Cyber Liability Exposures for Work-at-Home Employees

27. April 2016 08:32

woman working on her computer in her kitchen

Telecommuting is an effective way for small businesses to go green. Even if you only let your employees work from home once a month, you’re helping to cut down commuter pollution. Plus, fewer employees in the office can mean maintaining a smaller space, which can reduce its carbon footprint.

There are drawbacks, though. For starters, telecommuters may be a data breach risk for your business. In order to minimize your business’s cyber liability exposures, an employee’s at-home setup needs to be as secure as what you use in the office.

Avoid Data Breaches by Maintaining Control over Tech

Company-issued hardware for remote employees helps manage who has access to the business’s network and information.

Ron Schlecht, Jr. (@btb_schlecht), founder and managing partner of BTB Security (@thebtbgroup), recommends giving a remote employee a wireless router that is set up for their work laptop. “They just have to go home and plug in the router,” he says. “Their work laptop will work as needed, and you’re ensured that it’s set up properly.”

Schlecht also suggests giving work-from-home employees a company computer, too. That way you can ensure it has adequate protection software and that it is encrypted and password protected. “If it’s stolen from home, it will be protected with encryption,” says Schlecht. “If it’s password protected, it will prevent prying eyes or use by unintended users.”

Those unintended users are often family and friends. But as Schlecht points out, if the computer belongs to the business, “it gives you a reason to tell employees that their family can’t work on the laptop as well.”

The takeaway: When you control the devices, you have a better chance of controlling the security. “If there’s justification in having people work from home, spend the money to do it correctly," says Schlecht.

For more tips on ensuring employees have a secure home network, review the National Security Agency’s “Best Practices for Keeping Your Home Network Secure” [PDF].

Reduce Cyber Risks with a VPN

If you can’t afford to give employees additional hardware, you can still let them work from home while protecting your data. Unfortunately, that can be hard to do if your employee enjoys their telecommute from the comfort of the neighborhood coffee shop.

Conducting business over a public Wi-Fi hotspot is risky, says Karen Mesoznik, inbound marketing manager at SaferVPN (@SaferVPN). These networks can be unsecure and susceptible to snoopers and hackers.

Mesoznik says the solution is to provide employees with easy-to-use virtual private network (VPN) software on all their devices. “Connecting to a VPN allows an employee to encrypt and secure their online traffic – no matter where they browse,” she says.

The takeaway: When employees use their own computers, you have to trust them to be savvy about security. A corporate VPN is one way you can ensure a secure connection for remote workers and give them access to company servers.

Take Proactive Cybersecurity Measures to Prevent Data Breaches

Cybersecurity doesn’t just happen. Take the time to create policies that check your specific cyber risks. Use the Federal Communications Commission’s “Cyberplanner” to customize data protection strategies for your business.

When it comes to data breaches, take Murphy’s Law to heart: “what can go wrong, will go wrong.” No matter how careful you are or how many plans you put in place, a data breach may happen anyway.

That's where Cyber Liability Insurance can help. If a hacker makes it through your firewall, Cyber Liability may help you pay for the fallout, such as…

  • Legal expenses.
  • Affected customer notification expenses.
  • Crisis management and public relations costs.
  • Credit monitoring fees.

Unfortunately, many small-business owners think other commercial insurance policies cover their cyber liability exposures. Take a look at “Why Your General Liability Policy Insurance Doesn’t Cover Data Breaches” to learn why that's not usually the case.

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