7 Steps to Take to Keep Your Data Secure while Working Remotely

Today, more and more employees have the flexibility and the tools they need to work effectively from anywhere. In fact, a study conducted by the International Workplace Group revealed that 50 percent of respondents worked from home at least two and a half days per week.

Steps to Take to Keep Your Data Secure

Technology has provided the ability to get work done from a variety of places: home, a coffee shop, a co-working space or even a hotel room. Not only do today’s tech tools allow employees to maintain a better work-life balance, but they can also help companies attract talent and create strong business continuity plans. These benefits, however, come at a price.

Data security is a concern at virtually every company. IT departments take aggressive measures to protect their servers and files, but the risks multiply quickly when workers are using their own devices to get their work done from remote locations. Malware can infect employees’ personal laptops and desktop computers; this malicious software can worm its way into a business’s network, compromising the security of important company data.

Employees run the risk of exposing valuable data when they use unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks to get their work done. Even employees’ phones and tablets come with a degree of risk for companies if they become lost or get stolen.

Remote work environments will never have the same robust IT safeguards and security controls as a typical office setup, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to protect company data when you’re not in the office.

There are still plenty of ways for employees to be proactive about data security. Following some key procedures and best practices can help you protect your own data as well as your employer’s. Let’s look at some simple steps you can take to keep your data secure while working remotely:

1. Stay on top of updates

If you find yourself dismissing the software update notification messages that seem to pop up every week, you’re not alone: Most people assume they’ll get to those updates another day, but they never do.

Taking a minute or two to get these updates done is a valuable investment of your time. Keeping your software, browser and other systems up to date can have a big impact on data security and spare you from a potentially damaging cyberattack.

2. Keep tabs on your device

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to help secure data, just enable the “Find My Phone” application on your phone. This simple move takes about 30 seconds to accomplish, but it can boost the chances of finding your phone if you lose it or leave it behind somewhere. For additional security, you can try one of the many tracking apps that make use of geolocation. These apps allow you to lock your phone or even wipe out passwords remotely.

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3. Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks

When you’re working remotely, it can be tempting to use the public Wi-Fi networks offered at the local coffee shop or bookstore. While these unsecured networks are fine for casual browsing, they aren’t always the safest bet for remote work. Try to use a password-protected hotspot if possible, or use a personal hotspot on your phone– both of these solutions provide more security than a public network.

If you have no choice but to use public Wi-Fi when you’re working remotely, do a quick check to make sure you’re connected to the correct network. Hackers will create phony Wi-Fi networks with names that are similar to commonly-known networks. These fake networks are often known as “honeypots” because they lure unsuspecting victims into their trap with the promise of free Wi-Fi.

4. Step up your password game

You’d be surprised how many people use weak, easy-to-hack passwords to access sensitive data. Even worse, these passwords are rarely changed. Choosing stronger passwords and changing them regularly is a simple tactic that can help you secure data with minimal effort.

Longer passwords are better than shorter ones, and your passwords should include numbers and special characters along with letters. You can set up reminders on your phone to tell you when it’s time to change your password. Some security experts recommend changing passwords every 30 days, but you can determine the schedule that works best for your needs and your comfort level.

Keep in mind that even the strongest passwords won’t do much to secure data if they’re easily accessible to others. A few common-sense moves can keep your passwords under wraps: Never write your passwords down, and avoid having your computer or mobile device save your passwords for convenience.

5. Use two-step verification

If you have the option to add two-step verification, also known as two-factor authentication, to your account, take advantage of this extra level of security. Yes, it’s another step added to your login process, but the few extra seconds it takes to verify your identity is well worth it for the added security benefits. The two-step process acts as a second layer of protection, preventing password theft, data breaches and other malicious activity.

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6. Make your home network more secure

Even if you’ve taken all the previous steps to secure data while you’re working remotely, your own home network could pose a threat if it doesn’t have the right security measures in place.

Be sure to password-protect your router if you haven’t done so already. For even greater peace of mind, consider setting up a VPN on your router. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between any device connected to your router and the internet. With a VPN, all internet traffic from your devices is directed through an ultra-secure “tunnel” that prevents it from being read or diverted by anyone else.

7. Secure your emails

If you need to send emails that might contain sensitive data when you’re working remotely, it’s important to make sure your transmission is as secure as possible. Many email encryption services are available to help protect the contents of your emails.

The premium version of these services will offer the greatest number of options and the most robust protection, but most services offer a free basic version that’s likely to meet your security needs.

As remote work becomes more and more commonplace, it’s no surprise that companies worry about the associated data security risks. Fortunately, the benefits of working remotely don’t have to come at the cost of data security.

The best practices outlined in this article are simple but powerful strategies– if you and your team are vigilant about following these recommendations, you can feel confident that your company’s data will remain safe and secure no matter where you’re doing your work.

Shane Zilinskas
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