How to Keep Company Data Safe When Employees are Remote

As a self-employed individual, the last thought on your mind is keeping your data safe. Rather, your thoughts might be more focused on finding more clients, cutting costs or even on your daughter’s upcoming ballet recital. These thoughts are justified and understood, but there’s one area that’s vitally important that most likely your thoughts have skipped.

We’re talking about data security, and the best ways to keep your data safe. When you’re self-employed, you can’t afford a breach of your security and data. A ransomware episode can cost you anything from $500 to thousands of dollars. They tend to find the right amount that hurts. And if you do pay the ransomware, there’s no assurance they’ll give you the key to unlock your computer, or be subject to another attack in the near future.

As a self-employed business owner, you might have your security game ticking away. You double check your e-mails for phishing links, and you watch out for faulty websites. You literally have your head in the game. Now, your workload is increasing, and you’re thinking about bringing on a remote employee to share the burden. It might play out something like this:

After posting job details across the internet, you find the perfect candidate to fill the “VA” or virtual assistant position of your small business. The candidate seems nice, friendly, open and all the best qualities to make a great VA. You’re excited about this change, because finally you might have enough time to attend your daughter’s ballet recital. Yes! The VA will be working part-time, but doing many important tasks like social media, email campaigns, invoicing clients and answering e-mails. The tasks are easy, but you have to give access to vital software and systems to your new employee. Everything’s golden, and you run to make it just in time to your daughter’s ballet recital. Half-way through the recital, you receive a text from your employee. They opened a client invoice attachment, and their computer was instantly infected with malware. Now, all the company data that was stored on their computer is at risk of being lost. What do you do?

In this scenario, a happy ending to the story would be to say that the business owner had a backup of the files on their own computer, so the company data is safe. The then challenge is defeating the malware on the employee’s computer. However, let’s rewind and approach the beginning of this scenario with a “datasafe” mindset. What are a few things that the business owner could’ve done in the beginning to ensure data safety?

Set-up a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

This is a common strategy, but the fact is, it works. A VPN creates an encrypted data highway that privately shares information between the remote user and the network. Remote workers are increasingly vulnerable to faulty wi-fi connections, because they’re making unsecured connections in coffee shops and public places. Have you heard of the recent KRACKS outbreak? A VPN is one more layer of protection to keep unwanted eyes from looking in at your data.

Establish an Online Data Server

If information was backed up, the worry of losing data to a malware infection becomes less of a hassle. However, we still have the worry of the actual service. Is DropBox really that safe? With encryption between data transfers and standards protections, the simplest answer is ‘yes’; however, data is only as safe as it’s weakest link. The weakest link, in most scenarios, is humans. Your online data storage software is safe as long as your employee doesn’t unknowingly open a phishing e-mail and grant access to the malicious criminal.

Employee Data Security Training

This brings us to one of the basic, but most important aspects of data security. It doesn’t matter if you’re a large corporation, or individual business owner, training your new employee on data security can go a long, long way. In reference to online servers like DropBox, training your employee how to spot phishing emails can be very beneficial. By taking a second look at the faulty link, or recognizing the ‘tone of voice’ that phishers use in emails, your employee can stop data loss before it happens.

Monitoring Software

Integrating monitoring software into your daily operations is one of the best ways to protect your business data. Through user-analytics and monitoring employers can view incoming and outgoing emails, or use a developed normal behavior profile to determine if employees are stealing company data. Insider threats might be the last thing on your mind, but every business big and small are vulnerable to it. The companies that offer monitoring software are usually cloud-based, meaning that your employee can simply download the application to their desktop, and you the employer can start monitoring. This can be your toughest line of defense.

As a self-employed business owner, when you bring on your new VA, the last thing on your mind is data security. However, in today’s world it shouldn’t be. Put your mind at ease by taking these four tips into consideration and saving yourself loads of trouble before it happens.