Security Tips and Tricks for the Remote Office

A remote office has to be self-sufficient, in terms of both productivity and security. Learn how to keep your branch or home office as safe as possible.

Many employees work in remote offices, home offices or other locations removed from their business's headquarters. A branch office usually lacks on-site IT or security staff, so securing a branch office—and the information within the office—often requires different tactics than main office security. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your branch offices safe and secure.

Virtual Networks or Cloud Services?

Branch offices may require access to software, applications and data stored on the main office servers. Access to such information needs to be carefully controlled.

A VPN, or virtual private network, securely extends the home office network across the Internet, so home and branch offices can connect to the main server. A VPN requires secure authentication methods to prevent intruders from accessing data. In addition, all branch offices must have up-to-date antivirus software and security applications, as a branch office breach could spread through the VPN to the main servers.

High traffic along VPNs can slow down data transfer rates and interfere with lag-sensitive applications. An alternative is to switch to cloud services, where both data and mission-vital apps are stored remotely and accessed over the Internet. A branch office can then obtain the information it needs without placing the main branches' servers at risk. 

Antivirus and Operating System Updates

Lacking immediate access to IT staff, a branch office needs to ensure that all security programs, software and operating systems are updated regularly. Unfortunately, staff often neglects to install vital updates.

Setting automatic updates for essential software lowers the risk of malware spreading throughout the network. VPN security can also check a remote office's antivirus update signatures and refuse to grant permission to any branch with out-of-date signatures.

Wireless Encryption

Remote offices increasingly use wireless connections to access the Internet. Laptop users are especially likely to use Wi-Fi connections and work from multiple locations. Wireless networks are more vulnerable to hackers and malware attacks.

Any Wi-Fi used for business purposes needs encryption protocols in place. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2 are the most common types of wireless encryption currently in use.

With laptops and mobile devices dominating the computer market, a home office can be truly mobile. Working from coffee shops or internet cafes need not be prohibited, but employers need to impress upon staff that public Wi-Fi is not secure, and sensitive information should never be transmitted over public wireless networks.

Physical Protection

Don’t neglect physical protection for a branch office. Depending on the nature of the company, people may work late hours in small, isolated offices. In such cases a secure lock, alarm system and fireproof safe are vital.

A home office also needs a secure lock. The act of locking or unlocking the office helps at-home workers separate work from home life. In addition, a solid lock prevents children or family pets from damaging office equipment.

Branch offices are especially vulnerable to natural disasters, as they are often located in homes or small office complexes. In addition to regular cloud storage backups, a branch office should regularly backup data to a sturdy external hard drive capable of withstanding severe conditions, and keep this hard drive in a location separate from the office.

Finally, don’t neglect the importance of a good-quality paper shredder. Branch offices are just as vulnerable as main offices to dumpster-divers looking for improperly disposed sensitive documents. A branch office may actually be more vulnerable, as low staff numbers reduce the chance of detecting suspicious activity. All sensitive information should be shredded before disposal.

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