By Daniel Hunter

With the rapid growth in home working, paper documents and digital data are moving in and out of the workplace at an ever-increasing speed, generating some significant information security challenges.

New research from storage and information management company, Iron Mountain, suggests that many employers are failing to provide the support and guidance required to protect their information when employees work from home.

The research reveals that close to two thirds of employees in Europe now work from home for all or part of their time. However, just 18 per cent of firms provide employees guidance on what paper records and electronic data can or cannot be taken out of the office, and only 17 per cent have a formal policy to govern home working. Getting the IT infrastructure right is a problem for many, with 60 per cent of employers not providing appropriate IT equipment and 67 per cent not providing secure company intranet access.

Close to one in four (22 per cent) provide nothing at all for home workers.
Many employers are permitting behaviour that could put their information at risk. This includes using personal email accounts to send and receive work documents (50 per cent), leaving documents lying around the house (29 per cent), and disposing of work-related documents in the household bin (19 per cent).
Around one in 10 (11 per cent) work from a coffee shop, or use an unsecured Wi-Fi network to send and receive work documents (7 per cent). Each of these behaviours leaves information vulnerable to attack or exposure. A resulting data breach could have far-reaching consequences for the business.

Not only are more people working from home, but they are doing so more often. The study showed that 15 per cent of respondents work from home every day, and another 15 per cent do so two-to-four times a week.

“Firms are allowing their most precious business asset — their information — to leave the workplace for a non-secure environment," Christian Toon, Risk and Security, Iron Mountain said.

"Once out of the office, information management best practices, such as the secure storage and destruction of documents, go out the window. It is vital that companies broaden their secure information management processes to account for home offices and remote working. Information security is not all about the IT. Don’t forget the paper ─ fail to do so and the biggest threat to your information might turn out to be your employee’s rubbish bin.”

The study showed that the prevalence of home working varies between job roles. It is most common among those at Director level and above, with a third (32 per cent) of them saying they work from home every day and a further 22 per cent doing so two-to-four times a week. A third (35 per cent) of marketing employees work from home two-to-four times a week, followed by 21 per cent of IT workers. Those in HR and administrative roles were least likely to work from home.

Iron Mountain offers the following guidance for firms looking to support employees working from home:

- Provide clear and practical policies for home working that cover such things as the need to confine work communications to corporate email accounts, and the importance of using a secure network when out of the office.

- Firms should identify and communicate which records should never leave a secure environment. Working from home may not be appropriate for every task.

- Ensure that home working policies outline the responsibilities the employer commits to, such as the provision of the necessary IT equipment and infrastructure, and the responsibilities of the employee to treat company information with care and to follow best practices, such as disposing of documents securely back at the office.

- Regularly train and retrain employees on company policy and guidelines, and be sure to review these frequently to ensure that practices are up to date with the latest trends and business practices.

- Ensure employees have all the IT they need and secure access to the corporate network. This means they can send and receive documents securely and do not need to print off confidential papers in the office “just in case” they needed them at home.

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