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Remote Workers May Pose a Security Risk to Your Business

August 27, 2013

Employers are discovering the advantages of having employees work remotely. According to the Huffington Post, at least 63 percent of employers now allow some remote work, and the number appears to be growing. However, there are some risks associated with the practice. Some might worry about employees getting their work done, but it appears that the risk of data breach might be even more significant.

Remote Workers as Security Risks

In a comprehensive study conducted by Cisco, the company found that remote workers engaged in several behaviors that put company data at risk. Some of those behaviors included:

  • Transferring files from a work device to a home device
  • Using personal communications on a work device that does not meet security standards
  • Speaking of company information in an public setting where others can hear
  • Not using a laptop privacy guard in public

All of these behaviors put company data at serious risk. Cisco conducted a survey of IT professionals from across the globe, and found these unsettling statistics in the process:

At least 46 percent of those surveyed admitted to transferring data from work to personal devices, and over 75 percent of those surveyed admitted not using privacy guards on their laptops in public. The numbers for China, Brazil and India were even worse.

Almost 70 percent of those surveyed said they did not think about being overheard when speaking about company information in public spaces. Of those working remotely, 13 percent did not have access to their company networks, leaving them to use personal email accounts to communicate about business.

Negligence and Data Breaches

Many employers fear the malicious hacker when they consider data breaches, but the LifeLock FB page indicates that 39 percent of such breaches are due to simple negligence. This means that employers should be just as worried about their employees’ security habits as they are about outside players – perhaps even more so.

Work Toward a Solution

Employers will continue to use remote workers. There are too many advantages to the arrangement to do otherwise. However, proper training is required to decrease the risk such workers pose to company data. Employees must understand, before they ever leave the workplace, how important data security procedures are, and how vital company information is to the health of the business.

Cisco advises that employers teach employees that business data is the equivalent of money. It must be guarded just like money, and its loss can be even more damaging and costly than its cash equivalent.

Businesses must adopt an all-encompassing outlook on data security, from the lowest-level employee all the way to the top. Training must occur regularly, and employees must learn to hold one another accountable for practicing safe habits.

Very few employees desire to harm their place of employment. By working to educate employees on how they can inadvertently cause the business harm, employers can do a lot to encourage proper security practices.

It is advisable for businesses to develop a remote worker-training program with this information in mind. Before a worker is allowed to work remotely, they should be required to complete security training specific to their remote position.

Security is Achievable

The potential for data breaches in business can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, implementing proper security protocols and conducting regular training with an emphasis on the value of data can accomplish a significant amount. It may not be possible to prevent every breach, but one can reduce the risks substantially.

Tags: Blog, Management, Policies, Small Business, Cloud, cloud computing, Employees,

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