Summer vacation may mean rest and relaxation for the legions of workers that take off, but for small business owners it can mean serious security risks. Most workers today use their work computers for personal use, and vice versa -- and that doesn’t stop while on vacation.
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A survey conducted by cloud computing company Pertino found 77% of employees don’t have access to their work systems and files out of the office and as a result 35% of employees load up their computers with files before heading out for vacation, which can put the business at risk. These risks can get heightened in the summer months as employees tote their computer and company data to all corners of the world. Not only does the small business have to worry about the laptop being lost or stolen along with the sensitive data, but they have to worry about criminals intercepting any data traffic if the employee is using the Internet over an unsecure Wi-Fi hotspot.
“It gets down to the challenges that small businesses have today,” says Todd Krautkremer, vice president of marketing at Pertino. “They have demands on their business similar to that of larger enterprises, but lack the ability from a cost and talent perspective.”
It doesn’t help that this generation of workers is more mobile, and if you don’t give them what they need to access business data on the go they, they will find their own way, which usually means putting sensitive information on an unprotected device. At the same time, small businesses are increasingly becoming popular with cyber criminals who view them as easy prey.
Here are three tips to avoid cybersecurity dangers during the summer season.
No. 1: Password protect all business devices.
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It’s inevitable that employees will bring their work computers with them on vacation, so make sure they are data-protected. Hunter Hoffmann, head of US Communications for Hiscox, the insurance company focused on small businesses, says all devices should be inventoried and password protected before the employee heads out for vacation. But having a password isn’t enough, Hoffmann says the small business should make it a policy that employees change passwords frequently and choose ones that are hard to crack.
For instance, the password should include letters, numbers and special characters and shouldn’t be ones used elsewhere.
“Encryption is critical for client privacy. Email, files, folders, calendars and other data should be encrypted,” says Hoffmann. “Data that’s encrypted is harder for hackers to access.”
No. 2: Consider cloud services.
Employees want to stay connected on vacation, even if it’s just to check their email, so it’s incumbent on the small business owner to make that possible or face security risks. A low-cost way to do that is to set up cloud services, whether it’s to access email, customer information or the entire network. By doing that you won’t have to worry about the physical device being lost with sensitive data, since it would all reside online in the cloud.
“Because of cloud computing and technologies, small businesses are getting access to technology that was previously only available to larger more sophisticated organizations,” says Krautkremer. Small business can now access an “enterprise class network that allows mobile workers to work wherever they are.”
No. 3: Track and automatically wipe the devices.
The worst thing a small business owner can do is lose track of the devices employees are using and which ones are being connected to the network.
According to security experts, small business owners not only need to inventory all devices, but they should have some sort of tracking on each that would at the very least alert the business when the devices are lost or stolen. According to Hoffmann, employees should have their GPS tracking option turned on. Another safeguard, says Hoffmann, is to install technology that will remotely wipe the device if it is lost or stolen.