It’s no secret that remote or flexible working arrangements have become one of the most important factors when choosing a job. Offering remote work options can help companies find and retain top talent and increase their current employees’ engagement, according to Gallup’s study. 

Companies who want to reap the benefits of remote work are concerned about keeping their data secure under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in May 2018. The GDPR proposed certain roles in which companies should abide by to prevent data breaches and enhance their data security. The main purpose of the GDPR is to protect personal information and reduce the number of data breaches by allowing organizations to have more control over their personal and sensitive data. Putting a remote work policy in place is essential for managing your remote team and keeping your data secure. 

Who must comply?

Companies of all sizes need to ensure GDPR compliance. Whether you’re a startup or a well established business, GDPR compliance is crucial to avoid fines and to reduce the risk of breaches. The GDPR is applicable to all firms located in the EU as well as all firms not located in the EU, but process or hold personal data of EU citizens. All companies that fall under this criteria must prepare for compliance. In the case of a data breach, the company is fined up to 4% of their total annual revenue.   

What constitutes personal data?

According to the GDPR, personal data is any information that can be used to identify an individual. This includes the combination of biographical data, appearance, and workplace information. 

Why do you need a remote working policy? 

Despite the increasing number of companies offering remote job opportunities, 57% of employers don’t have a formal remote work policy. Businesses, large and small should put a strong remote work policy in place to guide their operational model. When working with remote developers, it is essential to ensure that they understand how to gather and access data transparently with respect to the GDPR and individual rights. 

Security risks posed by remote work

The following statistics suggest that the security threats facing organizations is due to the lack of remote working policy. 

In order to establish a remote work policy that covers and regulates data accessibility, check out the following components to ensure GDPR compliance: 

1. Outline developer’s responsibilities 

First and foremost, outline developers’ responsibilities and roles and include a clear description of their daily tasks. Secondly, if you require your developers to abide by the 9 to 5 workday, mention that clearly. However, it’s good to have a fresh mindset by providing independence and giving your developers the flexibility to work whenever convenient. This will help you create a result based environment where results and the efforts behind it are prioritized. 

2. Create a remote access policy 

A remote access policy is simply a set of rules that identify clearly whom should have access to what. It should state clearly the names and the responsibilities of every individual that has the right to access company’s servers. No employees, whether remote or not, should have complete access to the company’s servers or to files they don’t use for their daily tasks. You can restrict certain parts of the site and authorize your developers to access only the data that they need in order to do their job. Make sure that this is clearly stated in your policy. 

3. Implement strong password systems 

According to Imation Corp survey, three in 10 remote workers admitted they did not protect their data with passwords. Hence, implementing strong password policies are a key factor in ensuring data security for your organization. Any access to work related documents, emails, or network should be controlled by strong passwords. To do so, require your developers to integrate the following features: 

4. The use of public Wi-Fi

One of the perks that remote work introduces is the ability to work from anywhere. Remote developers can work from home, a cafe, or from a co-working space. However, connecting to a public Wi-Fi without taking any precautions can put data at risk. Companies who are concerned about their data security should state in their policy that developers are not allowed to use public Wi-Fi. In case your developers have no other option but to use an unsecured network, make sure they use a VPN and limit file sharing. 

5. Encrypt devices 

Encrypt all your remote employees’ devices and enforce data encryption on all devices. You can install an encryption software which encrypts the whole desk or only certain files. Another option is to install a remote-wipe app which erases all data when the device gets stolen or lost. 

6. Set a clear notification procedure 

A clear and actionable procedure should be in place for developers to be able to report breach incidents to authorized individuals. You should make sure your developers understand what constitutes a data breach and they should clearly understand the actions they should take if they discovered such incident.

7. Adjust your policy 

Review your policy from time to time to fill any security gaps and update the regulations according to your needs. 

Find ways to reinforce your system 

Companies require their employees to go for trainings and workshops report higher level of data security awareness. Awareness sessions and workshops are essential, however, it’s important to find other ways to raise awareness and reinforce a strong security system among your employees. Blogs, and podcasts that tell real world examples play a crucial role in bringing their attention to the topic. Gamification is also another way to add a bit of fun and engage your development team about the importance of data security and GDPR compliance. 

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