Remote work, which was already a rising trend before COVID-19 sent many businesses into lockdown, is now clearly here to stay. The 50 million employees and contractors who worked remotely during the pandemic aren’t rushing back to the office, and Gallup predicts that on any given day, 37 percent of workers who can work from home will. At the same time, employers are widening the net they use for recruitment efforts, which means more organizations have dispersed employee bases.

While these are welcome developments for employees, they can make matters a bit more complicated for IT departments, who must support and protect company employees and data from afar. The problem is even worse than it seems, according to the Ponemon Institute. Only about half (53 percent) of organizations updated their remote working security policy due to the pandemic.

But there is good news. Some two-thirds (66 percent) of IT leaders who were asked about how their organizations’ security policies have changed cited an increased emphasis on the remote workforce. One area they’ll need to reconsider to bolster remote work security will be their storage options. Fortunately, portable solid state drives (PSSDs) have risen to the occasion.

Why remote work security policies are necessary

When it comes to data security, experts — including the U.S. Department of Commerce — agree: organizations that offer telework, remote access and bring your own device (BYOD) policies will be attacked at some point. It’s not a matter of if but when. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends developing and enforcing a telework security policy and using validated encryption technologies “to protect communications and data stored on the client devices.” Such policies, experts say, should include guidance around security best practices with regard to external storage solutions.

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There are many types of external storage offerings, including PSSDs, removable drives and other remote storage devices. While these can be a boon to employees who need to move data and files from one office to another or offload large files from a laptop or PC, they also require very specific security practices. Since the drives are external, there’s always a risk of loss or theft.

Knowing this, organizations should include policies that protect data when it’s in use and at rest. The best way to do this is to require employees to use company-issued storage devices that have hardware-enabled security built in. The policy should also include acceptable use language so that employees don’t put their data and storage in harm’s way. For example, traveling employees should avoid open, unsecured Wi-Fi connections and public PCs, such as those found in hotel business centers.

Acceptable use also includes allowlisting and blocklisting the types of sites that employees might access, and where they are permitted to store their data, including cloud-based offerings. Remote storage policies should also remind employees that data stored on portable devices must always be encrypted, and that the devices belong in a locked drawer or box when they’re not in use.

How portable SSDs solve remote work security concerns

All those policies can be a lot for employees to keep track of. Fortunately, organizations can narrow their threat plane by looking for portable storage that includes encryption — specifically, devices that feature hardware-based AES-256 encryption, an international advanced standard that uses a chip to encrypt data. Initially developed by NIST and used by the U.S. government to protect classified information, this feature has become a defining feature of enterprise PSSDs, such as Samsung’s T7 Shield. Encryption and decryption with AES-256-enabled devices is automatic thanks to the onboard chip, which means data is protected from brute force attacks, where a bad actor tries to guess the key using a software program. With so many possible combinations supplied by AES-256 encryption, it is extremely difficult to hack into an AES-256-protected device.

In the case of Samsung’s T7 Shield, end users also have the benefit of a rugged rubberized case that covers an aluminum frame. This IP65-rated frame means the PSSD is secured against drops, bumps, dust and water — dangers that many IT organizations fail to include in their security policies. The device, which comes in 1TB and 2TB configurations, uses USB 3.2 Gen 2 and PCIe NVMe for fast data transfer, and it has read/write speeds of up to 1,050/1,000 MB/s.

Of course, there’s more to a remote security policy than buying the right PSSD. Once a policy is written and circulated, organizations should ask their employees to confirm that they’ve read it. In addition, IT should update the policy regularly (once or twice a year at minimum) to include new security threats and technology in the mix. But having the right technology is a solid first step on the road to remote work security.

Not sure if T7 Shield is the right data solution for your remote workers? Browse Samsung’s acclaimed SSD offerings for the right size and form factor for your organization.

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Karen Stealey

Karen J. Stealey is a veteran business, health, lifestyle and technology journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. Her tech and business work has appeared in Forbes, BusinessWeek Online, Adweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MyBusiness Magazine, Government Computer News, Workforce Management, CFO, Crain's New York and Crain's BtoB.

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