image-dandelionDue to significant advances in networking and mobile technologies, more and more people are working remotely—client locations, hotels, home offices and backyard garden swings. As company IT infrastructures become more decentralized, keeping company computers, mobile devices and data secure has become much more challenging. If mobile devices become infected with malware, viruses can permeate a company’s computer network putting valuable company data at risk. Lost or stolen devices heighten the risk of data leaks and result in financial, legal and reputational problems.

Now’s not the time to take a deep breath, make a wish, and blow dandelion seeds into the wind. You’ll never know where they may fall, leaving your company’s security at the mercy of the wind.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. It’s time to sharpen the tools in your gardening belt and implement some homegrown changes to cultivate security:

Protect Mobile Devices

Most data-stealing malware arrives via email and the Internet. Although it is very difficult and costly to enforce, it is good practice to bar personal web browsing and emailing by workers on company computers. To further reduce the chances of a malware infection, use security software and practice the following good computer hygiene tips:

  • Use the latest versions of all applications.
  • Install new security patches immediately. Don’t rely on employees to take care of updating applications. Activate automatic updates or use a patch-management tool to distribute updates to remote computers yourself.
  • Reduce damage from a lost device by installing whole-disk encryption software to keep unauthorized people from accessing any of its data. Additionally, install a remote-wipe application on mobile devices to erase data if the device is lost or stolen.

Create a Secure Connection to Your Company Network

Set up a system to provide remote workers with secure access to your corporate network. The use of virtual private network (VPN) software encrypts remote workers’ Internet traffic and ensures that remote computers have security patches installed, are configured correctly and are monitored for signs of infection. It is vital to use strong passwords and refrain from reusing passwords. If your application offers an authentication option that’s stronger than a simple password (e.g., 2-step verification), use it!

Utilize Cloud Applications

By using web-based applications to handle business tasks, employees are able to work from any location. Handing over most data-security responsibility to cloud-service providers is highly recommended. There are cloud applications for most specialized tasks. For example, Microsoft Office 365 allows users to access office applications, email, calendars and file-sharing tools using the Internet and mobile devices. Likewise, Google Apps can also be used for office applications.

Don’t throw caution to the wind…it’s time to roll up your sleeves, cultivate security and take control of where your seeds land.

First published in our May 2015 IT Radix Resource newsletter