How to Balance Employee Flexibility and IT Security

Posted on Posted in Business, Cybersecurity, Insights

With hybrid and remote working becoming the new norm, having solid IT security for networks, systems, and data has increased in importance over the last few years.  However, hybrid and remote working means new and changed online security policies and procedures, because of differences between those applied to remote and in-office workers.

Staff are working from home, or indeed from anywhere they can establish remote communications with the office systems. If the organisation doesn’t change its IT security policies to reflect the new norm, the existing policies could potentially conflict with their online security needs.

This brings the conundrum of how to deal with staff now preferring to work from home and resisting being called back into the office, coupled with others who want to return full-time to the office. 

Remote employees are seeking greater flexibility in when and from where they work. Fitting this into hybrid working is quite the challenge, especially when considering how to meet IT security and online security requirements.

Balancing employee flexibility and IT Security

IT Security

Balancing employee flexibility and IT security is crucial in a hybrid working environment.

Here are some strategies to achieve this balance:

  1. Establish Clear Security Policies: Develop comprehensive IT security policies that outline expectations, guidelines, and best practices for employees. Communicate these policies clearly to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in maintaining security while enjoying flexibility.

    New attack vectors, malware threats and other potential security vulnerabilities appear daily. It Is essential to keep your Security Policies under continual review and update.

  2. Conduct Regular Security Awareness Training: Provide ongoing training and education to employees on IT security best practices. Focus on topics like data protection, password hygiene, phishing awareness, and safe browsing habits. Promote a security-conscious culture that emphasizes the importance of maintaining security standards.

  3. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Require the use of multi-factor authentication for accessing corporate systems, applications, and data. MFA adds an extra layer of security by verifying user identity through multiple factors like passwords, biometrics, or token-based authentication. This mitigates the risk of unauthorised access due to compromised credentials.

  4. Utilise Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): Encourage the use of VPNs when accessing company resources remotely. VPNs encrypt internet traffic and provide a secure connection between remote devices and the corporate network, safeguarding data transmission from potential threats.

    This is a no-brainer for remote workers.  Access to corporate systems without using the VPN to ensure a secure connection must not be possible.

  5. Device Management and Endpoint Security: Implement mobile device management (MDM) solutions and enforce security measures on employee devices, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Apply security configurations, enforce encryption, enable remote device wiping, and regularly update software and security patches.

    A particular issue is that of a user attaching devices such as flash drives to desktop computers or copying information to or from a smart device.  This must not be allowed. Portable devices can be used to transfer information to and from the corporate network. Incoming data may be infected with malware from a poorly secured home network.  Outgoing data can be stolen. 

    In a similar vein, users must not be allowed to use private cloud-based storage like Google Drive and Dropbox. Infected data can be downloaded to the desktop and confidential data uploaded to them for later retrieval.

  6. Secure Wi-Fi and Network Access: Educate employees on the importance of secure Wi-Fi networks and the risks of using public or unsecured networks. Force the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) for secure network access when working remotely or accessing sensitive information.

  7. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Measures: Implement data loss prevention solutions that monitor and control sensitive data flow within and outside the organisation. This includes monitoring file transfers, email attachments, and implementing policies to prevent unauthorised data exfiltration or leakage.

  8. Regular Security Assessments and Audits: Conduct regular security assessments and audits to identify vulnerabilities, ensure compliance with security policies, and address any security gaps. This helps in proactively identifying and mitigating potential risks to IT security.

  9. Secure Collaboration and File Sharing: This is especially important for collaboration and communication among dispersed team members.  Adopt secure collaboration and file-sharing tools that provide end-to-end encryption, access controls, and audit logs. This ensures that sensitive data remains protected when shared among team members, both internally and externally.

  10. Continuous Monitoring and Incident Response: Implement robust security monitoring systems and incident response protocols. Monitor network traffic, log activities, and leverage security information and event management (SIEM) tools to identify and respond to security incidents promptly.

Remember that balancing flexibility and security requires a comprehensive approach that involves collaboration between IT, HR, and management teams. Regular communication, updates, and feedback loops with employees are essential to address security concerns, reinforce good security practices, and maintain a secure work environment in a flexible working arrangement.

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