In the last year or so, we have witnessed the number of employees working from home (at least 5 days per week) rise from 17% to 44% in the USA alone. A big part of this is thanks to companies encouraging employees to carry out their work tasks from their own homes if possible, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
Furthermore, with 98% of remote employees stating they would like to continue working remotely after the pandemic is resolved and The Economist predicting there could be over 1 billion remote workers by 2035, we could well be on a trajectory for office work becoming a thing of the past. This emphasizes the importance of remote workers (especially developers) understanding and implementing basic security measures in order to protect their personal and company data while out of the office.
In general, the best thing you can do (especially if you’re continually dealing with sensitive information) is to encrypt everything. It’s a basic cyber hygiene practice that gives you peace of mind knowing that there’s an extra layer of security between your devices and any prying eyes looking to steal your data.
Due to an increase in the number of developers working remotely, there are now more devices frequently leaving the safety of company networks. This is precisely why 45% of CEOs expect to fall victim to some form of a data breach during the COVID-19 crisis as many staff members are using personal devices that are not properly protected or encrypted.
However, if you take the extra time, encryption ensures that in the case of theft or loss, any private information contained on the device will be inaccessible to those who do not hold the key.
Tip - Don’t forget to encrypt your backups
Backups generally contain a lot of sensitive information due to the amount of data they amass over a short period of time. With that said, if your backup becomes compromised, it’s bad news for you and your employer. However, remembering to encrypt your backup solves this issue as the person who gets their hands on it likely won’t bother to go through the effort of decrypting it.
Be mindful when accessing sensitive data
If you handle sensitive data, it is your responsibility to ensure its safety when interacting with it, especially when working remotely. As you know, the risk of data leaks rises considerably when you leave the office, so it makes sense to be extra vigilant in such instances.
Try your best to remain mindful when you access sensitive data and make sure you guard it closely. This includes data that you may not consider to be susceptible to misuse, such as private customer information (names, addresses, etc.)
Use a paid VPN
VPNs should be your new best friend if you want to protect your data while working remotely. In fact, they are becoming a necessary tool for just about anybody who uses the internet these days, which is why a reported one in four internet users have one enabled when browsing the web. Here are some of the advantages you can expect from running a VPN on your devices:
*Full online anonymity
*Mask your real location
*Protect yourself from malicious attacks
*Full encryption of your data, even when using compromised public Wi-FI hotspots
*Bypass ISP throttling
In addition to this, a VPN comes in handy for remote workers as it allows you to access your business network even if you’re outside of the office. Typically, they permit access to local network resources and any important files you need while you’re out of the office, which can save you a lot of time and stress.
The observant ones amongst you may have noticed the headline suggest a paid VPN instead of a free option. So what’s wrong with a free version? To put it simply, free VPNs are unsafe for a number of reasons. First of all, you can kiss your privacy goodbye as 72% of free VPNs are embedded with activity trackers which kind of defeats the point of a VPN in the first place, right?
The free VPN providers do this so they can bombard you with ads and sell your data on to buyers at the highest price. Secondly, many free VPN apps and extensions contain malware, which can leave you open to potential security breaches on your device that can leave you susceptible to data leaks. Not exactly good news for people handling sensitive data.
What’s the solution?
To get around this, opt for a reputable VPN provider that prioritizes security and offers a high level of encryption - AES-256 if possible.
As far as providers go, Private Internet Access VPN has a fantastic choice of privacy settings that allow you to choose what level of encryption you want to implement on your connection, using the industry-standard OpenVPN system. You can select your desired level of data encryption, authentication, and handshake, giving you the power to protect yourself from pretty much any form of active or passive cyber attack.
It’s down to you
With all that said, the best way to protect your data while working remotely is to remain vigilant and always be aware of any potential threats you are exposing yourself to. In general, it’s advised to avoid public wifi hotspots altogether when accessing work documents, and if you must, always use a VPN.
Finally, one of the biggest causes of company data breaches is employee error. This is mainly due to things such as falling for phishing scams, sharing sensitive information to the wrong recipients, and practising poor password management - all of which can be easily avoided by implementing basic cybersecurity habits.