While remote work throughout this COVID crisis has primarily been working from home, restrictions are now being lifted. And once again, some remote work will include working offsite at external business locations. Here’s how to stay secure.
While remote work throughout this COVID crisis has primarily been working from home, the time is coming soon that some remote work will include working offsite at external business locations.
Clients’ offices and other public locations introduce various connectivity, security and confidentiality risks that are very different from those addressed in the somewhat “static” home environment.
Because of the past year, many firm personnel are now comfortable with their home office setup and have forgotten about the work risks facing them outside, unfortunately.
Accordingly, it is important to review and update remote work policies to ensure they incorporate any new technology, applications, and process lessons learned during the crisis and remind personnel about how to keep their hybrid firm secure—whether they are on the road, working from home or in the office.
With virtually all applications and data residing in the cloud or on firm remote access servers, getting an internet connection is usually one of the first requirements when working in the field. While clients may provide a direct ethernet or WiFi connection, there is no easy way to determine if that connection is safe or compromised.
At a minimum, firms should mandate using a VPN (virtual private network) before utilizing any external internet source, particularly for public WiFi sources such as those found in hotels, airports, coffee shops, etc.
A better solution is to promote using the mobile (4G/5G) hotspot within smartphones and standalone hotspot devices. While they may not be as fast, they are definitely more secure.
Additionally, consistently using a mobile hotspot saves time at the start of each engagement, as the accountant does not have to configure the WiFi connection at each new location.
Cybersecurity laws require that any confidential, personally identifiable information (PII) data stored on a local hard drive is protected with disk encryption and reasonable care.
Utilizing data locally also requires the accountant to be responsible for backing up the data to the network, leading to version control problems and over-writing others’ work.
Disallowing any local data is the better solution. Update policies to ensure data creation and storage happens in the cloud to protect it more effectively.
When going back to physically meeting with clients, either at your firm or a client’s office, it is crucial to not fall back on old habits, such as accepting data on a flash drive (which can lead to a firm’s exposure to malware.)
Post-COVID policies should exclusively promote client use of portals and secure email instead of any physical media. Firms that only accept virtual documents won’t need to worry about returning clients’ source documents. Not only does this save time, but it also ensures the clients’ records stay safe and secure.
Our outsourced IT solution, Right Networks Cloud Premier, includes a portal for efficiently transferring client files and data. Learn more about how firms are using Right Networks Cloud Premier to reduce IT hassles and stay secure.
Most of us have become very comfortable leaving our computers on at home when we go grab a cup of coffee or take a break to walk the dogs. Leaving firm and client data on the screen while working from home has not been identified as much of a risk, and some personnel have even extended the time it takes for their automatic screen lock to invoke. However, leaving a computer display visible in a public space exposes data to prying eyes, particularly if the user walks away from the workstation to get a refill or ask the controller a question.
Using a privacy filter protects against shoulder surfers; however, best practices point to reminding personnel to stay aware of their surroundings and lock down their workstation when they step away. While we don’t recommend leaving a laptop unattended, using a cable lock and automatic screensaver provides basic protection.
As the coronavirus threat subsides, all of us will return to a “new normal” work environment. Undoubtedly, the way we will work will be a hybrid version incorporating the best of working from home, returning to an office environment, and physically meeting with clients.
Be sure to do so safely by taking into account the physical and virtual requirements of this new normal.
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