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Ensuring IT security and compliance for the modern workforce

Modern workforces are increasingly mobile. That was true before the Covid pandemic, and it will be even more true after the pandemic ends.

It seems increasingly clear that many of us will never go back to the office full time. In one recent survey, 18% of respondents said they wanted to work entirely from home when the pandemic ends. A further 57% favoured a mix of home and office working.

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Businesses are seeing the sense in letting workers split their time between the office and their homes in a so-called ‘hybrid’ working arrangement. In part, that’s because firms that refuse to offer flexible work risk losing their best talent, and making recruitment more difficult. But they also anticipate potential savings in relation to office space, equipment and utilities costs.

The pandemic has shown that remote working needn’t be any less productive than its in-office equivalent, though some employees have felt isolated during lockdowns. A significant number don’t have an appropriate work space at home. That’s why a hybrid model, which lets employees work full time in the office if they want to, is considered the best option.

The full-time adoption of hybrid work does throw up some fundamental challenges, though. Chief among them is how your IT teams maintain security and compliance with an increasingly dispersed and nomadic workforce.

IT security in a hybrid world

If your organisation is considering a hybrid working model, this is a challenge you need to meet, with controls to protect your organisation. Cyber security is a constantly evolving space, where new vulnerabilities are seemingly uncovered just as fast as protections are developed.

The 2020 Verizon Business Data Breach Investigations Report found a significant increase in all kinds of cyberthreats, from phishing attacks to web application breaches. In 2020, cybercriminals were intent on exploiting the vulnerabilities of remote working.

Remote working feels like a perfect storm for information security threats, and in some ways it is. For example, hybrid workers regularly connect to your network from beyond the office firewall. Sensitive customer data may be passed between dispersed colleagues using consumer-grade internet connections.

But despite everything, it is possible to keep your business critical and customers’ personal data safe, with due diligence and an IT security policy specifically tailored to the needs of a remote or semi-remote workforce.

An IT security audit should be high on your list of priorities, followed by an IT compliance review, preferably made by security professionals, to identify any critical assets that require better security practices. That’s because, interestingly, the Verizon report found that 22% of all breaches in 2020 were caused by human error and ignorance. Updating security guidelines with remote work in mind, and making sure employees are compliant, is essential.

It’s certainly a good time to remind staff about data protection best practice when it comes to things like two factor authentication, strong passwords and regularly updating devices and software. That’s especially true if you operate a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, which allows employees to use personal devices (including mobile devices) for work purposes.

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Secure your data

Any IT security policy should also cover network security and the transit and storage of data. It’s a good idea to review and perhaps upgrade your Virtual Private Network (VPN) to better protect the accounts and access used by remote employees.

Don’t forget to define where work data should be saved; for example, staff that work from home, without the IT department looking over their shoulders, might decide to save half finished work in consumer-grade cloud storage accounts. Or they might send documents over an unsecure network to a home printer.

It’s clear from all this that security training should be a prerequisite of moving to hybrid work. According to one survey, 58% of IT leaders plan to introduce more security training if their company adopts a permanent remote work environment.

That’s sensible, but the training needs to be tailored to the needs of employees. Make it practical and relevant, and supplement it with regular refreshers and updates on the latest security threats and compliance frameworks, especially new phishing attacks.

Think about the tools you use

There are other things to consider as part of your security program, too. For example, in the survey mentioned above, almost half of IT leaders said they were aiming to improve their endpoint protection to better safeguard all devices that access the network.

Equipping your remote workforce with the right tools is important, too. Remote work is still work, and requires enterprise-grade services and applications with sophisticated security built in. A unified communications platform like MiCloud Flex is a case in point. The platform offers a dedicated environment hosted in secure data centers with advanced multi-layered security measures, including full encryption.

And with solutions like MiCloud Flex, a remote worker gets everything they need to communicate and collaborate effectively in one integrated package. That way, they won’t be tempted to bolt on unsanctioned third-party tools and apps that may open vulnerable backdoors to your data.

With a little planning, it’s perfectly possible to adopt a hybrid working model and keep your data and services safe, but planning really is essential, because you can’t leave security to chance. Adopt or upgrade security infrastructure if your IT security audit suggests it’s necessary. Equip your remote staff with tools that were designed with enterprise-level security in mind.

Perhaps most importantly of all, educate your remote teams on their responsibilities when it comes to security systems and meeting compliance regulations. The best defence against cyber threats is knowledge and strong best practice among your team members, helping to catch issues before they become larger problems that affect the every day running of your business.

If you’d like to learn more about MiCloud Flex from Unicomm, and how it can not only enhance your communication but your security too, please get in touch.

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