Working remotely has become the “new normal”, at least for the foreseeable future.
Some 1.5 billion people are now working remotely. It seems companies overnight moved into a work-at-home reality, and many workplace experts predict that more and more organizations will continue to rely on remote workers after this pandemic has passed.
Virtual work settings are not new. Companies around the world were already embracing remote work to give employees better work/life balance, lessen the carbon footprint, and drive corporate efficiencies.
According to data from Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service data, 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency. Regular work-at-home arrangements have grown 173% since 2005.
The push to remote offices has shed light on IT’s need to scale its security and data protections to home offices, especially at a time when attacks on personal and corporate data continue to rise.
Today’s remote worker reality presents many IT challenges
From an IT perspective, there are a lot of unknowns involved with managing a remote workforce:
- WiFi networks and routers commonly found in most homes are more easily compromised than the enterprise-grade equipment in offices, which increases the risk of exposure and inadvertent leaking of corporate and customer data.
- More and more data is stored in the cloud and CASBs are essential elements of cloud security strategies now more than ever.
- Corporate VPNs are rarely robust enough to match the growth in remote workforce accessing the network. This can create a productivity bottleneck, which further complicates data protection.
- Email exchanges will increase, due to the absence of in-person communications and many employees lacking a softphone, which also increases the likelihood that email will contain sensitive information along with potential personal data.
- The skyrocketing use of video conferencing tools by remote employees has led to a drain on bandwidth in many regions, so people are forced to rely on email for communications during peak hours.
Companies need to ask themselves:
- How are people accessing data?
- How are they working?
- What tools are they using?
- When they create content, is it intellectual property that needs to be protected?
From the comfort of their home office, employees may fail to take precautions such as using only corporate email. Instead, they might send work files over their personal email to get work done faster – a practice that puts corporate information at risk. And emailing will only become more critical form of communication for remote staff.
This year, people will send 306.4 billion emails per day, with the number expected to reach 347.3 billion in 2023.
Everyone needs a remote worker security policy
Organizations should develop a remote worker security policy to refresh and inform employees of what’s expected of them when working remotely. Even employees with good intentions might not know what they should be doing to protect themselves and to protect sensitive data and corporate assets.
Avoid workflow roadblocks with proactive planning
In addition, organizations may find needless roadblocks in their workflow if their systems are not configured for remote access. This can occur with Identity and Access Management systems, data loss prevention systems or firewalls.
Why? Systems can behave differently depending on where and how users are accessing these applications or corporate network resources.
If an organization has not planned for large-scale remote access, things can grind to a halt pretty quickly. – Matthew McCormick, Director of Product Management, Fortra’s Data Classification Suite
Risks are even greater for small and medium-sized businesses
Small and medium-sized businesses – frequently more at risk for data breaches – are often the least equipped to deal with managing a dispersed, remote workforce.
These firms’ systems, practices, policies and tools tend to be less mature. They also, often rely on a small IT team that can quickly become strained with having to manage remote worker IT calls.
Fortra’s Data Classification Suite is uniquely suited to protect data “wherever you are.”
“Fortra’s Data Classification Suite software is made for this situation. We don’t care how people are working. We will protect the data based on corporate policy. The fact that people are suddenly working remotely doesn’t matter so much to us,” observes Matthew McCormick, Director of Product Management