The risks of working remotely, and how to protect your data
Scammers are known to strike at times of crisis; this is usually when people and businesses are at their most vulnerable. Now more than ever, it is not advisable for South Africans to only rely on the law to protect their confidential information, as there are a number of unscrupulous operators out there and various ways in which data can be accessed or breached.
For this reason, individuals and businesses alike should be very conscious of how they share their data specifically in a time where working remotely is rapidly becoming the norm.
“South Africa has some advanced legislation that covers how data may be used and what must be disclosed,” says Bradley Du Chenne, CEO of online comparison website Hippo.co.za. “One of the most important considerations is the Protection of Personal Information Act or POPIA, which would require all businesses to act responsibly in the collection, storage and sharing of data.”
These are some of the precautions that businesses should be taking to manage cyber security:
- With the widespread use of online platforms to facilitate the ease of remote work, make employees aware of the types of information that they need to safeguard and how best to do this.
- With a proliferation of video conferencing services, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, make sure that employees only use secure services where the risk of hackers accessing data is reduced.
- Always download software updates for business devices such as; tablets, phone and PC as soon as they become available. These often contain patches for newly discovered security vulnerabilities.
- Make sure that all business electronic devices are equipped with spyware and malware protection, including PC’s, tablets and cell phones. Never use any other devices to access business profiles, internet banking or any websites where business or personal credit card details are required.
- Businesses should prohibit the sharing of work electronic devices. When employees use their work devices at home, no third party should be using or have access to these devices. This reduces the risk of access to protected company information.
- Ensure that you password protect all company devices. If these are stolen or lost, it offers a level of protection against unauthorized persons gaining access to the stored information.”
- As remote working becomes necessary, employees may be tempted to connect to free WiFi networks nearby. As many of these networks are unsecure, this can lead to significant security risks.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) assist in encrypting internet traffic, this is more often implemented when employees are connected to a public Wi-Fi network. If your company has one in place, make sure employees exclusively use the VPN when working and when accessing company information systems remotely.
“It’s a data minefield out there,” says Du Chenne, “If businesses take their data security seriously, and empower their employees to protect all information carefully by only using approved software and tools, they should go a long way to protecting themselves against a data breach.”
As a responsible player in the digital domain, Hippo.co.za encourages regulations and measures that ensure the safety of the consumer’s information and encourages transparency from all South African businesses and brands.