Five Steps to Securing Your Remote Work Environment

When the pandemic hit, nearly every workforce became remote with no warning and no preparation. Now there’s time to get those workers secure.

When the world shut down because of Covid-19 in March of 2020, companies found their employees suddenly working from home. In many cases this meant taking the company laptop with them when they went, or in many other cases, simply working with whatever computing assets they already had. Security was given only a passing thought. 

As a result, security suffered badly. Data breaches increased significantly, as did other types of data loss. Now, a year later, it's time to fix those security holes. Here are five ways to get started.

1. Set a security standard by setting a hardware standard. If your remote employees aren't already using a standard, company-provided computer, now is the time to consider moving that way. When everyone is using the same set of standard computers, the process of securing them becomes much easier. You have one operating system, one set of updates and one security solution. 

Of course, not every employee needs exactly the same computer. For example, engineers and graphics artists may need a professional workstation while office workers may need a good laptop that they can take with them on those partial days back in the office. The goal isn't absolute uniformity, but rather a consistent set of platforms for a consistent security solution.

Being consistent means that if you're working with a Windows 10 Pro environment, for example, then all of the Windows computers should be running Windows 10 Pro. The same applies to 
If you let employees bring their own devices, you still need to set standards for the devices you'll support, with the standard covering all of the devices your staff is permitted to use at home or in the office.

2. Define a standard security package. A standard anti-malware suite will help you keep a handle on security software updates, and it will save money as well. By having a standard security software package, it will ease the management headaches that come with making sure your staff isn't choosing their anti-virus according to whatever came free with their home computer.

A good place to start is with Dell's Endpoint Security, which includes tools to detect and prevent attacks, data encryption and identity management. Equally important, you can make sure your security software, antivirus definitions, and encryption tools are kept current.

3. Use secure communications. Depending on your work from home setup, you have some options when it comes to making sure communications are secure. For example, security gateways such as the SonicWall Security Gateways and Security Appliances have client software that allows remote devices to connect via a secure VPN across the internet. 

Considering that nearly every remote employee will be connecting through their cable modem or similar device, there are also solutions that allow for setting up a VPN through a WiFi router. The Netgear AX12 WiFi 6 router, available from Dell, includes support for the OpenVPN standard, which may allow connection to your company security gateway.

For companies that have extensive on-premises resources in a central location, Dell Technologies' SD-WAN solution may be an option, as well, providing reliable and secure connectivity to business applications.

4. Set secure access requirements. Anybody who gets access to the company network needs to be authenticated. Of course, you're already using usernames and passwords, but there's more to be done. In addition to requiring access through an encrypted method such as a VPN, you need to make sure that the person who is accessing the network isn't just a family member of an employee trying to get to the internet. This means some sort of multi-factor authentication. 

Multi-factor authentication can come about in several ways. There's always the way you're familiar with by now, which is to send a randomly generated number to the user's cell phone, but there are other ways that are more secure. One is to issue employees a smart card that can work with a smartcard reader, such as the one in the popular Dell KB813 keyboard, which includes an integrated reader. 

There are also authentication tokens such as the Yubikey, which work with virtually any device including laptops and smartphones. 

5. Train your employees. The single most critical part of security for remote working is a trained workforce. End-users often represent the 'weak link.' They're the ones who click on phishing emails and who visit dubious websites. And of course, they're the people who let their kids play games on the company computer. 

This lack of training was one of the reasons malware was so effective during the early parts of the pandemic lockdown. To counter it, employees must be trained to recognize security threats, and they need constant refreshing. For example, you can test your employees by sending out fake phishing emails and then seeing who clicks. 

What probably won't work are endless Zoom calls about security. Making the training interactive, and perhaps even making a competition out of it, can keep interest up. 

No matter how you look at it, maintaining security when your workforce is at home is a real challenge. But it's a challenge that can be met through thoughtful management and the right tools. Some of those tools are already in the technology that you use, some can be added to your overall security solution, and some need to come from your employees. You'll need all of them, because it's not clear that your staff will be back in the office full-time even when the pandemic is finally over.

Dell Technologies Advisors can help you to tackle your toughest securities challenges so you can focus on growing your business. Call at 1-877-BUY-DELL or Chat Now.