Large companies and academic institutions often invest in IT departments to make sure that employees are using secure networks, safe login practices, and even encrypted hardware to protect confidential data. Not only are trade secrets on the line – your clients' information must also be kept safe from outside attacks or accidental sharing.
Telecommuters don't often get the benefit of these secure channels, and must fend for themselves instead. This is becoming a major issue in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments, where workers are expected to bring their own technology and software to the table. But what happens if your computer or mobile device is stolen or lost? These incidents could result in significant privacy risks and financial losses for yourself, your clients, and your company. Here are five ways telecommuters can secure their hardware and data against accidents and malicious attacks.
Passwords are the gatekeepers to technology, preventing prying eyes from accessing data that should be kept confidential. It's amazing how much a simple passcode can help – locked mobile devices running iOS and Android have several layers of data protection in place, preventing hackers from stealing data if they hit a passcode wall. However, as a telecommuter, you must be proactive in setting password prompts before a device is stolen or breached. Some modern consumer electronics even have a fingerprint scanner for an added level of protection.
The same philosophy should apply to your computer. Do you frequently take your computer to coffee shops, libraries, and other public places? Your computer should prompt users for a password whenever it is powered on or woken up from sleep mode. This might seem excessive, but it can take just a moment for an unauthorized person to glimpse or steal important information while you are away from a computer.
Use Trusted Networks
Telecommuters often use public Wi-Fi hotspots to conduct business and complete work tasks. However, these networks can be problematic, if there are malicious hackers known as "phishers" in the area. In 2013, some Tumblr app users opened themselves up to public Wi-Fi phishing attacks, since passwords weren't sent over secure, encrypted channels.
You can reduce risk and worry about network security by joining public Wi-Fi networks secured by WPA2 technology, the most current security protocol used by Wi-Fi devices. You will be asked to provide a network password (which a barista or establishment can provide you with). When you sign into websites, make sure the web address includes the "HTTPS" prefix, which indicates a secure link between you and the website.
Unified Communications (UC)
Many companies use UC solutions like a virtual-pbx to securely link remote workers to telephone conversations, videoconferences, and other communication channels. Since all of these interactions occur over a central UC system, remote workers don't run the risk of losing data across unauthorized apps and devices. This is also a bonus for companies, since they won't need to worry about telecommuters intentionally or accidentally sharing information via risky channels like social media accounts. Check in with the companies you work for, and see if they have a secure UC network for remote workers.
Run System and Software Updates
When your computer prompts you for updates, do you take care of them right away, or do you keep hitting the "Later" button? Telecommuters should avoid delaying system and software updates, because they can help protect you against current security threats. Many updates for Windows, Mac, and mobile operating systems are issued to protect users from current malware, such as trojans, keyloggers, and adware. The same principle applies to work-related software, however you should always read update notes first to make sure additions are compatible with your current technology.
Telecommuters can take simple and practical measures to secure their own data, protecting themselves, their company, and their clients. The remote work lifestyle can provide you with immense freedom, but it also opens you up to the risk of malicious data attacks, theft, or loss. Partner these safety practices up with a regular backup system to keep your data safe and sound!