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How to prevent data loss with a remote work team?

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Enabling Data Loss Prevention for Remote Work on a Budget

For most companies in Canada, working remotely was not a choice, and the transition was rushed during a crisis. Consequently, companies, especially SMBs are unprepared for the various risks that come with remote work. Canadian business managers have stated that security is a top remote work priority. Luckily, there are a number of ways to prevent data loss prevention in a remote work setting. Today we cover what SMB teams need to know.

Text image reads Mobility alone is unmitigated risk. You need secure remote work solutions.

Threats Businesses Face During Remote Work

It's no surprise that remote work increases the increase of cyberattacks and data loss. By understanding the risks and threats involved, businesses can take informed steps to protect employees and data.

Unsecured Endpoints

One of the most common methods of remote work setups is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which, while more affordable for the business, brings a host of IT challenges. Each personal device (or endpoint) has the potential of becoming a direct pathway for malicious actors to enter the company’s IT infrastructure. Even with VPNs and company-issued devices, endpoint risks are only mitigated and never completely eliminated.

Remote work has led to new communication channels. In an office setting, employees have access to cloud storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox within an organizational setting. However, in a remote setting, they can use these cloud services to transfer confidential data across networks which may be unsafe and harmful to your business. Additionally, some employees may even use personal accounts for this purpose when corporate ones are unavailable for remote use. This leads to data leaking, hacking threats and also increases the risk of rogue adware redirects.

Data Leakage

The possibility of involuntary/accidental data leakage increases considerably with remote work setups. Transfer of data within traditional on-prem systems takes place within a closed-loop but that’s not possible with remote work. Employees access the company network through their personal devices, home internet connections, and even public WiFI. In fact, A survey found that 39% of employees access corporate data on personal data.

Additionally, without proper Data Loss Prevention or DLP training users can screenshot presentations and files, which may include confidential information.

Improper Access Control and Loss of Productivity

In most online workspaces, users are grouped and given roles that determine their access. However, most SMBs do not have the technical knowledge or IT staff to properly set up Identity and Access Management (IAM). This can result in two things. First, the right employees do not have access to the right information and tools, leading to productivity loss, or, everyone has access to everything, which increases security risks. On the other hand, improper IAM can also lead to malicious actors getting access to vital computers, email accounts and vital assets such as software, data, and other business information.

Other challenges faced during the transition from office to work-from-home (WFM) or a hybrid work set up:

  • include poor visibility
  • brute force attacks
  • infected files and apps
  • limited control over home internet
  • maintaining a disaster recovery program (backup and restore)

Data Loss Prevention Strategies for Remote Work

While remote work is becoming mainstream only now, it has been a core part of numerous companies from small-medium businesses (SMBs) to large conglomerates. And over the years, IT experts and strategists have devised various methods and best practices to protect remote workers from cybersecurity threats.

Employee training & culture

One of the most important data loss prevention strategies is to have employee training and build a culture of security in all departments. Staff members can be trained on organizational practices to stop accidental data leaks, and they can get a better idea of how to use programs remotely in a secure manner.

Educating employees about the dangers (and benefits) of secure remote work enables them to work more efficiently - but it cannot be done overnight. The best bet for companies that don’t have existing IT experts would be to hire consultants or a managed IT service to host meetings and memos that are required to ensure that security remains a top priority for employees.

Monitoring sensitive data

Sensitive data and traffic can be monitored in real-time to detect and block both accidental leakages of confidential information or any attempt to deliberately leak this information. Many cloud-based monitoring tools have a logging facility that enables companies to monitor behaviour. Event logs can help to detect brute force attacks and other types of attacks that can lead to data loss. Many companies are also using attack surface maps to gain insights into all owned assets and how they can protect each of them.

Using a VPN service with multi-factor authentication

Using a VPN service is also a viable DLP strategy that can help prevent data loss by encrypting connections between the company's servers and the remote employees. It is also recommended that companies use multi-factor authentication as an additional layer of defence against bad actors.

Leverage cloud security apps

In 2022, SMBs have access to hundreds of cloud security apps that can help to prevent data loss in a remote work setting. Additionally, most of these services have affordable pay-per-use pricing with virtually no upfront cost or vendor lock. Microsoft, in particular, has a massive ecosystem of security-focused services such as MIM, Intune, Azure AD, etc., tailored for small businesses.

More importantly, whichever service you choose, be sure to correctly configure security settings, especially when it comes to firewall and IAM. Admins can put restrictions on which devices are allowed to access specific data. There may also be advanced tools such as remote wipes.

Classifying your data

Another data loss prevention is to group data instead of employees. For this, companies need to discover and classify important data and then implement IT policies accordingly. It is crucial for any small business to be aware of its data and where it is stored, irrespective of the DLP approach.

Additionally, the process of data discovery can be automated through a data discovery tool. These tools can be modified to your requirements to meet specific data regulations.

What Are The Best DLP Tools for Canadian SMBs?

There are a variety of DLP tools available for Canadian SMBs that can help to prevent data loss prevention in a remote setting, and some of them are surprisingly affordable. If you’re looking for a complete DLP solution, then Microsoft 365 is ideal. It is one of the most popular work solutions and is used by over a million companies worldwide. DLP works on this platform through "defining and applying DLP policies." This intuitive method allows you to keep track of data and protect it across Microsoft 365 services, applications, and cloud apps. Sensitive items are automatically detected by deep content analysis.

How To Set Up Microsoft 365 DLP

Photo source: Microsoft

The DLP offered by Microsoft is just one tool in their array of compliance tools. For companies that are already using Microsoft 365 (Word, Powerpoint, Sharepoint, etc), it is easy to implement DLP with three main phases in the life cycle. The first step involves planning, and this requires getting business processes in place and employees trained in the latest data prevention practices. The next step involves preparing your environment for DLP. Policies can be directly applied to data at rest, in use, and in motion. The final step is deployment, and any implementations can first be tested to see the results. Here you can monitor outcomes and implement optimizations.

Overall, Microsoft 365 is a complete solution that covers a wide range of applications and data. It is also one of the most affordable solutions for Canadian small businesses.

Wrapping up: How TUCU Can Help

According to Statistics Canada, remote work is here to stay even as we enter the “new normal” phase in 2022. To stay competitive, businesses must keep their security protocol updated against emerging threats. But most SMBs do not have an IT team that can develop and deploy the right policies and services for data loss prevention.

As a result, most SMBs partner with managed services providers like TUCU to get things done, securely and on time. TUCU is a top-rated IT provider in Toronto, Canada.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can maximize productivity and security in remote working, reach out to TUCU Managed IT Services Inc.  for a free consultation today. We offer complete cloud/ IT management services, including devices, server management, and network management.

Our Toronto IT Support Team is here for you.

Schedule a Discovery Call for options.