Security Risks for Telecommuters

Telecommuting has security risks that are different from those found in traditional ofice situations.

By Sue Poremba | Posted Jun 3, 2010
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Is there a better business arrangement than telecommuting?  Employees can work in the comfort of their home and save money on gas, business clothes and vending machine raids.  For the employer, less money needs to be allocated for office space and productive workers can be kept on the payroll even if they move across the country. The flexibility of telecommuting is especially nice (I was able to help my daughter with her new baby and never missed a day of work, despite being 3000 miles from my office). It's often a win-win for everybody.

However (there's always a however), telecommuting has security risks that are different from those found in traditional office situations. Before allowing employees to work from an off-site location, companies should consider telecommuting security policies. Telecommuters must be instructed that potential security risks include:

  • Letting family members use the work computer. The computer used for business should have one user: the employee. The more people who use a computer, the more chances for it to be infected with malicious malware or for information to be accidentally shared. And along that line of thinking...
  • Using the work computer for a personal computer. There are reasons your business doesn't allow you to visit certain websites or install unauthorized software in the office, and those reasons extend to home. Better to play games and do your shopping on your own computer, using a personal e-mail account.
  • Using unsecure wireless connections. Much has been said about using Wi-Fi in public places like coffee shops and libraries and the risks involved. But don't forget about the home wireless setup. If you aren't sure your home Internet is secure, consider using an old-fashioned cable connection.
  • Backing up the computer outside the company network. Confidential business information shouldn't be saved on a commercial backup service or on external hard drives.
  • Altering security or administrative settings. The settings are meant to protect company data. Messing around with them puts the data at risk.
  • Exposing company information to non-employees. People are nosy. They will look at what's on your computer screen or the spreadsheets you printed out. 

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