Following the extension of legislation this summer concerning flexible working regulations, remote working provision is top of the agenda for many employers. For business start-ups, it can provide a perfect platform for successfully growing a business – increasing flexibility, improving productivity and reducing overheads. But, while remote working offers many benefits, there are serious security and business challenges that must be considered. In order for remote working to operate successfully, a balance must be struck between the freedom of workers to access the network and a businesses’ need to secure its network effectively. If not used correctly, the technology that enables remote working opens up a number of security challenges. According to recent research , 87% of workers assume responsibility for the security of home PCs used to connect to their company network. Combined with the fact that the average cost of a UK company’s security incident in 2006 was £12,000 , this poses a serious threat to the security of corporate networks and the data held on it. Security and privacy issues are, however, not only limited to the business or home working environment. Remote workers connecting from the increasing numbers of café, for example, are opening up their corporate networks to the threat of malware and unwanted visitors. Hackers are able to intercept data packets or set-up rogue access points, for example, meaning they are able to intercept every piece of data accessed or sent from remote workers’ machines. It is, therefore, imperative that businesses invest in dedicated equipment for remote workers that are configured with the latest security software. Corporate networks also need to be equipped with the most advanced hardware to repel any external threat. In addition to equipping itself (and its remote workers) with the necessary hardware and software to counter any security threat, education is also a key part of safe remote working practices. All remote workers need to be educated on the best methods of securing their systems – from the effective operation of basic security software, such as antivirus and firewalls to more advanced security hardware – to protect against all external threats. IT managers must also ensure that robust security policies exist and are communicated to all employees working remotely. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to connect to a company network is one of the safest methods for ease of connection and security. Its basic function is to use a tunnelling protocol and encryption to keep data secure as it passes through the public Internet and enables an identified user to connect with a specific network.

Working together to address security, accessing business networks remotely need not be a dangerous activity – but an opportunity to drive business performance. Working in close partnership with employees, companies can stay ahead of the game, and ensure that their IT systems and data remain safe.

Sarah Guy is head of communication at ZyXEL UK