Maintaining Security for Customers Working Remotely
A recent IWG survey  suggests that over the past decade, 83% of businesses have instituted or are planning to institute a flexible remote work policy. Thanks to mobile devices, cloud platforms, and other technology, many employees today can work from any location, at any time. While this flexibility is foundational to how many businesses work, remote work does come with some risks. Managed services providers (MSPs) need to be able to support their customers in enabling secure remote work for their employees.
What Does Working Remotely Mean?
Working remotely is a mode of work in which the employee or professional performs typical tasks from a location other than their designated office building. Remote work can be executed at home, in a secondary office, in a coffee shop, or even in another country. Some employees work remotely on a permanent or near-permanent basis, while others work remotely only under specific circumstances.
Because digital files have entirely replaced paper files at many companies, a larger proportion of professionals are now able to perform their jobs effectively from anywhere with an internet connection. As this gains popularity in the workforce, employees are beginning to prioritize flexible work when they look for jobs—80% of US workers would choose a job that offered flexible work over one that didn’t. To position themselves as forward-thinking and expand the talent pool from which they can hire from, many organizations are now scrambling to incorporate remote work policies—but this decision doesn’t come without the potential for new security vulnerabilities.
Is Working Remotely Secure?
Working remotely can be secure, but end users must be more careful when dealing with data outside of a company’s physical IT network. Poor end-user practices and insecure configurations can end up putting user accounts and business data at risk.
MSPs need secure remote access for working with their customers. After all, they often provide critical services remotely, rather than visiting the office every time a customer needs assistance. But in today’s digital age, it’s just as important that MSPs ensure their customers implement best practices for their own remote workers. They can provide remote employees with the tools and support they need to stay secure, which helps protect business data and integrity overall.
MSPs looking to help their customers support remote work should consider the following tips:
- Ensure password protection: When working remotely, end users often need to access sensitive business data and files. They might log into a business platform that offers a similar functionality and display as their office desktop, allowing them to access the files they need to execute their responsibilities. Employees shouldn’t be able to access this data openly. They should be required to use unique passwords to log in.
To prevent unauthorized access, it’s necessary that MSPs help their customers implement effective password protection. Protect files by ensuring end users are utilizing strong passwords and changing those passwords as needed. Ensure users follow best practices for combining letters, numbers, and special characters. For automated protection, implement appropriate remote work software.
- Use two-step verification: MSPs can build on password best practices by implementing two-step verification, which is a type of two-factor authentication (2FA). In two-step verification, the user first inputs the password they already know. Then the system sends a code to their verified email or phone number. The user then inputs this code to access the system.
This type of authentication is far more secure than a password alone. A hacker could potentially learn a person’s password—for example, through phishing. But it’s difficult for the hacker to also gain access to the automatically generated code. Two-step verification provides an extra layer of security for a business allowing remote workers to access its data.
- Avoid unknown Wi-Fi: When working remotely, many users may be tempted to hop on the most convenient available Wi-Fi signal to get their work done. But cyber hackers can easily access devices on insecure networks or set up fake networks that trick users into joining. It is better to use a personal hotspot or a VPN—as long as you use other security measures like two-step verification at the same time.
- Use the cloud to handle data: For most remote work, there’s no reason that employees need direct access to the internal business network. Instead, MSPs can help businesses store their data on a password-protected cloud that can be accessed from any location. What’s more, these cloud applications are convenient—they allow for instant access, file sharing, and even collaboration between remote and in-office workers.
Helping Customers Enable Remote Work Policies
MSPs can do a few things to support customers in their endeavors to allow remote work for their employees. One is to offer or encourage mandatory staff security awareness training for their customers. This can help ensure that customers are working to keep themselves safe when they work remotely.
For an option that has less room for human error, however, MSPs should consider a password management solution like SolarWinds® Passportal. Passportal is a cloud-based tool, making it convenient for MSPs to use from anywhere, on any connected device. By utilizing Passportal, MSPs gain automated tools for storing and managing passwords for their customers—replacing messy and insecure spreadsheets. Passportal also offers tools to help prevent typical attacks, like dictionary and brute force hacks.
Passportal also supports remote work through the Documentation Manager feature. Centralized, cloud-based documentation makes it easier to onboard technicians and ensure practices are consistent for remote customers. Keep your operating procedures, licensing, and other critical documentation in one system and access them from anywhere.
- Traveling? Protect Customers from Cybercriminals on the Road
- Cybersecurity Tip #26: User Remote Access Management
- Best Practices for Remote Access
SolarWinds® adds Passportal suite to its MSP product portfolio. MSP security, simplified. SolarWinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager is a SOC 2 certified, RAPID 7 tested, award winning platform.
Grow your business faster with the world's first unified platform for true password management and secure IT documentation. More than 2,000 best-in-class MSPs around the world are leveraging our security, automation, and rapid access client knowledge to out preform the competition.