Managing Remote IT Security

You’ve managed to shave costs in this tough economy by hiring more remote workers who don’t require office space, company cars or supervision, but did you stop to consider the computer security issues that can crop up when multiple individuals are accessing your company’s IT infrastructure from afar?

It’s a question that many small to midsized companies are asking themselves as they find ways to outsource more work to third parties. “Whether it’s your own company’s data, or that of a client or business partner, IT security should always be a top concern,” says Jim Farnsworth, founder and senior partner at Denver-based consulting and project management firm Virtualwirks. “It’s particularly important in the virtual work environment, where it can be more difficult to monitor and track activities.”

The good news is that the remote workers themselves also care about security threats. According to a recent survey from mobility vendor Fiberlink, 70% of remote workers would rather get their tasks done on a secure network connection, even if it meant their assignment or work would be late.

On the flip side, one in four of them have either altered security settings or purposefully delayed security updates, while about 50% have downloaded personal pictures and videos (43%) or software for their own use (31%) on their company-issued laptops.

To keep your remote employees on the right track, the best approach involves a combination of employee education and technology tools such as firewalls with passwords that are changed regularly, anti-malware and defenseware, upgrades and patches, home network security and data backup systems.

“Start with your people first, instead of just looking for a quick technology fix,” advises Farnsworth, who tells firms to present all rules and regulations governing IT use before hiring the home-based workers. If you don’t want your employees’ children using company-supplied equipment, be sure to state it in your IT policy manual.

“Screen everyone thoroughly, train them on the proper use of and policies governing technology usage at your firm,” says Farnsworth, “and utilize performance management techniques to control how everyone is accessing and using your company’s data.”