In recent years, remote work has gained in popularity as a way for workplaces to reduce overhead costs and increase productivity while offering employees a better work/life balance. But the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated this transition, causing many organizations to rethink their operations and how work is safely carried out.
With these changing circumstances, remote employees are now adapting to unusual work environments and battling new distractions while experiencing an unfamiliar fusion of their professional and private lives. New security challenges have arisen that stem from lax privacy practices within the virtual workplace, which are putting organizations and their employees at risk.
Careless Employees Are a Significant Security Risk
The rapid shift towards remote employees has highlighted three information security barriers that are contributing to careless information security practices within the virtual workplace:
1. Lack of Control Over Information Security in the Home Office
When employees are working from the safe confines of the physical workplace, employers have more control over information security. Office shredding programs ensure that confidential information is securely destroyed to prevent privacy breaches, while network security makes it difficult for cybercriminals to access sensitive data. In the physical office location, meetings are also conducted privately and locked offices and filing cabinets keep company information and devices more secure.
However, remote employees are subject to a less secure environment since the privacy protocols that function in the workplace are difficult to replicate at home. Many employees are now working from the kitchen table using unsecured networks, which is an invitation for outside threats. Other household members can also see and hear their work or create distractions that cause human error, like recycling confidential material or clicking a suspicious link. The longer that remote employees are displaced from their physical workplace without information security controls, the more they are at risk for a serious security breach.
2. Lack of a Remote Work Policy for Employees
Prior to the pandemic, many companies did not have remote work policies in place, but with more employees working virtually, they are more important than ever before. A remote work policy is an organization-wide document that provides a complete outline of information security practices and remote working requirements to ensure that employees:
- Comply with privacy and security laws
- Identify and reduce security threats
- Protect personal and company-related information
Without a well-established remote work policy, organizations and their employees are at a greater risk for a security breach since they lack proper guidelines to prevent or manage an information leak.
3. Lack of Employee Training
Employee training is essential to preventing and managing a security breach, especially when remote employees are without direct supervision or workplace security protocols. Remote workers who are educated on their company’s remote work policies and are trained to identify risks are less likely to dispose of information incorrectly or fall victim to phishing scams because they understand the value and vulnerabilities of confidential data.
Enhance Your Remote Workforce’s Information Security
Whether your company is new to remote work or your employees have worked remotely for years, the virtual workplace does have added risks. Take Blue-Pencil’s Information Security Risk Assessment to quickly identify your organization’s biggest security gaps to safeguard confidential information while your employees are working remotely.