4 Cybersecurity Tips for Distributed Teams

In recent months, remote work has increased drastically. At the beginning of March, it was estimated that just 3.6% of today’s workforce worked from home at least half the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Since then, 88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home, reports Gartner. 

Flexible work styles, like distributed workforces and virtual offices were quickly gaining traction in many of today’s organizations, as business leaders began to realize their significant benefits. 

However, in response to the current global situation, working remotely is no longer the future of work. It’s a present situation many of us are facing right now, and is expected to continue even after the resolution of the pandemic.

Beyond other manifold challenges of remote work, this new normal comes with an increase in cybersecurity risks. Even under the usual circumstances, getting cybersecurity right can be challenging for many businesses and workers. With a distributed workforce, however, managing the many potential cyber risks can feel downright daunting. 

Here are a few tips to keeping your business’s cybersecurity in check while managing a distributed team:

Secure Business Passwords

Passwords are at the core of every security policy, yet ensuring they’re secure and enforced isn’t easy. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry to company systems. MFA will fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics or a unique one-time code sent to your phone or mobile device.

A password manager for businesses, like LastPass or Dashlane, can set company-wide minimum password standards to meet your policy requirements. Many times, encouraging your workforce to stay on top of password security can be difficult; people tend to create weak passwords they can easily remember, and then reuse those same passwords across applications. A password manager creates, remembers, and fills in information to ensure high-quality passwords. It takes the responsibility off employees, while also improving password security.

Create a Mobile Device Action Plan

Because distributed teams often use their personal devices for business purposes, security measures must be enacted on mobile devices, like laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Employees use their mobile devices to access confidential company information on the corporate network, public networks, and at home, which increases vulnerabilities to hackers.

Be sure to secure mobile data located on employees’ personal devices with the same rigor as devices found inside the office or those owned by the organization. Companies should create mobile device guidelines that require employees to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent cyber criminals from stealing information while their device is on a personal network.

Connect to a Secure Network 

When working from the office, the organization is typically responsible for all data security maintenance, but when employees work from home in a number of geographic locations, this becomes more difficult. In this scenario, the employees have a greater responsibility to ensure their cyber safety, including the networks they connect to. Having a secure connection can ensure that your data isn’t falling into the wrong hands.

Many organizations offer different types of SD-WAN solutions that help keep employees’ connection secure when they work remotely, and is a great way to keep company and personal data safe. If your business doesn’t utilize SD-WANs, there are some other solutions that can work to help keep data secure. For example, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a great way to keep your IP address safe from anyone who might want to use it for malicious purposes.

Update Software Regularly

A “patch” is a small piece of software that improves systems, keeps them up to date, and fixes security vulnerabilities to keep hackers and malware at bay. When vulnerabilities go unpatched, or unresolved, businesses are left susceptible to cyber-attacks or breaches. In fact, unpatched software is among the leading causes of today’s cyber-attacks.

A simple way to prevent this from occurring and ensure that systems are regularly patched is by regularly updating software and other systems. Companies should encourage these proactive tech habits among their workforce, with action items including updating applications and frequently restarting their computers. 

It’s often easy to skip software updates because they can take up a few minutes of our time, and may not seem that important. But this is a mistake that keeps the door open for hackers to access your critical information. Software updates are important because they often include critical patches to security holes.

Once you have your security plan in place, ensure all employees are well-versed in cybersecurity practices. It’s been found that 95 percent of security breaches involve human error, so do your due diligence in educating your workforce, no matter how large or small your company. As cyber criminals employ more sophisticated strategies, even the most secure companies need to scrutinize their data security practices.


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