Remote Work Security Risks, Part 2

Sue Marquette Poremba
Slide Show

Five Warning Signs Your Security Policy Is Lacking

Warning signs of a weak security policy from SunGard Availability Services.

Yesterday, Cindy Bates, Microsoft vice president of U.S. SMB, provided an outline of ways to lessen the security risks that come with working remotely. But as regular readers of my blog know, I'm a big proponent of security policies and security education as the primary ways to best protect the network. So, of course, one of the questions I asked Bates was what should be included in a company's formal security policy in regards to working remotely.

She pointed out that as each business is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all formula to develop a security policy. However, there are important elements to consider that will assist in meeting the business' and employees' needs, whether in the office or working remotely, while maximizing security:

  • Leverage the technology provided by the business. If SMBs invest in cloud computing solutions or collaboration technologies, make sure they are being used for work purposes. Blending the use of public platforms with internal portals can create a prime environment for security breaches.
  • Know what devices are being used for remote work. SMB owners should be aware of whether the employee is using work-issued hardware or leveraging a home computer or personal smartphone to conduct business. Businesses should work with an internal IT department or local resource to ensure that the integrity of business information is prioritized.
  • Hold employees accountable. Businesses should be clear when it comes to communicating expectations around remote work protocol. Establish goals and measures to ensure employees are being productive while off-site, and ensure that the remote workforce recognizes that their success is an important contributor to the business' overall success.


Research conducted by Microsoft found that many employees are turning to social networks to enable off-site collaboration, but social networks are rife with security risks. On the other hand, social networking channels are great places for SMBs to build brand awareness and engage with customers. As Bates told me:

This development in communication practice often makes completely banning social media use during work hours unrealistic; however, these sites are not secure portals for conducting business. A conversation between co-workers that is conducted via a social network regarding a confidential new product launch, for example, is ultimately the same as openly discussing the product in a public place-or even disclosing it to the competition.
SMBs have a responsibility to clearly convey a social media policy to all employees, including remote workers. Business owners should set specific parameters around the types of communication and information that can be shared via public social media channels and should consider investing in private social technologies that enable collaboration.

She suggested cloud-based solutions as a more secure way for remote workers to collaborate and communicate with office-based and other remote-working co-workers.


All this talk about remote work makes me want to pack up my netbook and head to my favorite coffee shop. Who knows? Maybe that's where I'll write Monday's blog post.

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