Remote Work Security Risks, Part I

Sue Marquette Poremba
Slide Show

Five iPad Apps for Remote Workers

iPad apps that are especially useful for workers on the go.

Twenty years ago, I had a boss who was, looking back at it now, ahead of her time. She was a firm believer in the remote office, thinking that one could get a lot more work done without the distractions of the office. We were in the beginning days of email and Internet connection, and since I was the "cutting edge" member of the office and had my own computer at home, I was allowed to work from my living room on bad weather days and when I was involved in a project with tight deadlines and needed minimal distractions. I just needed to be able to check in regularly or be available if someone from the office needed me. I loved it, and I think I got three times as much work done from home than I did at the office.


Back then, a lot of our colleagues frowned on this practice of working from home, thinking that it would lead to sleeping in and afternoons of Oprah rather than actual work getting done. Today, society is a lot more open-minded about remote work.

 

According to research conducted by Microsoft, many employees are turning to social networks to enable off-site collaboration, especially small businesses that have not invested in secure collaboration technologies. This is opening businesses up to an entirely new realm of security concerns, as sensitive business information is being exchanged via sites like Facebook and Twitter.


I spoke with Cindy Bates, Microsoft vice president of U.S. SMB, about the security concerns involved with remote work, particularly for those who work from coffee shops, hotel rooms or airports - anywhere that isn't the actual workplace. The primary risks are exactly the things you would expect: stolen laptops, lost USB drives, public Wi-Fi. But she also adds that information that might have once been shared in a conversation at the desk or passed in an office memo is now being shared on social networking sites and public portals.


So what can companies do to lessen the security risks of working remotely? Bates told me businesses should develop a preparedness plan that incorporates technology and business strategies to reduce security risks associated with remote working. Technology strategy elements include:


 

  • Explore cloud-based software. Cloud-based software solutions provide enterprise-class capabilities and can be accessed via any Internet connection, which is ideal for those working remotely. The cloud also enables businesses to store information in a secure, off-site location to prevent data loss.
  • Encrypt business data. Encryption makes data indecipherable to unauthorized users and can help prevent virtual disasters should corporate laptops or other computing devices get lost or stolen. Solutions like Microsoft BitLocker and BitLocker-To-Go, built into Windows 7, instantly encrypt data and ensure data is safe in the event of an outside breach or device loss.
  • Keep technology updated. Remote workers should regularly install updates to technologies being used for remote work, as these usually provide security patches and new protective features that will keep viruses, phishing scams and other threats from entering the system.

She also provided some business strategies to consider when developing a preparedness plan:

  • Communicate with employees. Make remote workers aware of the security risks that can arise while working off-site. Provide each employee with a clear policy and information on how to keep technology secure as well as who to contact in the event of a security breach.
  • Identify a source to assist with security setup and incident response. For businesses without a dedicated IT staff, it is important to pinpoint a local IT resource that could recommend technologies and ensure proper setup. These professionals also can help businesses address virtual incidents that can arise from remote working arrangements. If businesses aren't sure where to find a reliable IT resource in their area, www.pinpoint.microsoft.com can offer suggestions.

 

Bates and I also discussed developing a formal security policy for working remotely, which I'll cover tomorrow.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 6, 2012 12:02 PM Gary Gary  says:

nice post. easy to read,easy to understand.

Thanks a lot. It helped me a lot.

Reply

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