Remote work is rising fast over the years because it is feasible. The idea of completing work-related tasks from the comfort of their homes sounds very appealing to a lot of employees. It saves them money that they otherwise would have spent on the daily commute to work, while also offering them a reasonable degree of flexibility. They can also work their way around their normal working schedule to attend to other personal errands.
But regardless of how beneficial the remote working environment is, it has its shortcomings, one of which is how to prevent sensitive data exposure to hackers. Remote workers often use personal devices and unsecured networks to access company information, increasing the risk of sensitive data exposure. Working from home, a shared office space, or from a coffee shop may not provide the same physical security measures as traditional office settings, making it easier for sensitive data to be exposed.
What is Sensitive Data Exposure?
Sensitive data exposure refers to the unauthorized disclosure of confidential or sensitive information, such as financial data, personal information, and intellectual property. This can occur due to hacking, misconfiguration of systems, or human error. In a remote working environment, sensitive data is at an increased risk of exposure because employees may be accessing it from personal devices, public Wi-Fi networks, or unsecured internet connections.
How Can Sensitive Data be exposed?
A remote work environment can expose sensitive data in various ways. Below are some ways:
1. Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks
Most coffee shops offer Wi-Fi as a way to improve their customers’ experience. Often, these public Wi-Fi networks are not secure and do not guarantee data protection for the users. Remote workers who use these public Wi-Fi networks are very vulnerable to hackers.
2. Phishing Scams
Remote workers are often targeted by phishing scams that trick them into sharing sensitive data with hackers.
3. Unsecured Devices
Losing a laptop or smartphone containing sensitive information, especially without strong password protection, could lead to the exposure of company data that should otherwise be protected.
4. Unencrypted Files
Sending sensitive data through unencrypted emails or files could lead to unauthorized access to sensitive data.
5. Social Engineering
Remote workers are also vulnerable to social engineering attacks, where hackers manipulate them into revealing sensitive information.
6. Poor Password Practices
Using weak passwords, or reusing the same password for multiple accounts, could also result in data exposure.
How to Prevent Sensitive Data Exposure While Working Remotely
Here are measures to follow to protect your organization and prevent sensitive data exposure while working remotely.
1. Implement a Strong Passwords Policy
One of the most important ways to prevent sensitive data exposure is to implement a strong password policy. Users should make passwords that are at least 12 characters long, include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and change them every three months. This offers stronger password protection and reduces security threats, as it cannot be easily guessed by hackers. Employees should also be encouraged to use a password manager to generate and store unique passwords for each of their accounts.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that creates a secure, encrypted internet connection between a user’s device and a remote server. Businesses and remote workers commonly use VPNs to securely access corporate resources and sensitive data. When a user uses a VPN, the VPN encrypts their internet traffic, making it difficult for anyone to intercept and access the transmitted data. This helps to prevent sensitive data exposure, information such as login credentials, financial information, and other confidential data.
3. Encrypt Sensitive Data
Encrypting sensitive data makes it unreadable to anyone who does not have the decryption key. By doing this, you protect data even if it is intercepted during transmission or stored on an insecure device. Encryption should be used for all sensitive data, including emails, documents, and backups.
4. Provide Security Awareness Training
Security awareness training is an important component of a comprehensive security program. It is designed to educate employees about the risks associated and how to prevent sensitive data exposure and the steps they can take to reduce the risk. This includes information on how to identify phishing scams, use strong passwords, and avoid data breaches.
5. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security measure that requires two or more methods of authentication to verify the identity of a user. To gain access to an account or system, a user must provide additional proof of identity, such as a code from a mobile device or a biometric scan, in addition to their password.
The use of multiple authentication methods makes it much more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access, as they would need to have access to multiple sources of information. MFA helps protect sensitive information by making it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to accounts, even if they have obtained a valid password.
6. Regularly Monitor and Update Security Measures
Regular monitoring and updating of security measures are crucial to prevent sensitive data exposure in a remote working environment. This includes conducting regular security audits, updating software and systems, and monitoring unusual activity on company networks. Companies should also establish a plan for responding to security incidents, including a protocol for reporting, investigation, and remediation.
The right measures can prevent sensitive data exposure in a remote work environment, which is a major concern. By implementing the suggestions above, businesses can reduce the risk of sensitive data exposure and protect their company’s data.
At Randori, we understand how important it is to safeguard your organization’s sensitive data. We have created a system to help security teams in remote working environments discover gaps, assess risks, and harden their perimeters to prevent data breaches and protect their digital infrastructure against modern security threats.
Our Attack Surface Management (ASM) system can help your security teams find and remove vulnerabilities that give threat actors access to your sensitive data system. Get started on your data security journey today with Randori (an IBM company).