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Remote working: how to make it safe for employees and your organisation

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) has come as a shock to us all.  Businesses are having to re-structure and adapt working practices quickly in order to safeguard employees and their operations.

Companies have had to empower team members to be productive as offices close and working from home becomes the norm. And while people, when unchained from traditional work locations and hours can achieve better work-life balance and become more inspired in their jobs, it can also introduce a number of security challenges if correct steps are not taken.

Organisations must ensure their remote work strategy includes tools and practices to keep systems and data safe wherever they’re used.  Here are a few measures which could be valuable:

Enable secure access to apps and data using any network, cloud, and on any device

In most cases, remote work takes employees beyond the controls and protections of the corporate network. They may not even be aware of this change; people generally focus more on the task at hand than behind-the-scenes security mechanisms. And they may not be aware of the risks present in their new work setting, from non-secure WiFi to the threat of drive-by attacks by a compromised website seeking to harvest their personal information. Not to mention the prospect of a lost or stolen laptop whose data ends up in the wrong hands.

There are a few things that can be done about this. One is to deliver and store apps and data virtually, or in the cloud, rather than on the device itself. By keeping sensitive content off the laptop, you make its loss nothing more than a costly nuisance—not a potentially devastating security breach. Centralised storage also allows you to wipe clean a device that’s been infected with malware without losing any of the data its user depends on.

Regardless of the steps the business takes, it’s important employees are not to burdened with cumbersome security procedures like network settings to configure or rules to memorise about what data and apps they can use in a given scenario. Instead, policies like these should be applied automatically in the background, based on the user’s current location, network, device, role, and so on. This contextual approach makes security transparent to the employee so they can stay focused on their work, while ensuring the right level of protection wherever and however they work.

Engage employees and they’ll keep themselves safe

Security is everyone’s business—after all, any employee can expose an organisation to a breach. This makes education a critical element of secure remote work. Teach your workforce the principles of safe computing to help them avoid simple mistakes like clicking unsafe links, downloading suspect files, and responding to phishing attacks. Remind them to practice good password hygiene by choosing a different hard-to-guess password for each of their accounts.

Then complement this foundation with information about specific emerging threats. When an event occurs, send an alert to all your employees telling them what’s happening, what to watch out for, and how they can protect themselves — as well as their families.

Recognise what’s normal 

As hackers get better at disguising their methods, it can be hard to recognise an attack until it’s well underway. It’s best to assume that any deviation from normal behaviour, however innocuous-seeming, is the first sign of an intrusion. Constant vigilance is crucial.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are now vital allies in this effort, making it possible to spot abnormalities quickly wherever in your environment they arise. If you’re not already putting security analytics to work for your remote work strategy, you will be soon.

Less risk – more reward

Remote work isn’t just a result of this virus; it’s a fundamental rethinking of the ways organisations empower their employees and this will be more apparent as time goes on. The positive is that a flexible work experience can make both people and businesses more productive, agile, and innovative. It also makes companies the kind of place top candidates want to work — a vital edge in our highly competitive talent market. By building security into your remote work strategy, you can ensure that this anywhere, any-network, any-device freedom doesn’t increase risk for your organisation. It’s a better way to work for employees and businesses alike.

Advice in this article came from a guest Fujitsu blog by Stan Black, SVP – Chief Security and Information Officer at Citrix, visit the Fujitsu blog for more insight about the digital workplace.

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