If your team has recently gone remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you have plenty of matters to consider. What programs to use, how you’ll get your team up to speed, and how to maintain productivity are all vital to your operations. But don’t overlook the security of your sensitive information. With these cybersecurity tips for employers, you can protect your data and your team from the threat of cyberattacks.
1. Understand the Limits of Your IT/Cybersecurity Team
When you work from the office, your IT team handles much of the cybersecurity issues of the business. They update security software, upgrade to newer security programs, and study activity logs to ensure you don’t have any anomalies.
But during the COVID-19 pandemic, IT employees have been pushed to their brink. They’re constantly bombarded with emails and messages about various topics, and they may not have time to handle the workload.
Furthermore, if your company doesn’t have dedicated IT or cybersecurity specialists, the issue of cybersecurity becomes even more apparent. Many of your employees may not have worked from home before, diminishing their knowledge of cybersecurity. Therefore, you’ll have to bring your virtual team up to speed about the risks of cybersecurity and how to avoid them.
2. Train Your Team
Due to the catastrophic threat posed by hacking and cyberattacks, training your team becomes integral. While veteran telecommuters may know a few aspects of cyber-safety, others may be fresh to the idea. If possible, create a multipronged plan to give your team as much training as possible. An employee cybersecurity handbook, mandatory training, and follow-up meetings are all a necessity. But here are some more concrete tips to help put your cybersecurity in order.
Curb Phishing Attacks
Phishing is a type of cyberattack where an individual poses as a legitimate entity. The media they use to initiate a phishing attack varies, but most of the time, these offenses come in the form of emails.
How to Overcome Phishing Attacks: The best way to combat phishing attacks is by sending phishing emails yourself. Send out a legitimate-looking email to your team, and see if any of your employees respond. If they do, you might want to reiterate the dangers of phishing and hold another training seminar.
Update Your Passwords
Weak passwords have been problematic since the widespread use of the internet began. Chances are that a few of your team members have a few clunkers that would only take a hacker a few minutes to solve. That’s why you need to encourage your employees to update their passwords as soon as they begin working from home.
How to Overcome Weak Passwords: One of the best ways to overcome weak passwords is to use the 16-character passwords that are often suggested by websites. If that’s not feasible, have each team member create passwords that don’t spell actual words, contain a special character(s), and have a mix of numbers and letters. Follow that up with a password manager that lists each password and encrypts them in one place.
Don’t Download from Unfamiliar Sources
One of the most popular ways that hackers gain access to computers and networks is through emails and pop-ups that claim the computer has a problem. As soon as your employee clicks these fake pop-ups, downloads a file, and opens it, the cyberattack is in full force.
How to Overcome Viruses and Fake Downloads: Train your team to only download files from reputable websites. If they don’t recognize the web address or the maker of a particular file, they shouldn’t open it. As a failsafe, download the reputable file yourself and place it for download on a secure file-sharing program such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
3. Establish a Cybersecurity Plan
Another cybersecurity tip for employers is to establish a cybersecurity plan as soon as possible. A lucky few may already have a cybersecurity plan in place. In this instance, you only need to update it to reflect the nuances of working from home.
For employers without any type of cybersecurity plan, the task becomes a bit more daunting. Fortunately, it’s not entirely out of reach. Include these aspects in your cybersecurity plan to ensure the security of your employees and data:
- Consider email security tools for your company email, such as mxHero and Proofpoint.
- Download an antivirus program and require each employee to download it to their home computer. Conversely, you could give each employee a computer with each cybersecurity program preloaded. However, this is a far more expensive alternative.
- Mandate the use of a virtual private network (VPN). A virtual private network masks IP addresses and provides another layer of security, even when your employees work from somewhere outside of the home.
- Put a contingency plan in place in case one of your employees suffers a data or security breach.
- List some sort of disciplinary action for employees that repeatedly violate protocol. Obviously, training and practice should safeguard against many violations. But a strong deterrent will reinforce the importance of cybersecurity.
Although this isn’t an all-encompassing list of cybersecurity issues, it should give you some idea of where to start. Each company has its own different cybersecurity needs and issues, so don’t be afraid to tweak these ideas to fit your culture and business.
4. Install a Company-Wide VPN
As mentioned above, a VPN is an important tool against cyberattacks. So a great cybersecurity tip for employers is to install a company-wide VPN. But what are the benefits of a VPN?
- The ability to work from anywhere in the world under the guise of a U.S. IP address. This is particularly helpful if you have a globally dispersed remote team.
- Low-cost cybersecurity protection. While many antiviruses and protection programs can come with high costs, VPNs are often around $10 to $15 per month.
- Encourage productivity. As states open up following the COVID-19 pandemic, some workers just want to get out of the house. With a VPN, they can work at a café or the library without having to worry about security issues. Thus, they can focus on their work and become more productive.
5. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication
Although you may have stressed the importance of stronger passwords, some employees will undoubtedly overlook this aspect. As a result, you need a failsafe. That’s where multi-factor authentication becomes your greatest ally.
Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method that requires your employers to provide two or more pieces of information to log-in. In most cases, this means that they’ll need a password plus a one-time code (OTC) that’s sent to their phone. They may also have to answer security questions or get a hardware token to complete their log-in. By completing these methods, your team makes it far more difficult for a hacker to gain access to email or other software.
6. Use Endpoint Protection Software
Although often confused with antivirus software, endpoint protection software has some key differences. While antivirus protects devices, endpoint protection covers every aspect of your network. Based on this idea, antivirus software is just one part of endpoint protection.
So what does endpoint protection software consist of? The answer may differ slightly depending on what provider you go with, but here are some basic components:
- Antivirus software and scanning
- Behavioral analysis of your company network
- Human analysis of your company network
- Security software installed on each end-user device
Together, these aspects provide a comprehensive solution to cyberattacks. Not only does this protect the novice work-from-home employee or device theft, but it also gives you and your employees a little peace of mind.
7. Maintain Constant Communication With Your Team
Another cybersecurity tip for employers with newly remote teams is to maintain constant communication. While this will help your team stay on task and remain productive, communication is also integral to reduce the incidence of a cyberattack.
When you’re consistently talking with your team, you can ask about any security issues or concerns that may have developed during the work-from-home transition. Using a simple collaborative tool such as Slack or Basecamp can also allow you to post information about common scams. The prevalence of scams has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, so you may also want to provide updates about what to look for.
8. Consider Additional IT or Cybersecurity Staff
Although your IT staff is probably being pushed to the brink, these individuals are a vital portion of your team, especially during COVID-19. As a result, you’ll need to keep this department well-staffed. Overworked individuals may cause certain areas of security to lapse. So consider a few temporary workers or another full-time employee to handle the workload.
If you have a global team, 24-hour protection may also become a valid concern. Therefore, you can hire people from different time zones or have workers scheduled around the clock. Eventually, your staff will become more vigilant and have the ability to identify potential threats. But until then, the extra staff might be a necessity.
9. Secure and Backup Your Company Data
A list of cybersecurity tips for employers just isn’t complete without a discussion of the security and backup of company data. While employee training is important, you also need a cybersecurity solution to secure sensitive information. Thankfully, you don’t have to have 100 external hard drives. Today, most security and backup are 100% online using a cloud. If you don’t have cloud services, find a provider to both protect and back up your information.
Even if you don’t implement these tips immediately, you’re never too late. Any time is the ideal time to update and upgrade software that’s crucial to your online security. By tightening up your cybersecurity, you can ensure the strong reputation of your business and keep sensitive information out of the hands of hackers. In an uncertain world, even a bit of security is a welcomed addition—even if it’s just your online team.
iStock Image: JuSun
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