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Telecommuting - Advantages and Risks at a Glance
Telecommuting IT security should be an integral part of your system planning if you are thinking of allowing your employees to telecommute. Telecommuting has several benefits for both the employer and the employee. However, if telecommuting IT security is compromised, it can be fatal for the business.
There are several advantages of telecommuting: employers save money on buying or leasing resources for employees; and the employees get to save on time, energy, and money spent on commuting daily between their offices and homes. The concept of telecommuting is not new. You might want to look at the History of Telecommuting.
Though there are several advantages of telecommuting, several problems are associated as well. Most of them are common: distractions and the inability to set up a perfect telecommuting atmosphere. Check out our article on Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them, if you intend to telecommute or if you are telecommuting already.
To know more about the advantages of telecommuting, please check out our articles:
1. Top 10 Reasons for Telecommuting; and
While distraction is considered the major risks of telecommuting, there are more to the risks than just distractions. Most businesses take care of their internal network and invest in protection at the entrance of their LAN/WAN. They invest in firewalls plus email and web filtering. This keeps the internal database safe from unauthorized users who try to reach the network from outside the business premises. However, what can guarantee the safety of data and network when authorized remote workers access the network from outside? The security also depends on the precautions taken by the telecommuter: the firewall, login, passwords, etc.
The next section talks about some of the major security risks to deal with while offering telecommuting facility to your employees.
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Telecommuting IT Security Risks and Dealing with Them
This section helps you create a checklist for major telecommuting IT security risks so that you can deal with them.
1. Educating the Telecommuter about Security - You need to educate the employee on how to safeguard his/her PC/Notebook. Make sure the telecommuters' computers contain the most recent software updates. A VPN is the best because it allows secure downloads of software updates. If there is no VPN, educate employees on how to securely use the Internet to directly download the updates.
2. Incorporating Location Awareness - Make sure you have location awareness incorporated into the security system. This way you can increase the security when the telecommuter moves away from the network. Chances of intrusion increase with the distance of the telecommuter from the mail server. Location awareness software is primarily built using GPS as a base. It automatically determines the level of security based on distance from the main server.
3. Connecting to the Internet Directly - Telecommuting employees often tend to browse the Internet while telecommuting. This vulnerability relates to the first tip given herein. Though you may educate the employee, still s/he may be tempted to open a URL that comes in mail or may want to browse just to get refreshed. To counter this, ask them to use VPN so that the internal security applies to the browsing. If there is no VPN, install some URL filtering to the employee's computer.
4. Connecting to Wireless Networks - Ask your employees to refrain from using hotspots at restaurants, airport terminals, or hotels. However, there is no way you can force your telecommuting employee to stop using wireless hotspots. It depends upon the sensibility and responsibility of the telecommuter that s/he listens and implements the rule.
5. Working in the Presence of Visitors - Finally, to keep your data safe, ask your telecommuting employees to lock computers when they leave their computers for a small period. Also, ask them to not work in the presence of visitors/strangers as it may compromise the data, thereby posing a threat to your business.
These were just some of the tips for telecommuting IT security. If you have anything to share regarding dealing with telecommuting risks, please contact us through the comments section.
Image Credit: sxc.hu, businesman, by Celal Teber