Cyber Security For Remote Business: 9 Must Dos

by Tanya December 06, 2023

As more people around the world work remotely, cyber security for business has become even more important.

Many small businesses use cloud-based technology and tools for their daily operations – including online meetings, advertising, buying and selling, communicating with customers and suppliers, and banking transactions.

What is cyber security?

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting systems, networks, devices, and data from digital attacks.

It encompasses various technologies, processes, and practices designed to safeguard against unauthorised access, data breaches, theft, damage, and other cyber threats.

Three critical aspects of cybersecurity are:

Prevention: Implementing security measures to prevent unauthorized access or breaches.
Detection: Identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities in a system.
Response: Taking necessary actions to mitigate the impact of a security incident.

Why is cyber security important?

Cyberattacks put your money, data, and IT equipment at risk.

If a hacker gains access to your network, they can inflict significant damage with what they find, such as:

* Access to customer lists
* Customer credit card information
* Your company’s banking details
* Business growth plans and other business secrets/intellectual property

How to make your remote business cyber secure

1. Use secure Wifi and VPNs

Make sure all employees work on secure Wi-Fi networks with strong encryption and firewalls.

Encryption keeps data safe by altering information on the device into unreadable codes.

Encryption is designed with a worst-case scenario in mind: even if your data is stolen, it would be useless to the hacker as they wouldn’t have the keys to decrypt the data and decipher the information.

Consider setting up a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure a secure connection for remote workers.

VPNs allow employees to access your company’s network securely when working remotely or travelling.

VPNs are especially useful when using public internet connections – such as in coffee shops, airports, or Airbnb’s – which can be vulnerable to hackers.

A VPN gives users a secure connection which separates hackers from the data they are hoping to steal.

2. Regular software updates and patch management

Ensure all devices, including computers, servers, and applications, are regularly updated with the latest security patches.

Vulnerabilities in outdated software can be exploited by cyber attackers.

Third-party specialist business IT support ensures that technical issues are addressed promptly, minimising disruptions and maximising productivity. With around-the-clock assistance, businesses can operate with confidence, knowing that help is just a call or click away.

Your IT support team will make sure the software not only offers protection, but also technology that helps you clean devices as needed and resets them to their pre-infected state. It’s important to keep your antivirus updated to stay safe from the latest cyber threats and patch any vulnerabilities.

Bear in mind that some software, such as a Wi-Fi router’s firmware, may need to be manually updated. Without new security patches, a router – and the devices connected to it – remain vulnerable.

3. Employee training and awareness

Develop clear, comprehensive security policies and procedures that outline the roles and responsibilities of employees, the acceptable use of technology, and the steps to take in case of a security incident.

Educate your team about phishing, passwords etc.

Establish clear policies describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

Encourage them to report suspicious activities immediately.

To protect laptops against physical theft, employees should lock them up when unattended

You can add a physical tracker to recover the device in case of loss or theft.

Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and requires strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

Ensure all your employees understand the importance of any data that might be stored on their cell phones or laptops when out and about.

Set up remote wiping – this allows you to remotely delete the data on a lost or stolen device.

4. Data backup and recovery

When a cyberattack happens, data could be compromised or deleted.

To avoid this, regularly back up critical business data and ensure that the backups are stored securely and separately from the primary systems. In the event of an attack, you can restore all your files from your backups.

Website maintenance packages include vital security updates that protect against vulnerabilities, ensuring that your online presence remains secure from cyber threats.

Choose a provider that gives you the ability to schedule or automate the backup process so you don’t have to remember to do it.

Store copies of backups offline so they don’t become encrypted or inaccessible if your system suffers a ransomware attack.

If using cloud services, ensure they have robust security measures.

Encrypt sensitive data both in transit and at rest, and enable appropriate access controls to limit who can view or modify data.

5. Access control and least privilege

Limit access to sensitive information by implementing the principle of least privilege.

Employees should only have access to the data and systems necessary for their roles.

This will minimize the impact of a data breach and reduce the possibility of bad-faith actors from within the company gaining authorised access to data.

Limit authority to install software.

6. Create incident response plans

Develop and document incident response plans outlining steps to take in case of a cyber attack.

This plan should include clear communication protocols, roles and responsibilities, and guidelines for remediation and recovery.

You can use cyber incident response exercises with your team. These are not just simulations, they are a proactive approach to cybersecurity. By simulating real-world cyber threats, businesses can identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their systems, enabling them to shore up defenses before an actual incident occurs.

These exercises provide an opportunity to enhance the skills of the cybersecurity team, ensuring that they are well-equipped to respond swiftly and effectively in the face of a cyber threat. It’s like a digital fire drill, preparing everyone for the unexpected.

7. Regular security audits and risk assessments

Conduct periodic security audits and assessments to identify vulnerabilities and gaps in your cybersecurity.

If your business data is stored in the cloud, you could ask your cloud storage provider to help with your risk assessment.

Establish the risk levels of possible events and how breaches could potentially impact your company.

Once you have identified threats, use the information you have collated to develop or refine your security strategy.

8. Secure communication channels (slack, mobile etc)

Encourage the use of encrypted communication tools for sensitive discussions or data sharing, such as encrypted email services or messaging apps with end-to-end encryption.

If your business is using the WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) network, make sure you switch to WPA2 or more later, as these versions are more secure.

Mobile devices create security challenges, yet they can sometimes be overlooked when businesses are planning their cyber security.

Ask your employees to password-protect their mobile devices, install security apps, and encrypt their data to stop criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen phones and tablets.

9. Ensure a strong password policy and multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Ensure that all employees use a strong password on all devices that contain sensitive information.

A strong password is at least 15 characters in length – ideally more – and contains a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.

Using strong passwords which are unique to every device or account quickly becomes difficult to remember. The need to remember and type out lengthy passwords each time can also slow your employees down. That’s why many businesses use password management tools.

A password manager stores your passwords for you, automatically generating the correct username and password that you need to log into websites or apps. This means users only have to remember a single PIN or master password to access their vault of login information.

You should also put in place a policy to change passwords at regular intervals (at least quarterly).

As an additional measure, small businesses should enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on employees’ devices and apps.

MFA adds an extra layer of security beyond passwords, typically requiring a second form of verification like a code sent to a mobile device.

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The first Millennial blogger in the UK. Twitter @_luckyattitude

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