Telecommuting offers convenience, cost savings and even increased productivity, benefiting both the company and employee. But telecommuting opens up some additional security concerns as well. Here are a few tips on staying secure when working remotely.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
If your job requires access to certain programs or applications for collaboration, your company probably has a VPN set up. A Virtual Private Network allows users to connect with the company’s mainframe even though they’re not physically in the office. In some cases, you can even access your desktop remotely.
VPNs provide an added layer of security by restricting access to potentially dangerous Websites and files while connected through the VPN. Your Internet connection basically functions as though you’re sitting at your desk in the office.
Keep your anti-virus software up to date
While a VPN offers some level of protection, telecommuters should install the same anti-virus software programs their employers are using. Typically, an employer will provide a licensed registration key for telecommuters and mobile workers to ensure the adequate protection of company data.
If you haven’t been issued a product registration key or licensed copy of your company’s anti-virus software, ask. Your IT department may at least have a recommendation for a specific application they deem acceptable.
Follow policies when using company-provided equipment
Your company may also provide you with a computer, printer and other equipment you may need to perform your job duties. This allows the company greater control over the programs and applications being run on your computer while you’re working. Typically, policies prohibit the download of any unapproved software. These rules are put in place for both you and your company’s security; follow them closely.
Stay off the social networks
Unless your job requires you to use social networks like Facebook, it’s advisable to steer clear of using such sites while you’re working. That’s because social media has become a popular channel for hackers to spread malicious files to unknowing users. Social media has a viral nature, so this method allows criminals to spread malware and viruses to multitudes of users without much effort.
In general, following any security principles you’d use for your own computer should apply—at a minimum—to using any company-provided equipment. This includes using strong passwords, not downloading suspicious files or those from an unknown source and not clicking on any suspicious links.
Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi connections
Telecommuters often work from the comfort of their own homes, but sometimes remote employees do their work from coffee shops or other areas using a public, unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Avoid using these open connections unless absolutely necessary, and when doing so, don’t unnecessarily access important data. Unsecured connections open the door to provide criminals easy access to the data you’re sending.
Restrict access to non-company users
If your company has provided you with a laptop or desktop computer, you should be the only person in your family using that machine. It’s easy to blur the lines between company and personal use, but maintaining a separation will benefit both you and your employer. Don’t let your spouse or children use the company computer, and avoid using it for your own personal use whenever possible.
While companies are more open to telecommuting arrangements than ever before, security is always a concern. Reassure your employer that you’re taking appropriate actions when utilizing the company network.
Your employer can’t impose any restrictions on how you use your own devices, but it’s in your best interest to follow sound security practices. If you can work remotely without increasing security risks, your company will be more receptive to the arrangement.