When everyone's working from home, data privacy is more crucial than ever. These are six ways any business can improve data privacy and security in the work-from-home era.
An unprecedented number of people are working from home right now — and it's still not clear when we'll be able to return to the office. This sudden shift to a work-from-home culture has put some pressure on existing business processes. Collaboration is much harder than usual, with many people still struggling to learn new online communication tools and videoconferencing tech.
Data privacy is one often-overlooked challenge. Anyone working from home must connect to a business network and transfer a major amount of personal and business data over the internet. If they lack adequate tools and knowledge, they could easily fall victim to a hacker — exposing valuable company data. Here’s how your organization can help ensure data privacy.
One of the best ways to keep data safe is to secure the connection between an employee's home workstation and the office. Virtual private networks are one of the more popular tools for creating a secure connection.
Limiting network access based on employee needs can also help keep data safe. If a hacker compromises an employee account, they won't have full access to the business' networks — just the portions that the employee needed for their work.
Despite the shift to a work-from-home mentality, many companies still haven't updated their security practices.
Robust security policies can go a long way in keeping a business' network safe. Policies that limit the use of smart devices, require employees to maintain backups and mandate the use of security tech, for example, can all reduce the risk of a breach.
Every device connected to a business' network presents an additional avenue of attack for hackers. Working from a smartphone or connecting a smart home device to the business network may be more convenient for employees, but it can also lead to more vulnerabilities.
When developing security policies, management should consider how they will manage device access. They may require that devices maintain updated security software or limit the connection of specific tools that tend to be less secure, like IoT technology.
Employees themselves are the front-line defense against many common types of security breaches. For example, hackers often use phishing attacks, which use legitimate-looking emails to smuggle malware onto users' systems or steal personal information, because they can target the least trained and technically informed employees at a company.
If employees can spot the signs of a phishing attack, they'll be much more likely to avoid falling victim to the scheme. They'll also report the email the attacker used to the company's IT and cybersecurity team, allowing them to improve screening protocols or software that can catch these emails before they reach any employee.
The principle behind a zero-trust mindset is to always verify. No matter where a user is connecting from, whether inside or outside the network, the system won't trust them by default. Instead, they'll need to provide additional information that verifies their identity — ensuring they are who they claim to be. Security tools like multi-factor authentication, which requires a code from another device in addition to a username and password, is one example of how zero trust looks in practice.
By default, many companies collect massive amounts of consumer data. In the right situation, this information can be extremely valuable — providing the company with a better idea of consumer needs and enabling more accurate demand forecasting.
All data collected, however, is at risk in the case of a breach.
One of the best ways to ensure data privacy is to never accumulate it in the first place. When revisiting company security policies, managers may also want to look at what data the company is gathering. Often, much of this information goes unused, but would still put customers at risk if hackers stole it.
If there's no plan to use this data in the future, limiting the collection of similar information may be a good strategy.
Working from home will likely continue to be the norm for businesses around the world. Almost any company with a distributed workforce may want to prepare for a future where their employees spend some or all of the workweek outside the office.
Data privacy will continue to be a challenge as a result. Fortunately, businesses can take steps to protect their data and reduce the risk of a breach. Offering cybersecurity training, improving security policies and even limiting the amount of data collected can help keep business and customer information safe.