Over the past few months, there have been hundreds of articles written about the challenges of remote work and the number of companies moving to telework solutions amid the pandemic. What those articles often miss are the practical implications of such changes on day-to-day security and support for employees.
For CIOs and Directors of Technology, this transition has brought a variety of challenges in how to offer flexible work arrangements while still maintaining data security and private networks. In fact, data security is a top challenge faced by companies that move to remote work, but it’s also less talked about than productivity hacks or Zoom meeting advice. This article aims to change that and give a broad look at device and data security for remote teams.
1. Setting Up Employees to Work from Home
For companies that previously operated in-person, the first obvious obstacle to remote work is getting everyone set up with a device and internet connection from home.
The good news is that most people already have a working computer and high-speed internet connection at home. A study from the Telecommuting Advantage Group found that 92% of respondents already have sufficient computers and internet access from home.
When remote workers receive new laptops or need to set up their personal devices, they’ll need help getting those laptops provisioned with the software they need for work. Walkthroughs for installation and debugging problems are helpful. Even better, allow IT staff to remote access work computers and run the installations. Best of all would be installation scripts that can run in the background, provisioning everyone’s computers with up to date versions of software that are standard across the entire company.
The goal here should be to automate as much as possible so employees spend less time on IT tasks. Setting a solid foundation for your team’s remote work will pay dividends in security and fewer support requests, as everyone has consistent devices, connections, and software company-wide.
2. Remote Technical Support for Remote Workers
Remote access to work computers is important for provisioning and getting employees started on new devices. Moreover, it’s critical to supporting remote workers generally.
In the office, an employee may be able to bring their laptop to the IT department, or have support personnel come look at their device in person. With remote work, that’s less of an option. Teams are finding that they need a system for robust device management that allows remote access to devices, no matter where those devices are physically located.
Not every company needs to purchase device management software. If you only have a few employees, or a limited number of device endpoints, then managing devices yourself or hiring a consultant to provide support may be a good option.
However, as the number of devices grows, companies need to invest in infrastructure and software to automate device management and support. On-demand device access reduces downtime for employees when their devices have issues. Real-time status updates should alert the IT team of issues, and they can often work remotely in the background to provide updates and set security policies for your company’s devices as a whole.
3. Threat Detection across Home Networks
Security has become a major concern for companies of all sizes, especially with the move to remote work. As you add more devices across more home WiFi networks, you increase attack vectors against your company’s data and assets. Luckily, good device management practices and policies can protect your company from the most common attacks.
If your remote employees are allowed to use personal devices, viruses and malware are a major concern. For those devices, you’ll want scanning software that runs regularly to detect threats. While company-owned devices provide a greater degree of control, they’re not immune to malware and you’ll likely want scanning software on every device company-wide, with no exceptions.
Data security across your network is only as strong as the weakest link, and in a remote world every employee’s device becomes an access point to your data. That’s why device monitoring and management is so important. You need to be sure that every device that has access to your data also has the proper security measures in place to prevent breaches.
4. Addressing Common Attack Vectors Against Remote Teams
Attack vectors for data breaches are varied and growing year after year. Some of the most common include:
- Networking into home WiFi that uses older standards
- Phishing via email, text, or even phone calls to gain access to passwords and PINs
- Not setting up multi-factor authentication & not using highly-unique, long passwords
- Failing to utilize a VPN or otherwise restrict access to data based on IP/identity
Ultimately, addressing many of these concerns comes down to employee education. Even the best security software can’t prevent users from making poor decisions with their personal information. Helping employees understand how common cyberattacks work will go a long way toward increasing security company-wide.
While software can’t see everything, a good system for device management and monitoring can keep software up to date and keep you aware of the status of employee devices. Such solutions can also provide automated malware detection, which is key to preventing major breaches. Furthermore, remote access and automated device provisioning makes setting up best practices easier across all your company’s devices.
Remote Work Forces Companies to Rethink Device Management
As companies make the sudden shift to remote work, they’re learning that traditional IT departments are also going to have to change in response. With every employee working on their own device from their own home WiFi network, the challenges of device support, management, and security have grown. Companies need to consider these challenges and place company-wide policies in place to protect their data while also allowing employees to work productively from home.
Luckily, if done right, the move to remote work doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the proper training and infrastructure in place, remote teams are finding that a distributed model can actually improve IT support and device flexibility, because companies now need to prioritize investments in remote infrastructure. At Level, we’re big supporters of remote work, and we’re excited to see these new developments and what it will mean for the future of work.
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