More people are working from home than ever before: 63 percent of Americans, according to an April 2020 survey. What’s more, these arrangements may continue indefinitely, as many companies make plans to allow employees to work remotely.

Yet even with much of the workforce at home, IT and data security remains a pressing concern. Below, we’ll discuss 7 data security tips for remote teams to help keep sensitive and confidential information safely under lock and key.

1. Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) is a service that creates a secure and encrypted connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs are often used by employees to access their business network while traveling or at home. However, VPNs also have a number of other popular use cases, including hiding your browsing activity while on a public wireless network.

2. Use a virtual data room

Exchanging sensitive documents and data via email is convenient, but it also puts you at a higher risk of a data breach. Virtual data rooms (VDRs) are online databases that have been specifically designed for sharing confidential information. VDR administrators can easily restrict access to files, track user activity, and set alerts to get notified when specific actions are taken. VDRs are frequently used for financial transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, fundraising rounds, and IPOs, but can also be used as corporate document repositories to securely store sensitive documents on a long-term basis.

3. Practice good wireless security

If you’re using a public wireless network (such as at a coffee shop, restaurant, or bookstore), using a VPN is a must. But even when working on your home wireless network, you can still be putting your data at risk. The best way to protect yourself is to use a strong Wi-Fi password and WPA2 + AES encryption. Other security protocols such as WPA and WEP are too insecure for sensitive data.

4. Avoid phishing attempts and other scams

Phishing refers to a common scam in which a malicious actor tries to impersonate someone else’s identity or credentials, e.g. a trusted website or individual, in order to obtain your personal information and login information. Employees who fall victim to phishing may be putting your business at risk by allowing scammers to exfiltrate your enterprise data. Train employees on how to recognize phishing scams, and use multi-factor authentication for user logins, so that a single exposed password won’t endanger your entire network.

5. Install antivirus and antimalware software

Antivirus and antimalware software is essential for employee machines. Viruses and malware can spy on users’ activity, cause machines to crash, and even hold your business hostage. Ransomware is a particularly pernicious form of malware that encrypts the files on your computer, refusing to give you back access until you’ve paid a pricey “ransom” to the attackers. 

6. Install new security updates and patches

Security researchers are constantly discovering new vulnerabilities and exploits in the operating systems and software applications that your employees use every day. Installing new security updates and patches is necessary in order to keep you protected from the latest threats. This also means upgrading older operating systems once they have reached their end of life, since the manufacturer will no longer provide security updates for out-of-date versions. Setting up the system to automatically check for and download updates can save employees the trouble of doing it manually.

7. Don’t forget about physical security

Physical security is a crucial, yet often overlooked, component of IT security. Most importantly, never leave your computer unattended in a public location. Even if a device falls into the wrong hands, strong encryption algorithms can prevent malicious actors from making heads or tails of your data. Backing up your drives will ensure that employees can seamlessly continue their work, even if your computer is lost or stolen.

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