workforces are at a heightened risk for cybercrime due to increased tech use outside the office. Employers and employees alike should be mindful of the potential risks associated with working remotely and take necessary precautions to prevent digital information theft at all costs. As a starting point, experts recommend taking the time to establish a security strategy between employers and clients to ensure workplace data safety is upheld. It is also recommended that employers and clients work together to organize an emergency backup plan, should anything detrimental happen to data and important files. Whether it is by employing a team of experts to attend to potential weaknesses in security protocols or developing a communication plan to address breaches, it is essential to cover all your bases in a timely and proactive fashion.
With the new General Data Protection Regulation protocols taking effect in May in the EU, affecting all those who interact with EU citizens, it is more important than ever to be compliant with security and data privacy regulations to avoid racking up hefty fines. As if World Backup Day didn’t provide enough of a reason to backup and defend data, you can use it as a kickstart to defending digital information under legislation cultivated with the same goals in mind.
About the Author
Lauren V. is a cybersecurity specialist whose advocacy efforts are directed toward raising awareness to internet crimes. Working with leaders in the technology and employment industry, she helps individuals and businesses educate and defend employees against cybercriminals and identity thieves.