Remote work has skyrocketed in the last three years. And with that comes increased productivity, happier employees, and lower overhead costs.
But unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for companies with remote teams. Studies show that employees working from home increase the frequency of cyberattacks by 238%.
And with the global average total cost of a data breach topping $4.35 million in 2022, it’s time to double down on your data privacy protection strategies.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through a simple five-step process for implementing a robust data privacy and protection strategy for your remote team.
Are you ready to keep the bad actors away and protect your reputation and bottom line?
Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Assess your risks
The first step in building any strategy is to understand the current situation. In this case, that means assessing your data privacy risks and identifying any potential vulnerabilities.
Look closely at your existing technology infrastructure, including your network, devices, and software. Do you see any glaring red flags where you may be vulnerable to attacks or breaches? What are your current security measures?
For instance, one of the largest security risks for remote teams is using personal devices for work purposes.
Why? Thanks to bring your own device (BYOD) policies, 75% of employees report using their personal cell phones for work.
And while it may be convenient for your employees (and reduce overhead costs), it can create significant security risks for your organization.
Employees using their own devices for work may not have the same security controls as company-owned devices, making them more vulnerable to malware, phishing attacks, and other security threats.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Another major security risk for remote teams is using unsecured networks. Why?
Public Wi-Fi networks are often unencrypted, meaning anyone can intercept data transmitted over the network.
So anytime your employee works from a coffee shop or coworking space, it can put your company’s sensitive information — including customer data and proprietary information — at risk.
Other common security risks for remote teams include:
- Phishing and malware attacks
- Password vulnerabilities
- Social engineering tactics
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
These attacks can be difficult to detect and can often damage your organization significantly — with reputational and financial consequences.
For example, if you want to use accounting software in your company, you should consider cloud accounting software such as SoftLedger. It will grant you access privileges that can be adjusted to each specific responsibility, and your data will be secure regardless of what happens to the system or location from which you are operating them.
Step 2: Establish data privacy and protection policies
Once you have a strong grasp of all your current risks, it’s time to develop a comprehensive data privacy and protection policy for your organization.
If your eyes just rolled into the back of your head, don’t worry. It’s not as cumbersome as it sounds.
But a robust data privacy and protection policy is necessary to help secure sensitive information and create a foundation for effective metrics.
When you protect and manage data correctly, your organization can harness the business analytics benefits to drive informed decision-making and business growth.
By focusing on data privacy and protection and analyzing data effectively, you can create a secure and data-driven environment for your remote team — leading to success in the long term.
Ok, so what should a data privacy and protection policy include?
These policies should outline how your organization handles sensitive data, including how it’s collected, stored, and shared.
Start by outlining who has access to sensitive information and under what circumstances — also known as access control.
Specify that only authorized personnel can access certain data and must use strong passwords and two-factor authentication to gain access.
Keeping everything on a need-to-know basis is a safe strategy. For instance, your accounting team needs access to your company’s financial information, but your sales team doesn’t.
Data retention clauses are also an important consideration for data privacy and protection. Specify how long to keep sensitive data and when to securely delete or destroy it.
For example, add details to your policy determining how long to retain financial records before you can securely destroy them. Or clarify that when an employee leaves the organization, you immediately remove all company data from their device upon departure.
Finally, don’t forget to address the issue of third-party data sharing or the sharing of sensitive data with external vendors or partners. Your policy should outline how you’ll share data, who can access it, and how to protect it.
Step 3: Secure your infrastructure
With employees working from home, you can’t look over their shoulders to ensure your company’s data is safe from cyber threats.
So here are a few things to keep in mind when securing your infrastructure for remote teams:
A virtual private network (VPN) is a must-have when securing your infrastructure. It encrypts all data across networks, making it almost impossible for hackers to intercept sensitive information.
With a VPN, employees can connect to any network securely.
Prevent DDoS attacks
DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks are a common cyber threat that can bring down your company’s website or server. For DDoS attack prevention, you can use a cloud-based service that detects and blocks malicious traffic before it reaches your infrastructure.
Or you can implement technical solutions such as firewalls, rate limiting, and using content delivery networks to defend against these attacks and ensure continued availability.
Keep software up to date
Cybercriminals often target the low-hanging fruit or the weakest links in your software. Keeping antivirus and malware protection software up to date is a simple solution to prevent any weak spots.
Also, regularly updating software also optimizes performance and functionality. So it’s a win-win.
Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication helps add an extra layer of security to your infrastructure.
With two-factor authentication, employees need a password and a second form of identification — such as a code from a security token on a mobile device — to access sensitive information.
Step 4: Train your remote team
With the rapid increase in work-from-home jobs, creating training programs, safeguards, and policies to secure your company data is crucial.
After all, your employees are your first line of defense against cyber threats. But without proper training, how will they recognize these attacks?
You must educate them on creating secure passwords, identifying phishing emails, and avoiding downloading malicious attachments.
Take a look at this simple training guide for inspiration:
- Introduce cybersecurity concepts – Start by introducing the basic cybersecurity concepts, such as data privacy and common threats. You can do this through webinars, presentations, or animated videos.
- Assess knowledge level – Use surveys, quizzes, or assessments to assess the knowledge level of your remote team to ensure your team understands the concepts.
- Stay on track – Keep training sessions short and sweet to prevent wasted time. Use a timer to set deadlines and keep the team on track.
- Follow up – Regroup with your team after the training session to ensure everyone is on the same page. Answer questions and provide feedback to help the team understand the concepts more clearly.
- Create a knowledge hub – Create a central place to store the training materials, such as a website or a shared drive, so employees can access and learn at their own pace. This extra step will help them revisit the materials when needed and stay current on the latest cybersecurity strategies.
Most importantly, it’s critical to teach every member of your remote teams how to report a cyber attack incident. Explain the importance of reporting the incident as soon as possible and guide how to do so.
Create or invest in a ticketing system that allows you to track and record all incidents regardless if they are false alerts. These tools are helpful for the last step. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Step 5: Monitor and adjust your strategy
One thing’s for certain, in an increasingly digital world, bad actors are always looking for new ways to access your sensitive information.
So as cyber threats continue to evolve, it’s important to regularly evaluate and update your security measures to ensure they effectively protect your company’s data.
Regular audits of your data privacy and protection strategy can help you identify any vulnerabilities or areas that require an extra layer of protection. You can conduct an internal audit or hire a third party to conduct the audit for you.
The audit should cover all aspects of your company’s data privacy and protection strategy, including policies, procedures, and technologies.
And not to mention data privacy and protection regulations that vary depending on your industry and location. Stay on top of these different regulations to stay compliant.
Failure to follow data privacy regulations can result in legal and financial consequences — the last thing you want on your plate.
Implementing a data privacy and protection strategy for remote teams is critical to protecting your company’s data from cyber threats — saving you millions of dollars per year.
And it only takes a few simple steps to reduce the risk of a data security breach.
But remember that cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and you should regularly watch and adjust your strategy to ensure it remains effective. It’s not a fix-it-and-forget-it strategy. It requires constant attention and adjustments.
By taking these steps, you can ensure that your remote team and organization are safe and prosperous. When your data is safe, you can sleep well at night.
So don’t wait any longer. Start implementing a data privacy and protection strategy for your remote team today and safeguard your company’s future.