As social distancing guidelines and local lockdowns fuel the transition to remote work, many businesses are struggling to figure out how to adapt. According to past figures, only 29% of employees worked a full day from home before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, suddenly, businesses across the globe are supporting a swarm of at-home workers.

67% of businesses that don’t normally leverage remote work are building out their remote capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. A further 36% of companies are encouraging all of their employees to work-from-home. This is a drastic change. Embracing remote work requires businesses to invest in new technologies, rework traditional IT architectures, and draw up new compliance frameworks.

All of those data privacy policies that were developed for company networks are no longer valuable when every worker is connected to their own home network. Suddenly, all of your employees are operating without your policies, and you’re left struggling to rework your privacy framework to support all these unique endpoints.

Let’s look at some of the unique data risks brought on by remote work and how you can create an ad-hoc data privacy framework to help you today — and a long-term data privacy framework to enable you in the future.

The Unique Data Risks Posed by Remote Work

Remote work brings on unique, challenging, and significant data risks. Home networks are 3.5x more likely to host malware — like Mirai and Trickbot. 34% of data breaches involve employees. And a massive 92% of malware is delivered by email. When it comes to data risks and remote work, you’re getting hit from two angles.

  1. Threat actors now have more opportunity to launch external attacks against employees, who are using home networks without corporate policies.
  2. Employees may relax on data privacy and protection due to the lack of policies in remote settings.

All of those policies you’ve spent years and countless resources developing may be useless during this transition period, and that leaves you exposed. We won’t dive too deep into all of the unique cybersecurity risks (there are plenty), but we will briefly talk about compliance.

Even when your workers are remote, you still have to adhere to GDPR, CCPA, LGPD, and all of the other local, regional, and global data privacy frameworks. Chances are, your ability to comply with those frameworks was baked into your network and on-premise solutions. If that’s the case, you need to act fast. You’re operating in the dark.

Here are some steps you can take right now to help minimize your risks.

Steps to Take to Immediately Protect Remote Worker Data

As threat actors ramp up external threats and employees relax on data privacy guidelines, you need to ask some hard-hitting questions.

  • Do you have SaaS security solutions in place to analyze email attachments and filter malware?
  • How are you tracking data access from both structured and unstructured data banks?
  • Are you encrypting data during transit and rest?
  • Are your employees using a VPN?
  • Do you have systems in place to prevent home networks from impacting corporate networks?
  • Do you have the means to encrypt the massive pools of unstructured data in your data lakes?
  • Are you able to easily track and find mislabeled, toxic, and sensitive data throughout your repositories?
  • Do you have SaaS data security control solutions to enable workers in remote environments?
  • Can you map your data systems when employees are transmitted data remotely?

If the answer to any of these is “no,” you need to take action. The best place to start is with employee training. Since employees won’t be sheltered by your on-premise network policies, your business will need to ramp up its training protocols. Do employees understand what malware and ransomware are? Do they understand not to open random email attachments and click on malicious websites? If not, ad-hoc training sessions should be your first priority.

The next, and most obvious, remedy is to invest in SaaS data governance and data privacy solutions. You can’t rely on your on-premise networking and security policies anymore. You have to look for solutions that breed compliance across every device. Your first goal is to reduce your privacy surface area. Investing in solutions that can easily map, monitor, control, and search through data across repositories is crucial. You can’t breed compliance and data privacy without understanding your overarching data framework.

Obviously, quick investments and ad-hoc training sessions aren’t ideal. In fact, threat actors are waiting patiently for you to deploy new technology. Times of transition are prime times for breaches. Luckily, if you remain vigilant during the transition period, you can set yourself up for a more holistic, long-term data privacy strategy.

How to Formulate a Long-term Remote Work Policy Framework

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you need to be ready to support a remote work ecosystem. That’s going to require cross-collaboration between stakeholders and IT. Remote work requires significant IT investments. From data governance solutions to data lake security, data protection frameworks, and compliance software, your business has plenty to discuss.

Luckily, the core ideas driving policies are the same — remote or on-premise. But the solutions you leverage to create those policies may change. At the same time, employee training should become part of your standard data privacy workflows.

New data privacy policies should cover remote work and telework vulnerabilities, risks, and weak points. Employees should be told what devices they can (and can’t) use for work, how to handle phishing scams, and you should define access privileges that make sense in remote environments.

Encryption, two-factor authentication, VPNs, and update protocols will all become fine-tuned over time, but it’s important to introduce them early. The faster you can leverage the right tools; the quicker your employees will familiarize themselves with new policies — giving you a competitive advantage over some of your peers.

Integris Can Help

At Integris, we offer a variety of data privacy solutions aimed at helping employers bolster their security policies and compliance strategies. From data protection tools that enable encryption policies to overarching data governance tools and Hadoop lake security solutions, we can help you create best-of-breed remote work policies.

Contact us to learn more.