working from home

Securing a Corporate Laptop for a Home Network

The business world is embracing and adapting to the possibilities of mobile working at an alarming rate. Thanks in equal parts to the ingenuity of cloud storage and the growing power of laptops and tablets, the ability to take a corporate device home is opening up a world of opportunity to employees, especially when you consider the practicalities of having your data with you at all times. As with most things digital, businesses will often tip in favour of efficiency and practicality over security, not recognising the damage that a home network can do to a corporate machine.

Any business that has access to sensitive client data, in whatever form it takes, should have strong, regularly updated antivirus protection in place. This is the minimum requirement to secure against cybercrime. It is when you take this device outside of your protected network that things become more complicated. Hackers have the ability to enter the personal network of your employee and find their way onto a corporate device that holds confidential data, compromising the whole system.

The security breach can come from a number of interactions that your work laptop will have when on a home network. The simplest breach can come from a family member or friend using the laptop and inviting a virus in through an infected email, or a less than reputable website. This not only compromises the laptop but can also cause irreparable damage when the employee re-joins the corporate network again and spreads the virus throughout the company.

The Internet of Things is yet another route for potential viruses and malware to enter a corporate machine who shares the same network. A compromised printer, for instance, can give hackers a connection to your machine, and there is even a case of a connected fridge distributing spam within a home network. Other laptops you have on the network offer an equal risk, giving cyber criminals the ability to record your corporate data if they gain access. Initially a business may recognise that something unusual is happening, but it is only after careful investigation that the real threat comes to light and you realise that somebody or something is monitoring what you do.

Safeguarding your data should therefore be paramount to any business that allows its employees to work from home on a corporate machine. One way that an organisation can retain its control outside of its premises is to lock the operating system of a work laptop, to prevent employees installing their own software. The alternative to this is to create a dual-boot situation, with a firewall that protects between a work area and a personal one.

Encrypting sensitive data is yet another way to prevent hackers from gaining access to your data, and is usually a simple solution to incorporate into an employee’s routine. Generally a strong encryption solution should be transparent to the user, and be set by the company to encrypt everything on the hard drive or USB stick. If this is not done though, and the encryption is user actioned, then you do rely on your employee having the knowledge and the competence to encrypt the data themselves. This requires education as to why the practice is important and how to do it.

To keep your company and sensitive data protected by potential external attacks you need a multi-layered approach to security. At Digital Pathways we understand the steps necessary to protect your devices and network from attack, regardless of where they are situated. As the mobile working phenomenon shows little signs of slowing down, it is crucial that you have the necessary protection in place before allowing your staff the privilege of utilising a corporate machine outside of the office. If you don’t, then be prepared to face the consequences of inadequate security for your clients.