Being able to work remotely is essential if firms are to meet the demands of the modern workplace. This doesn’t just mean embracing remote working, but also ensuring employees are able to access all their essential applications and data wherever they are, whether this is at home, in the field or even hotdesking within an office.

While there are a range of challenges that will have to be overcome if these efforts are to be successful, one area that businesses can’t afford to overlook is security. A more flexible workplace will mean users are accessing critical business data in a variety of locations on a wide range of devices, and if you aren’t careful, this can lead to serious consequences.

The security challenges facing firms with remote workers

The amount of data generated by businesses today is higher than ever. Customer and business information comes from a wide variety of sources, from web tracking to Internet of Things sensors. Much of this will be highly sensitive, whether it is confidential business figures or personally identifiable information about employees or customers.

Traditionally, organisations would look to keep this safe using tried and tested methods such as strong firewalls, antimalware software and intrusion detection systems. But while these may be effective at securing data within the perimeter of a firm’s walls, it’s a different story when users are accessing this from outside the confines of their company’s network.

There are a wide range of threats facing organisations beyond the walls of their office. For instance, if users working remotely are connecting via unsecured or unverified Wi-Fi networks, who knows who else may be tapping in? Meanwhile, the threat of data breaches as a result of devices being lost or stolen is ever-present.

Another major issue is the threat posed by shadow IT – that is, employees using unapproved software applications that the IT department may not even be aware of, such as file-sharing tools and cloud backups. If IT professionals don’t know what services their employees are using, they can’t put protections in place, while many consumer-focused solutions won’t have the same tough defences built in as approved enterprise-grade options.

Putting the right solutions in place

The consequences for failing to protect this data will be severe. With GDPR making for a tougher regulatory environment, failing to take security into account when developing a flexible workplace can be a hugely costly mistake, with fines of up to €20 million (£17 million) or four per cent of global turnover for serious breaches – not to mention the potential for lost revenue and reputational damage. 

When it comes to tackling issues such as shadow IT, the first step is to ensure employees have an easy-to-use, approved alternative that meets all their demands and has been thoroughly tested for security by the IT team. By making it easy for users to access the services they want from secure tools, there should be no excuses for employees continuing to work outside of approved channels.

Ensuring businesses have the right security solutions for all devices is also a must, which is why firms should look to protect business and employee-owned mobile devices with dedicated mobile security tools. For instance, solutions such as Maas360 and Microsoft Intune can provide a comprehensive mobile device management solution that incorporates advanced security solutions, including protection from threats such as phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks. 

These steps all have essential roles to play in keeping flexible businesses safe, but it is only through a comprehensive suite of tools that work together that firms can be sure their sensitive data is as safe as possible in the modern workplace.

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