More and more businesses in our days shift toward remote working. Most of them have made remote working permanent. This new working environment demands different security requirements than working from centralized offices, especially when it comes to maintaining the security of personal data in processing, in order to comply with the requirements of the GDPR.

Although working remotely has a range of benefits and allows a company to continue operating, it brings significant security risks. The secure processing of personal data is one of the risks that a company need to find ways to manage.

The security of personal data is the responsibility of both your company and your company’s personnel and continuing to maintain appropriate safeguards to protect the personal data in process is critical when working remotely. Your company should develop appropriate security controls and your company’s personnel must implement these security controls.

Here is a simple guide with security controls that your company may implement to secure personal data when personnel are working remotely. While these security controls can be used at any time, they are even more important as your company’s personnel is working remotely, from networks that are often less secure than your company’s networks.

Security controls to protect personal data when working remotely:

1) Secure your home office. When you are working from home ensure that you are locking your home office as you lock up the office when you leave for the day. If you are working from your backyard, take your working device inside when you need for example to go for a lunch.

2) Encrypt your devices. Ensure you are using encryption on the devices you are using when working remotely, as for those you are using in your office. Applying encryption is important because if your data is encrypted and there is a breach, the encryption will prevent unauthorised persons from accessing the contents of your device without the relevant encryption code.

3) Try to separate personal and work devices. The use of personal devices create higher risk as to the security of personal data that the company processes, especially when your personal devices may also be used by other family members. Ensure that you have locked your device if you do have to leave it unattended for any reason. You can enable automatic locking to reduce the risk to forget anytime to lock your device. You must take extra care that work devices such USBs and laptops are not lost or misplaced.

4) Control access on personal data. As when all your personnel are working from the company’s office, you should also secure who have access to the personal data when your personnel are working remotely. Ensure that personnel working remotely has access only to the personal data they need to complete their daily tasks.

5) Enable Two-Factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is an identity and access management security method that requires two forms of identification to access resources and data. Two-factor authentication gives businesses the ability to monitor and help safeguard their most vulnerable information and networks. Implementing Two-factor authentication reduce the risk of successful phishing emails and malware infections, especially when you are working remotely.

6) Implement adequate email security controls. If you apply proper email security controls, you can protect the personal data that must be sent through email and prevent phishing attacks. Phishing attacks may come from an attacker who can pose a person in your company and contact your personnel who are working remotely, asking to share sensitive information e.g. personal data. It is important your personnel working remotely to use work email accounts rather their personal ones when they need to communicate for work-related issues, especially when they need to send or receive personal data.

7) Establish a Remote Access Policy. Establishing a Remote Access Policy is important for personnel working remotely to understand his/her responsibilities and follow the relevant security controls required when accessing company’s servers and data remotely.

8) Paper records. When working remotely with paper records that contain personal data, you must take steps to ensure the security and confidentiality of these paper records. Keep them in a locked cabinet and destroy them correctly when you no longer need them. Print documents only when it is essential to do it. Printing documents when working remotely increase the risk that personal data to become disclosed to people who should not see it or simply picked up by garbage services in case the documents being disposed in the regular waste. When it is needed to print documents that contain personal data, ensure that you destroy these documents correctly.

By implementing security controls to protect personal data when your company’s personnel is working remotely, you can reduce the risk a breach of personal data to happen that may result to costly GDPR fines. To sum up, the most important things that you, as the company, can do to stay in compliance with GDPR requirements when you have personnel working remotely are:

  • Develop a cybersecurity policy and ensure provisions for working remotely are included.
  • Train your personnel to ensure that your company’s security controls for protecting personal data are followed.
  • Implement the necessary controls to ensure that your personnel follow your company’s relevant security controls for working remotely.
  • Limit and secure access of personnel working remotely only to personal data that is needed for their daily tasks.

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