Are telecommuters putting your business security at risk?

Cyber security experts are warning of the dangers caused by employees working remotely – is your work-from-home workforce putting your business security at risk?

We’re all well aware of the benefits having employees working from home can bring – not only can it cut your business overheads, it can improve productivity and morale – but if you don’t set up your systems correctly, and ensure your employees have had recent cyber-security training, you risk compromising business security and confidentiality.

How employees could be putting your data at risk

According to research from T-Systems, the corporate IT and cyber-security arm of Deutsche Telekom (Europe’s largest telecoms company), almost a third (31%) of employees use free WiFi at locations such as those at airports, hotels, coffee shops and bars, while just over a quarter (28%) email work documents to their private email on their own devices – and both can leave your company wide open to security breaches, and even cyber attacks.

The research, which was conducted by respected market research agency Censuswide, and surveyed over 2,000 UK employees, found:

  • Nearly a third of employees (31%) use free Wi-Fi hotspots, and nearly a quarter (24%) use them for work-related emails and documents.  These are a big danger area as they are insecure and easy for hackers to clone (getting access to all email and web traffic, including any work documents and passwords).
  • 28% of employees email work documents to and from their personal email, despite this creating numerous security problems.
  • 10% use free USB charging points at airports and stations.  These ports can be used to transfer viruses and malware to unsuspecting users.
  • Remarkably 28% of employees have never in their working career had any cyber security training to protect themselves and their employer, as you can see the threats are avoidable.

The key facts of the findings are as follows:

And the reason all of these things are putting your company’s data at risk is because open networks, personal devices and personal accounts simply do not have the necessary security software in place to deter hackers – simply logging on to a public WiFi network in a coffee shop or airport terminal can offer hackers a quick way in to your system.

But it seems businesses could be just as culpable as employees when it comes to security breaches, as not enough are offering employees regular cyber security training.

How you could be putting your data at risk

Cyber-security training for all employees is particularly important as the dangers continue when employees work from home, and the T-Systems’ research found:

  • 18% of employees admit to connecting their digital camera to their work computer to download photos.  And don’t think that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections are safer, viruses and malware can just as easily transfer through wireless connections and then quickly spread through the organisation.
  • 15% admit to connecting USB sticks and memory cards that they share with their family members to their work computer.  A sure way for viruses to quickly spread from home to business.

Scott Cairns, the UK head of cyber security at T-Systems, said: “Training your employees regularly on effective cyber-security practice is probably the single-most effective step organisations can undertake to dramatically reduce their risks of viruses, malware and other common forms of cyber-crime.”

He added: “Where it is unavoidable, businesses should ensure there is training, and clear guidelines to be followed. Our research shows many employees are not knowledgeable on the multitude of ways their devices can be infected with viruses and malware… and those who thought they were ‘very knowledgeable’ frequently gave the wrong answer when questioned!”

If you want to ensure the safety of your company’s data, and minimise the risk of a security breach, make cyber security training a priority, and ensure all of your systems are accessed remotely via a secure virtual private network (VPN).

Has your business ever suffered a cyber security scare? Let us know in the comments below…

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