Employees are leaving the office in record numbers. The 2012 National Study of Employers found that 66% of the companies polled allowed their employees to work from home some of the time. Thanks to the explosion of mobile devices, telecommuters aren’t just connecting to the workplace and accessing company data from home, they’re doing it anywhere there’s a Wifi hotspot. Ads like this one illustrate the irresistible allure of hopscotching between hotspots, working anywhere there’s a wireless connection:
“Tired of sitting in your home office? Need a place to go during the day to get some work done? If you telecommute or just work via your laptop Rock Creek has plenty of places with Wi-Fi to help you get the job done.”
Telecommuters’ Mobile Devices Open the Door to Data Breaches
Does that sound like you? If it does, your hotspot behavior may be opening the door for cybercriminals to hack your mobile devices to gain access to your company’s network. The major security issue for companies that allow telecommuting is that Wifi hotspots, as well as many home wireless networks, aren’t secure enough to protect corporate data. In fact, the vast majority of hotspots aren’t secure at all. They’re designed for convenience not security. That’s why hotspots are a haven for hackers who can easily capture the sensitive information telecommuters transmit over them.
According to Ponemon Institute’s new Confidential Documents at Risk Study, 90% of the organizations surveyed experienced leakage or loss of sensitive or confidential documents in the past year. Even worse, 59% say their organizations’ controls are ineffective at monitoring employees, contractors or other insiders who access these documents. And 70% say documents accessed by mobile data-bearing devices such as smartphones and tablets present a significant security risk.
Many Companies Don’t Have a Telecommuting Policy
Given statistics like that, it’s not surprising that many companies have no telecommuting policy at all. According to a 2011 survey by Staples Advantage, two thirds of U.S. telecommuters polled said they did not receive any IT security training before being allowed to work away from the office. No wonder they have no idea how to protect their company’s critical data when they access it remotely.
Telecommuting has been a boon for businesses – producing big savings from lower offices costs and increased productivity. And it’s given employees more freedom and flexibility to get the job done wherever they are. But remember, whether you own a company that allows
telecommuting or you work for one, you’re responsible for protecting the sensitive information of anyone you do business with. Every time you access sensitive information from a Wifi hotspot or other unsecure wireless connection, you risk exposing that information to hackers.
Businesses are required to notify clients when their confidential information has been compromised. That can do irreparable damage to their reputation and their bottom line. That’s why companies need to create a secure mobile environment for telecommuters who access sensitive information from hotspots and from home.
Protect Your Company and Your Clients from Cybercrime
Telecommuting employees should keep their technology and their security software up to date. If they have company issued mobile devices, they should only be used for company business and be kept in secure locations. File sharing and automatic connections to other Wifi-enabled devices should be disabled. If telecommuters are working from home and using a Wifi router, they should make sure it’s configured using WPA2 security with a long strong password composed of letters, numbers and symbols.
If they’re working away from home at a coffee shop, hotel or other Wifi hotspot, telecommuters should never access sensitive information without using VPN software like PRIVATE WiFi™. Password protecting wireless devices is important in case they’re lost or stolen. But it doesn’t protect information that’s in transit at Wifi hotspots. Only end-to-end encryption provided by a virtual private network can hide your company’s sensitive information from hackers.