Around 59% of US workers who can do their jobs from home report that they usually utilize a work-from-home setup nearly all the time. While remote work is not as prevalent now as it was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still much higher than before the lockdown.
This comes as no surprise, considering that workers are (on average) more productive when working from home than in the office. Three years after the onset of the pandemic, it seems that remote work is here to stay.
While remote work has numerous benefits, it does create issues on two fronts: mobile device security and privacy.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can improve security in the age of remote work! In this guide, we’ll give you nine ways to help boost mobile security, whether you’re a freelancer or the CEO of a remote-first startup.
What Is Mobile Device Security?
Before diving into the different ways to improve security and privacy, let’s briefly describe mobile security and privacy.
Mobile device security encompasses all processes and frameworks in place to ensure data remains secure on your mobile device. For the purpose of this discussion, mobile devices pertain to any of the following:
If you can bring it around with you and it isn’t connected to your office physically, you can consider it a mobile device.
You can have security practices in place whether you are a rank-and-file employee at a tech startup or payments consulting business or if you’re a freelancer running your own consulting business.
The Importance of Mobile Device Security
People in our modern world produce an incredible amount of data daily; paying attention to your security and privacy has never been more critical.
Mobile device security is important for a host of reasons. For one, it protects sensitive business information from prying eyes! Protecting client/business information is essential to providing good services if you’re working in sectors like finance or law.
But regardless of industry, protecting your data is a must, especially if you’re connected to an extensive corporate network. Being connected to large networks on your mobile device makes it easier for malicious individuals to target mobile devices to breach security.
And if you’ve ever worked in a large organization, you’d know how devastating the effects of even just an hour of system downtime can be—not to mention the actual ramifications of tampered data.
With that, here are some ways you can improve mobile data security to protect your data and privacy.
How to Improve Mobile Device Security
1. Develop a standard cybersecurity policy
First on the list is developing a standard cybersecurity policy. Having specific operating standards for remote work is crucial to ensuring your company’s data is safe and protected.
According to Finn Wheatley of Xtrium, one of the reasons for company data risk exposure is employee error. Some employees may not set proper passwords on their devices, or they might not be using the most secure system available.
Here are some things you can incorporate into your cybersecurity policy:
- Devise a system for password strength (e.g., passwords need to have special symbols, numbers, and case-sensitive characters);
- Have IT support install safe tools and applications;
- Do not allow employees to log in to company accounts on a public network (which is far less secure than a home connection);
- Require employees to use a LAN or VPN instead of just WiFi when connecting to company services;
- Have an excellent onboarding and offboarding program that will allow smooth installation and removal of sensitive company information on employee devices;
- Only use company-vetted devices (no personal devices for work);
This list is just a way to start you off; there are plenty of other ways you can properly incorporate cybersecurity for your remote-first company.
2. Train employees on mobile device security
In line with #1, it is essential to provide employee security training. Although most people today are technologically-savvy, there is a significant difference between knowing technology on a user level, and utilizing it on a corporate scale.
Thus, make sure to invest time and effort into ensuring all employees and contractors connected to your network are well-versed in company protocols when it comes to cybersecurity.
You can do this as part of the onboarding process or conduct regular training sessions to keep the entire organization up to speed.
While training alone is not likely to deter security breaches from happening, it will definitely help virtual assistants and remote employees be more vigilant around company data and devices.
3. Use secure network connections
Network security is one of the most important things you must pay attention to when securing your mobile devices. When working remotely, it can be tempting to work in a cafe or a co-working space—especially if you’ve been cooped up at home for way too long.
But public WiFi connections are a security nightmare if you’re dealing with sensitive information. Even your home Internet connection may not be as secure as it should be, although using a LAN will reduce the risk of security breaches.
The best course of action would be to use a secure VPN so that employees can connect to the company network safely. Employers should utilize the best VPN available to protect their information.
You can also take additional steps to secure your personal devices, such as using a reverse phone lookup service to verify unknown calls and texts.
4. Keep an eye on your mobile devices
It might seem like a no-brainer to pay close attention to your laptop or work phone, but you’d be surprised by how many people are very nonchalant about where they leave their belongings.
If you do leave home with your laptop, such as when you are going to work out of town or bringing your work to vacation digital nomad style, there are countless opportunities for your laptop to get stolen or tampered with. For starters, never leave your laptop:
- Unattended in a cafe or co-working space;
- In your hotel room when you aren’t present;
- In your checked-in luggage;
- Unattended in a vehicle;
And the list goes on. The bottom line is that wherever you are going, make sure you are not leaving your laptop or phone behind for any possibility of theft (which might be more of a risk in some regions of the globe than in others).
5. Encourage the use of password managers
Around 73% of users use duplicate passwords for their personal and work accounts. As you can imagine, this creates more than undesirable security issues for your company, even if you practice changing passwords after a given period.
One of the main reasons why users aren’t fond of changing their passwords is forgetfulness. Everybody likes convenience, and there’s nothing more convenient than having one password for all accounts (no matter how much of a security nightmare it might sound like).
Password managers are an excellent way to circumvent this issue as they encourage the use of varying passwords for each account, all stored and encrypted safely so that the user can easily reach them if needed.
Here are some password managers to get you started:
Each of these has its own pros and cons, so do your research on which one is the best for your needs and budget. On top of that, don’t forget to encourage employees to use strong passwords and have a robust policy in place for regularly updating passwords.
6. Use 2-factor authentication
In some instances, passwords just aren’t enough. Adding another level of security through the use of 2FA is a great step towards improved IT infrastructure—especially as methods to breach security continue to evolve.
2-factor authentication allows your users to log in to company services more securely, even in a remote setting.
7. Utilize encryption software
Another way to improve mobile security in the age of remote work is through the use of encryption software. Encryption exists in many ways—two of our prior suggestions (VPNs and Password Managers) utilize encryption to keep your data safe.
But one of the more obvious ways to use encryption software is by encrypting documents and keeping them password protected. You can use tools like PDF encryptors to help keep any corporate records secure and away from prying eyes.
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8. Keep your systems updated
A huge part of why you want to keep your devices updated is because of the security benefits that come with the updates. Making sure your systems are always up-to-date ensures you are always getting the best available base-level security for your device.
It might be more convenient to click on “Update later” now, but not updating your applications and systems to their latest versions can actually make your device more vulnerable to security issues.
9. Properly dispose of hardware
Last but certainly not least is the proper disposal of hardware. Mobile device security and privacy don’t just matter when an employee is working; it is also just as relevant after offboarding.
An offboarding process that properly facilitates the removal of company data from mobile devices is imperative to a secure WFH framework. In the instances when the company owns the devices and employees have to give them back, make sure there is proper protocol in place for the return (i.e., the company sends a shipping label with instructions).
Mobile device security isn’t a pretty topic, but it is essential to keep your business running well, especially if you are a remote-first company.
Given the collective mindset changes worldwide, it isn’t unreasonable to think that remote work is here to stay. If you leverage remote work properly and have a robust privacy, cyber, and physical security policy in place, you might even onboard more top talent than you expected!
And if you’re a freelancer concerned about security, these suggestions should also apply to you—albeit on a smaller scale.
Roy Emmerson is the co-founder of TechTimes.com, a B2B SaaS platform that helps businesses stay up-to-date on the latest technology trends. With over a decade of experience in the tech industry, Roy is a thought leader in the field and is passionate about helping companies embrace new technologies to improve their operations and drive growth.