Data protection considerations for remote teams

There are a number of reasons why you might opt to have a remote team. Some businesses are born and run completely remotely, and others may have found themselves thrust into this situation as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Whatever your reason for running remote teams, there can be a huge number of benefits of doing so. Not least of all because right now, it allows businesses to keep operating despite not actually being able to go into the office. That said, running a remote team isn’t as simple as saying ‘OK, I need you to work from home now’. Remote teams can create security issues, especially around data protection.

There are a number of security issues that can arise when your employees are working outside the office and it’s important that you address these. Firstly, because your business still needs to ensure it is compliant with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and secondly because data protection is vital for a strong reputation and the smooth running of the business.

In this guide, well take a look at the top six data protection considerations for your remote teams right now.

1. Ensuring strong password protection and best practises

It’s vital that all devices and systems that collect, hold or store sensitive data are protected, especially if these are being accessed outside the office. As such, it pays to teach your teams about good password policies and ensure everyone is using strong passwords to protect their devices and online accounts. It’s also a good idea to encourage them to change their passwords regularly, perhaps quarterly, to boost security measures.

An additional security measure you can add is two-factor authentication. This might be a security question they must answer after entering their password, it could also be the receiving of a code via SMS or even fingerprint recognition which is a possibility on many of today’s smartphones and devices. This can help to fend of cybercriminals and also ensures no other members of the household innocently try and log onto a work device.

2. Setting a clear line between work and personal devices

Following on from this, depending on how and why you’ve set up your remote team, your employees may have work computers, or they may be using their own devices. If they’ve got more than one device, it’s vital that they understand the importance of keeping their work and personal devices separate and avoid blurring the lines between the two.

For example, they should only open and reply to work emails on their work devices, they shouldn’t make personal calls from work phones and most importantly, if they’re working at home with family they need to avoid other members of the household using their work-related devices.

3. Providing the right tech and software

If you’re going to be providing your team with work devices such as laptops, phones or tablets, you need to make sure they have access to these and that they know how to use them. You must also ensure that effective systems such as firewalls and anti-malware are already installed on all devices and are ready to go.

Similarly, if your teams will be using online platforms to communicate, manage projects and work together, you must ensure they have access to these and that they are password protected so no one outside of the team can gain access.

4. Deciding whether you need to use a VPN

You might wish to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for your remote teams to help protect any communications or data being shared online. A VPN allows you to create a private internet connection across a public one and can stop hackers being able to access your systems through shared or public connections. You may well have a private network set up in your office to keep everyone safe, but when everyone is working from their own location a VPN can be the perfect way to boost your data protection efforts.

That said, if you are going to set up a VPN for everyone to use, you need to make sure they have access to this on their devices and that they understand how to use it and how to log on. If you can, get them started before they begin working remotely, it also pays to put together a quick guide that they can turn to for support if they need to.

5. Providing details on the latest scams

Sadly, cybercriminals are always coming up with new, more sophisticated ways of trying to scam people for information and/or money. This is particularly true right now, with a number of Covid-19 scams popping up, playing on the uncertainty and insecurity that many of us are feeling at the moment. But by educating your teams on some of the latest scams such as phishing emails or fake voicemails, they will be better equipped to spot and therefore avoid these hacks. You could do this by sending monthly or even weekly newsletters to keep them as up to date as possible.

6. Ensuring your team are educated on GDPR

Another way to boost your data protection efforts when running a remote team is to ensure they are all clued up on GDPR, how to stay compliant and cybersecurity best practices. Now, this doesn’t mean they have to be experts on the subject, but it does mean equipping everyone with the basics of data protection. This could be educating them on how to spot a security risk or a scam, ensuring they know who to report to should they identify a security breach and also making sure they know how to handle data responsibly.

Remember, just because your remote teams aren’t operating in an office and under the usual circumstances, this doesn’t make data protection any less important. If anything, it should be more of a concern. Your business must still be 100% GDPR compliant and educating your teams is one of the best ways to ensure they are able to look out for cybersecurity best practices and data protection no matter what their location.