How To Protect Your Company’s Information in Coworking Spaces
A remote workforce can have enormous benefits for your business. This isn’t just from the perspective of taking advantage of lower overheads, either. The flexibility your employees have can empower them to be more productive and innovative.
Nevertheless, operating from home isn’t always positive or practical for remote employees. A growing number of businesses are providing their employees with access to coworking spaces instead. These are areas shared by employees from multiple different businesses, populated with most of the equipment and amenities they need to function. While this can be positive, it’s vital to recognize how operating in the same space as strangers could present a risk to the integrity of your valuable company data.
What Are the Benefits of Coworking Spaces?
It’s important to understand how the benefits of coworking spaces can make extra security steps worthwhile. The first to be aware of is greater accessibility. Even if your team includes digital nomads, you can help them gain access to spaces almost wherever they happen to be.
You’ll also find key elements of the coworking environment are well-suited to help startups to thrive. There’s greater flexibility in how your employees utilize facilities in line with their needs as you’re not tied to a lease. The fact that coworking spaces are populated with employees from various other startups can also make for great networking opportunities for your employees.
From a practical perspective, coworking spaces include just about everything employees need to be productive. At the most basic level, there are banks of desks for employees to work at using their own equipment. Many will also have a combination of shared spaces, private offices, and meeting rooms. In some cases, there can be podcast studios. Kitchen facilities are standard in most facilities, too. This means your employees have access to all amenities they need to be productive and creative, without the overhead costs of a leased facility.
What Are the Data Security Risks?
Before you can effectively manage the security risks to your organization, it’s important to identify what they are. In coworking spaces, they usually come down to a few key areas. These include:
Shared Network Use
One of the benefits of coworking spaces is that internet access is usually provided. Unfortunately, there are times when a facility’s shared network access could be an information security risk. Unless the facility effectively segments access between users, cybercriminals could purchase a membership to gain access to every device currently utilizing the network. This allows them to steal sensitive data, plant ransomware, and effectively disrupt your operations.
When you have members of your team operating from different spaces, they are naturally going to be engaged in video conferencing occasionally. Unfortunately, simply utilizing a private room isn’t enough to shield any sensitive information being discussed. Camera hacking is a form of cybercrime companies are more vulnerable to with the rise in remote working. Hackers achieve access through trojan malware or by tapping directly into devices that users have neglected to protect with strong passwords. This could potentially see unauthorized users viewing sensitive business meetings and gaining valuable data.
Coworking spaces are fully equipped with bathrooms, kitchen facilities, and often spaces to relax. Unfortunately, if your employees leave their devices unattended to utilize these, this can leave room for cybercriminals to gain access to company data. It doesn’t take long for a hacker to tamper with a laptop or phone to download a virus or gain a photograph of sensitive information.
How Can You Safeguard Your Information?
The good news is that the security risks of coworking spaces aren’t insurmountable. Indeed, the steps it takes to keep your company’s information secure don’t take a great deal of investment. These steps include:
Review Facility Cybersecurity Protocols
Before signing your employees up for memberships with coworking spaces, it’s vital to understand what precautions the facility is already taking. Get to know what encryption methods they use to keep outsiders from the network. Inquire about their approach to segmenting internet access between users to prevent any potential unauthorized breaches on a shared system. Wherever possible, only go with a coworking space that shows as much commitment to cybersecurity as you do.
Provide Employees With VPN Access
One of the key cybersecurity tools for remote employees is a virtual private network (VPN). This creates an encrypted tunnel that protects the privacy of the user when using a public or shared internet connection. By providing your staff with a license to a VPN service, you can help provide an extra layer of security within coworking spaces to prevent breaches.
Ensure Employees Have Cybersecurity Training
Perhaps the most important way to protect your company’s information in a coworking space is by empowering your staff with cybersecurity knowledge. Make sure they have a solid understanding of how their behavior online and in relation to their devices can impact data security. Help them to recognize phishing emails and the potential for other threats wherever they happen to be working from. This should include changing their passwords regularly and keeping device security features switched on at all times.
Coworking spaces have significant benefits for your remote workforce. This includes lower overheads, networking opportunities, and access to great amenities. However, there is potential for data breaches due to public networks, shared spaces, and employee/patron behavior. It’s important to address these by selecting your space carefully and providing your employees with security resources. A little extra cybersecurity attention can ensure your company and your employees can make the most of what coworking spaces have to offer while keeping sensitive info safe.
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