On March 18, 2020, the World Health Organization reported 207,855 cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 8,648 deaths from this virus. The pandemic has spread to 166 countries and territories, which is almost everywhere in the world. The recommended solution for businesses, schools, religious institutions, public agencies, and non-profits is the same: start practicing social distancing as soon as possible, and that means that many businesses have had to send employees to work from home.
Growing Risks to Businesses and Telecommuters
With more employees working from home, it's important for your business to plan how to have workers telecommute with predatory hackers on the prowl.
A recent report found that hackers are targeting remote workers who will start using their home computers. This is just one reason why it's imperative to understand the minimum technology specifications that your small business will need to set up for remote workers.
Related: Get more details on how to keep business operations rolling without compromising productivity or security with our guide to enabling workers with technology.
The Minimum Technology Specifications for Employees Working From Home
What are the minimum technology specs that companies need to securely set up remote workers?
- Have your IT team set up a virtual private network (VPN) for your business because it greatly reduces the threat of cyber attacks and data breaches.
- Strong password. As basic as it sounds, a strong password still goes a long way to protect your company from hack attempts.
- Anti-virus software, which will scan for various scams and forms of malware on each employee's home device. Keep in mind other family members may use their home computer and you may not know if they're doing activities that might compromise security.
- Remote desktop access (logging in) to the employee's onsite computer or a terminal server. This could take place using a virtual server such as Microsoft's Remote Desktop.
- Up-to-date devices. Each employee needs to go through and ensure the device's operating system and applications are updated. This is also known as patch management. Unpatched software and operating systems are a huge security vulnerability.
- Collaboration software. Having a good way for your team to communicate is important to keeping operations flowing. If you use Office 365 or Microsoft 365, you may already have file sharing, including SharePoint and storage, as well as Teams for video chat, meetings, and instant messaging. Some companies are even using Teams as their business phone system.
- Change router password. Routers come with published default passwords. If they aren't changed, that's an easy target for hackers. Have them change their home router password to be different than the manufacturer's default.
- Confidentiality reminder. Employees working from home may mean that more eyes and ears could be on your company's information. Remind employees of confidentiality and encourage them to follow a few simple security measures, such as using a headset instead of speakerphone, working in a room with the door closed, and locking or signing out of their computer when they step away.
- Stay vigilant about scams. Phishing scams are on the rise - again. Hackers know that more employees are working from home networks, which aren't managed the same way company networks are. Employees need to be on high alert for increased email scams.
Advanced Security Considerations
While the minimum requirements discussed above will give your employees options to create their own office at home, you might want advanced solutions to increase security. You don't want employees using protected data with unsecured tools, especially by logging on to public networks.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Multi-factor authentication. This is how your company's computing systems and proprietary data will be protected when employees log in from home.
- Company-owned and managed devices. If an employee can take home a unit that is imaged to be just like his or her work device, he or she will feel more comfortable with a reduced learning curve and may focus more on productivity. Furthermore, an IT person can install all systems on it and ensure that the proper security measures are in place, including employee monitoring software. The security perimeters you have around your network will extend to these devices, giving you more control over your data.
Technology Use Policy
As the trend towards telecommuting grows in 2020, more employees could be putting your data at risk if the right security measures aren't put in place. It's time to update your employee Technology Use Policy to fit the working at home environment and to add procedures to keep each worker focused on business protocols while on the clock.
Here are some important elements to ask each employee to do when updating your technology usage policy:
- Change his or her password for the device and don't share it with anyone else or leave it on a Post-It where it could be found.
- Don't use social media apps, the Internet, or email on a work device for personal use.
- Check-in with his/her supervisor or manager via video chat at least once a day.
- Track work hours with a timekeeping solution or use remote access for the employee time clock.
- Don't use video conferencing technology or the telephone for business meetings or communication with clients unless he or she is in a private setting.
- Notify the employer when a threat occurs.
Remember, your staff will have access to online browsing, TV, smartphone apps, and other distractions while at home. There will be inevitable interruptions from other people in the home. It will take some time for everyone to adjust to teleworking. They will also have to wait longer to get responses from other workers or workgroups because no one is at the office. Employees may start feel isolated and get bored at home.
Need IT Guidance?
If you aren't sure how to get your employees equipped for remote working over the next few months, we can help. Schedule a chat with one of our qualified IT professionals, and we'll get your business securely configured for the work from home model. Also, if you need an assessment, it's easy to request one here.