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A work-from-home
security policy is
essential for
businesses

Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

The pandemic has upended everyday life, and nowhere is this clearer than in how—and where—people work.

The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research reported in June 2020 that 42% of Americans were working from home full-time, accounting for more than two-thirds of all economic activity. Remote work increases worker safety and flexibility, but it carries significant security risks. The home office is not a private place; spouses and housemates sharing the same space could represent multiple companies—and competing interests. Employees' homes have become the new security perimeter; developing an effective work-from-home security policy to reduce your company's risk is essential.

The challenges of remote workforce security

The coronavirus pandemic forced millions of workers to set up home offices, and companies had to adapt their IT infrastructure on the fly to ensure that employees had the connectivity and access they needed to work from home. However, this quick shift also expanded the digital attack surface, especially for companies that had never embraced remote work or that only had a handful of employees working from home a few times a month.

Setting up a temporary work-from-home or hybrid environment solution is entirely different from rebuilding an IT infrastructure to accommodate long-term remote work. Virtual private networks might be effective when only a few employees work remotely, but they might not be a scalable security solution, depending on the size of your organization.

Companies also have to worry about remote employees' online behavior. Many employees use home Wi-Fi networks that aren't as secure as their companies' networks. Shadow IT is also a huge problem, as employees could inadvertently download unauthorized apps, giving threat actors another potential entry point into a company's network.

In a remote work environment, endpoint security becomes even more challenging when employees use their personal devices to access company information. Poor password security only compounds this problem; 80% of data breaches are connected to stolen passwords or login credentials, according to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report.

Printer security is another issue. Printing sensitive documents at home means transmitting sensitive data over a network. If the network isn't secure, security gaps could compromise sensitive or proprietary information.

In the new era of remote work, companies need to incorporate work-from-home security policies into their holistic cybersecurity strategies. Several tools, technologies and resources—such as software-defined wide-area networking (SD WAN), cloud-based endpoint security and mobile device management solutions, and managed service providers—can help your company increase data security.

Crafting your work-from-home security policy

For companies to securely facilitate remote work, they need to transform their networks. A managed SD WAN solution lets companies improve their network performance and enhance enterprise security while providing the flexibility needed to increase bandwidth as more devices and applications connect.

A managed SD WAN also lets companies direct network traffic based on business needs and reduces latency, as traffic doesn't have to be routed back to a company's on-premises or cloud-based data center. Your IT team can route business-critical traffic over private networks and send less-critical data over public networks. This approach also improves data management for IT teams by providing more visibility into your company's network, branch sites and remote locations.

Endpoint and mobile device security are also essential parts of a remote work security policy. Endpoint protection is critical, whether employees use personal or company-issued devices. Virtual networking solutions help IT teams manage security risks by deploying dashboards with real-time analytics that increase network visibility. This can help your team identify non-compliant apps and proactively detect and isolate mobile threats or threats from third-party devices and applications before they penetrate your company's network. It also lets you remotely update wired and wireless devices with the latest patches and security futures, which can further reduce remote working security risks.

Capitalizing on the cloud

Because these solutions are built in the cloud, your company can also take advantage of security innovations—and potentially reduce cost of ownership—by scaling cloud resources based on your business needs. Cloud-based solutions bolster resilience against security incidents, ensuring that your company has access to automated backups that support disaster recovery and reduce downtime.

As companies onboard more security solutions, they might find benefits to working with managed service providers to streamline IT management. A managed service provider can provide expert support for cloud-based networks and applications, ease IT burdens if your company is grappling with resource and staffing constraints, and ensure that systems, applications and devices are always updated.

To strengthen security and improve your team's incident response planning, establish a rapid response retainer so that you have an expert security team on call to handle security incidents as they arise. Response time is critical when a cyber attack occurs; establishing this relationship with a managed service provider can minimize the security gaps created by remote work.

Securing your remote work infrastructure

Companies have a range of tools at their disposal to balance security with the demands of a remote workforce. These solutions can serve as the foundation of your remote work security policy. But security starts on the employee level: User error caused of 22% of data breaches in 2019, according to the 2020 Data Breach Incident Report. Remote employees need to be retrained on the company's security best practices, even in areas that might seem obvious.

By taking this two-pronged approach to remote security, you can strengthen your security posture while empowering employees to work from home safely and productively.

Discover how Verizon security solutions can help you protect against the cyber threats that imperil today's remote workforce—and prepare for what's next.