Remote work data protection: The bad, the weird, and the good.

Remote work provides endless topics to cover.

Today's focus could have been on employee wellness, for example. Or tech innovation. Or employer empowerment. But it's not.

This one's a biggie.

We're sharing our thoughts on three key aspects of remote work data protection:

  • Why remote-centric companies risk bad news in terms of data protection
  • Why evolving rules and regulations can be so confusing (okay, flat out weird) at times
  • Why there's good news for organizations looking to boost their data security for remote workers

Let's go.

Data security while working from home.

Last summer, a Gallup survey indicated that 8 out of 10 workers are either hybrid or remote. That figure's more likely to rise than drop. As it does, so will potential data security risks.

Think about the different ways in which remote work can risk the exposure of sensitive data:

  • Most company VPNs fail to keep up with the number of workers trying to access the same network. That forces traffic congestion; and makes data protection harder.
  • Fewer in-person meetings means greater reliance on email and chat functions, the content of which can be ripe for data leaks.
  • Home networks tend to be less protected than their office equivalents, a fact not lost on would-be hackers.
  • Terabytes' worth of sensitive data is now stored in the cloud. Companies without the right cloud security strategies in place risk having that data exposed.

Whether your remote teams broker chicken feed contracts or patent financial algorithms: the underlying data they work with falls under the shadow of internal and external data protection regulations.

The bad: What are the main risks of insufficient data protection?

The data privacy stakes couldn't be higher for remote workforces, with password problems alone accounting for 80% of hacking breaches according to Verizon.

And data security, working from home, is one hot potato. With a net of different, overlapping regulations in place across different countries, three major associated challenges are never far away:

  • Eye-watering external fines

    Different external regulations have different penalty frameworks. But inadequate data protection — and subsequent non-compliance — can leave you paying huge fines. If your company is subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), for example, you can pay as much as $7,500 for an individual violation. Bear in mind that consumers also have the right to sue you for damages.

    In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) responded to Amazon's wayward treatment of cookies with a €35 million fine. Ouch.

  • Reputational damage

    Perhaps Abraham Lincoln said it best. “Reputation is like fine china. Once broken, it's very hard to repair.” All kinds of companies with remote workforces, from enterprises to startups, have had to learn this the hard way.

    Equifax, a credit reporting agency, saw a 33 point drop in its Buzz score (a reputation benchmark) after revealing it had been subject to a data breach.

    British Airways' reputation also nosedived following a similar event. Even if you have the same level of market share as those examples, you risk hemorrhaging customers to your rivals — with no guarantee they'll return.

  • Individual penalties

    It's not just companies that cough up huge fines. Individuals can also find themselves facing civil and criminal penalties in relation to data mismanagement. Working from home doesn't make this possibility any less likely. As an example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can result in workers paying fines as high as $250,000 (and as even 10 years imprisonment).

The weird: Why remote data protection can be confusing for everyone involved.

With so many different and evolving data regulations to keep an eye on, staying on the right side of them can feel like a thankless task. Even with a checklist, your workforce doesn't have time to scan through the latest amendments to state-specific requirements. And while keeping abreast of current and future legislation is a sensible move for employers, it costs time and expertise to do so effectively.

Check out our curated selection of data privacy developments below as a reminder. Each posits slightly different requirements, and came into effect via a different timeline. In terms of external requirements, is it any wonder remote working data protection can come unstuck so easily?

US data privacy laws

  • California Privacy Rights Act & Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act: January 1 2023

  • Connecticut Data Privacy Act & Colorado Data Privacy Act: July 1 2023

  • Utah Consumer Privacy Act: December 31 2023

EU regulatory stances

  • French Blocking Statute amended April 2022
  • Transatlantic Privacy Data Privacy Framework (TBC)

The good: Data security for remote workers is easier than you think.

It's not all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, in fact: cybersecurity awareness continues to improve at companies of all shapes and sizes.

A recent poll showed that 97% of organizations surveyed had already implemented security awareness measures within the last 12 months.

Throw in the availability of remote native tools, and the prospects for remote workforce data protection look brighter than ever.

We'd love to talk all about what that tool might look like here, but we've already done so elsewhere.

(Suffice to say, it'd prevent bad news from happening in the first place, navigate your industry's regulations automatically, and support your team without any of the fuss).

Sounds good, doesn't it?


Additional resources.

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Introducing Cubeless - Simple and Comprehensive Remote Workforce Security

Remote work security veteran Treb Ryan covers the top challenges of securing your remote workforce, with a little help from Cubeless.

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Creating a work from home security checklist for your team

Learn how to build a work from home security checklist for your workforce. Includes recommendations for what you should and shouldn’t include.

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How to conduct a risk assessment for remote workers.

Get proven tips for conducting risk assessments for your remote team. Learn associated recommendations for more effective mitigation strategies.