The signs are clear – remote and hybrid work are here to stay. In Asia, 85% of companies now promote hybrid work, and 70% recruit talent region-wide. There are tremendous benefits of remote work, including access to a global talent pool and reduced employee turnover. However, this new norm has also exposed smaller businesses to cyberattacks, and requires steps to be taken to manage IT risks.
Failure to manage the IT risks inherent in a remote or hybrid workforce can be costly and even deadly for startups and smaller businesses.
The average cost of a data breach ranges from US$120,000 to US$1 million, and costs small businesses more (relative to their size) than larger businesses. Worse, the financial consequences and resulting lack of trust from customers mean that 60% of small companies go out of business within 6 months of a data breach or hack.
If you manage distributed teams, here are some steps you can take to mitigate the IT risks.
How to manage IT risks in remote or hybrid work:
Step 1: Develop clear IT policies and guidelines
Your business should have an IT security policy that clearly outlines expectations for employees’ behaviour, responsibilities and communications.
A comprehensive IT security policy will cover topics such as:
- Data privacy
- Access control
- Password policy
- Asset management
- Data encryption and more
It should also cover what your business should do in the event of a breach or mishap. To ensure that everyone is fully aware, employees should be required to read and sign the policy as part of their onboarding process.
Step 2: Provide cybersecurity training and educate your employees on IT risks
A written policy itself is not enough. You’d need to train and educate your employees as well. By providing regular cybersecurity training to your employees, you help them recognise and prevent cyber threats before they happen.
A well-rounded curriculum will include topics such as:
- Phishing schemes
- Password security
- Home WiFi security
- Malware and more
There are free cybersecurity training courses for employees available online, but the best one would be one specifically adapted for your company’s situation.
Step 3: Conduct regular security audits
We’d recommend performing regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities in your remote workforce’s systems and networks.
There are many types of security audits, but at the most basic level, you can perform one in-house with an automated tool. Address any gaps or issues that are identified in a timely manner.
Step 4: Use secure communication tools
You’d want to prevent sensitive or confidential data from falling into the wrong hands. Communications over unsecured platforms like WhatsApp can be intercepted by hackers or other malicious actors.
So you’d want to ensure that all communication channels used by your remote workforce, such as email, instant messaging, and video conferencing, are secure and encrypted.
You can further protect it by using two-factor authentication, strong passwords, and ensuring that all software and hardware used by your remote employees are up to date
Step 5: Have a disaster recovery plan
If your business relies heavily on technology, time lost during a system crash can have catastrophic financial consequences.
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a document that sets out the steps to be taken in the event of a cyber-attack, natural disaster or other disruptive event. This should include procedures like data backup and recovery, and a communication plan to keep employees and the customers informed.
Step 6: Build a culture of trust and accountability
Employees are often the first to know when there are any issues or concerns. But if they do not feel comfortable reporting this upwards, these concerns get swept under the rug and snowball into real threats in the future.
By encouraging transparency and open communications, you can help employees feel comfortable to report any issues they may have identified.
Cybersecurity in a remote or hybrid environment is essential for daily operations, especially for startups and SMEs. By implementing the above measures, you can reap the full benefits while being prepared for the increased IT risks of a remote or hybrid workforce.
As you navigate through the complexities of distributed work, Esevel is here to help you.
We can work closely with you to set up security policies and configurations for your remote teams, and to ensure hardware security via a proper offboarding process, across 8 countries in Asia Pacific.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how our team can help you!