Building the Culture—Implementing Work From Home Security for Your Team

Digital tools are only as effective as the people using them. It is up to business owners to maintain clear protocols and threat understandings as their workforce shifts to a hybrid work model where staff may choose to work from either home, the office, or any other location that suits their needs. And all of this needs to be done as securely as possible. While designing security controls and tools is one thing, you could be in for a bumpy ride if your employees don’t understand or follow them.

A survey of IT security leaders tells us that 62% of remote employees do not fully follow the security protocols of their company. Sadly, that’s only half of the problem—hybrid working environments pose many logistical and monitoring challenges.

You may have employees working remotely from home, a handful at the office, and a select few others at a semi-private co-working space, all simultaneously handling sensitive company information. If your company has rotational shifts, you will have employees working throughout the day, opening several avenues for human error along the way. These are only a few considerations—hardware is another issue entirely.

The leadership behind a hybrid workforce doesn’t end at a punch-out time. Starting strong with a data strategy involves all levels of your staff, from the tools they use to the attitudes they carry.


Documented Policies and Procedures

Without documentation of procedures, security enforcement becomes impossible. Your staff may not understand what the purpose of the whole safety process is or be able to anticipate what steps are involved. When a team is not equipped with the appropriate knowledge, their buy-in will be minimal. This situation is especially true for those who work from home and may have more avenues into the network for others to take advantage of. For instance, if you fail to provide an Acceptable Use Policy for your VPN in writing, your employees may feel justified using it for recreational purposes. Without it, they might think that the security protocols are too restrictive and will find ways around them—potentially copying company information onto non-managed devices (laptops, hard drives, etc.). Everyone needs to realize that protecting the company’s data is I.T.’s most crucial function.

Your documentation aims to identify critical I.T. policies and considerations like remote access for those working from home, change management, incident response, etc. Now, have all of them documented and shared early on with all teams and data-accessing members of your team. Remember to keep all of your company files up to date and easily accessible and central. Doing so will make it easier to enforce stricter IT policies. Employees will know what is expected of their security procedures and engage in best practices.

Ensure policies are reviewed and proofed periodically while modifying as changes arise. The bottom line is that someone needs to be responsible for creating, training, and enforcing the standards you expect in your technology business. Those standards must be documented, communicated with all parties, and backed up with regular training and review.

Dealing With Remote Technologies

Your employees will be spread out over several locations in any given hybrid work model, working collaboratively online using tools like Microsoft 365, Teams, Zoom, etc. Some may unwittingly use less secure home internet connections for work, while others may use personal devices to get the job done. That’s why it is critical to standardize your security systems, tools, and controls to make sure they meet the demands of a hybrid workforce.

This standardization entails investing in cloud-based applications, secure VPNs, identity and access management tools, patch management, unified endpoint management systems, SaaS security, and backup and recovery solutions. Unfortunately, this tech stack adds complexity and managerial overhead as these solutions are changing rapidly by adding new features and integrations.

It is imperative that your IT department or Managed IT Provider has a “security first” mindset in designing your infrastructure to ensure they’re all appropriately deployed and monitored on an ongoing basis.

Security Awareness Training Programs

All the technology and security systems in the world won’t protect your business from careless employees whether they work from home or not. All too often, a compromise begins when an employee shares information or access with a malicious third party.  So, you must aim to make your employees the first line of defense against cyberattacks. Although this approach is not new, it is more relevant in a hybrid work environment. The associated risks are higher, so you must take them doubly seriously.

Deploy engaging training programs to help reduce human error, develop good security habits and create awareness about the current threat landscape. Training videos are a great and low-cost way to expand your employee’s knowledge base while covering security best practices and company SOPs.

Likewise, you should invest in interactive training programs that help employees learn how to defend against common cyber crimes such as phishing, brute-force password attacks, ransomware, and social engineering. After the program has been completed, reinforce what they learned by conducting routine tests and simulations, and provide feedback to employees who do not pass these exercises—remember, it is not just their assets at stake, but everyone’s.

Communication and Support Channels

When I.T. communication and support channels are known and accessible to staff, you can handle threats quickly and effectively. Every staff member will learn how to raise the alarm maturely, the authorities in I.T. to contact, and what to do with the threat after reporting it. More importantly, it will help you detect threats early on, allowing you to limit their impact.

On the topic of communication, you should clearly define what tools may be utilized for work-specific communication. Employees should be discouraged from using social apps like WhatsApp and Facebook for company communication—especially file transfer. Not only can poor digital hygiene put critical data in danger, but it may also hurt your goal of achieving system-wide compliance. Password security may be high on company devices, but weak passwords may be grandfathered in from personal devices.

Develop Frictionless Systems and Strategies

Not every solution will be perfect, and users will be the first to tell you. When devising new security strategies or evaluating new programs, ensure that you consider user experience and efficiency. For instance, if your company’s backup software slows down employee productivity, they may resort to disabling it.

Although security is critical, we should avoid it coming at the cost of efficiency or an ideal user experience. Observing security measures and policies shouldn’t feel like thankless and tedious work; otherwise, employees will grow weary of trying and abandon security best practices. A good I.T. provider will ensure your security systems and strategies can be deployed without sacrificing workflow.


The Next Steps

Building a security-first culture can be challenging. The hybrid work model has only made it more complicated by adding dozens of new layers, threat vectors, and steps to the safety process. You will undoubtedly need mindful staff, 24/7 support, and unique I.T. tools if you want to design a security-first culture effectively for a hybrid work environment. If you are looking for other work from home data risks, see our blog and check out our other articles as well.

Tier 3 I.T. Solutions has helped hundreds of Alberta businesses plan, implement, and maintain their technology systems to support their employees efficiency while improving security. As one of the leading Managed I.T. Service Providers in Alberta, we can help you evaluate your systems and recommend practical cyber security systems to protect your business.

Contact Tier 3 I.T. for a consultation and learn more about how we can help.