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Still working remotely? Here's what you need to know. - LADS

Still working remotely? Here’s what you need to know.

Remote working in all its different forms is here to stay. Therefore, we must understand how to work remotely securely. Although the UK has recently scrapped all COVID rules, significant security risks are still involved for many of us still working remotely.

At the pandemic's start, many organisations and employees were caught off guard by the sudden shift of working from home. It was a new experience for which we were all underprepared. Accessibility of services, Wi-Fi reliability, collaboration tools and hardware concerns were all common issues we faced.

Since then, organisations and employees have adapted and remedied most issues, resulting in an efficient workforce. Securely working remotely can also save money, boost a healthy work-life balance, and enable the recruitment of skilled employees regardless of their location.

Hybrid working

Recently, we’ve seen staff returning to the office, with the option also to work remotely. This flexibility has been received well, as it instils trust within employees. However, it does require organisations to offer a secure and seamless transition for those who wish to participate in hybrid working.

Hybrid working has gained popularity within many workplaces due to the freedom/flexibility it provides. Employees can work from anywhere they like, including the office, if they want to. This can be beneficial as it allows people to adapt to their workloads. Employees within a post-Covid world have started looking for roles that support hybrid working. This means that more organisations are adopting the model to increase retention and meet the needs of their employees. A study by HRD in 2021 found that 41% of workers would prefer to work entirely from home, with less than 10% wanting to return to the office full-time. This helps to put into perspective how the mindset of employees has changed.

The negatives of hybrid working

Despite the popularity, there are downsides to hybrid and remote working. How employees are measured and assessed on their work has changed. It can be challenging for managers to notice who’s falling behind and working hard when not in an office environment. This arguably supports why 29% of employees feel there was a lack of opportunity regarding career progression while working from home over the past two years. Another issue is work-life balance. Working from home isn’t for everyone, as it can be challenging to establish boundaries between their home life and work. Mental health can also deteriorate. Often, people don’t receive the same amount of social interaction they would get in an office environment; for some, that interaction may be vital.

However, regardless of the positive and negatives of this new and widely implemented culture, it does come with additional security concerns for both employees and organisations.

Common security issues

One issue is using an unsecured network such as a home or public network. If you’re using these networks and accessing sensitive data, then hackers may be able to intercept and spy on transmitting data. Therefore, it’s recommended that your employees use a VPN when accessing unknown networks.

Using personal devices in line with work is also a security risk. Employees may not update their applications, software, or operating systems, which may leave security gaps in their devices. In conjunction with this, employees may use unencrypted file-sharing platforms. There’s also the possibility of those who leave the organisation to keep their previous companies’ sensitive data on their devices.

Email scams have become much more common since the pandemic, primarily due to the confusion of switching to remote working. Phishing scams are the most common as they involve tricking individuals into handing over secure information such as usernames or passwords. This can lead to the theft of sensitive company information.

How to reduce the risks

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is recommended for your organisation. An example would involve your employees logging on but being prompted on another device to confirm their actions.
  • Encryption should be implemented for almost all forms of data transmissions. If your data falls into the wrong hands, it is useless without the decryption key.
  • Enable mandatory updates. Updates often get dismissed, meaning your employees and organisation are at risk. Enabling mandatory updates forces the update to occur, regardless of the user’s input. Usually, a specific time can be allocated, helping to reduce any disruptions for users.
  • Restricting user access is also necessary in certain areas. Not allowing users to download specific programmes without permission helps to reduce the risk of malicious software being installed.
  • Implement cloud-based computing. Where users sign in and actively use a virtual desktop from their computer. This can allow for tighter control over security.
  • Have multiple backups of your data spread across different storage units. This is a must for any organisation as it allows for acquiring old data. Whether your data gets lost, destroyed, or contaminated, having multiple backups may save your organisation.

It’s fair to say that remote working will be a continued practice, even years on from the pandemic. This is because employees are actively seeking jobs that support the idea. Therefore, if organisations want to future-proof themselves, they should accept the change safely and securely for themselves and their employees.