Secure Outsourcing: Tips for Safely Working with a Remote VA

by | September 21, 2020


Cybersecurity is a constant top concern with companies big and small, especially in a time when remote working is more prevalent. Outsourcing might sound more challenging in a remote work situation, even if made easier once you know everything is digitally secure.

Working with a remote virtual assistant can already help you in expanding remote tasks. Without a proper security checklist, though, you could fall prey to hackers or other cyber thieves.

What areas should you focus on to ensure all work you do with your VA is as safe as possible? Take a look at this thorough list and the steps to take with each.

Securing Your Data

With reams of data being passed daily between a company and a virtual assistant, a security breakdown could easily happen. Statistics show 64% of Americans don’t even know if they have had a data breach, making it all the more dangerous.

It’s true, many types of data breaches happen without anyone even knowing initially. A company may not know about data being compromised until weeks or months later after discovering identities being stolen.

Data breaches fall under various categories as well. Take a look at four of the most common that can happen either undetected or with evidence:

  • Ransomware
  • Malware
  • Phishing
  • Denial of Service Attacks (DoS)

Most of these relate to email, something you’ll often use with your virtual assistant. The most basic approach to security here is to use some kind of cybersecurity software, not including encryption.

Also, internal education on data security is a must as you outsource so the company and the virtual assistant are aware of what to look out for in emails. Malware and phishing schemes usually have common signs that fool too many people. The most common is when a faux company asks for the user to enter personal information by clicking a link.

Using Multi-Factor Authentication

Since outsourcing means different people accessing information from remote locations, using multi-factor authentication is the smartest security route.

This involves those working remotely answering several security questions (or providing multiple passwords) to access databases. Otherwise, passwords could become compromised, particularly if the virtual assistant accesses your information daily.

Using this as a basic security policy is now a standard procedure, despite other tools being available to ensure hackers don’t become a problem. A VPN is a good alternative to multi-factor authentication since it ensures no one eavesdrops on information being sent across a network.

A VPN is also relatively inexpensive, even if it does have one downside. Those who run the VPN have unauthorized access to private information, so it pays to pick one with a reputable reputation.

Database Monitoring

Real-time monitoring is another area to consider seriously, something often found through an outsourcing vendor. Since things can easily happen in real time, having a live monitoring system catches data intrusions in the act.

Two other areas of real-time security to avoid hacking or privilege abuse during data access:

The Use of Firewalls

Many real-time monitoring systems already employ firewalls to prevent network intrusions. While firewalls are sometimes challenging to use (especially in what to block and not block), they also bring more peace of mind for constant data transfer.

Firewall quality all depends on the outsourcing vendor. When vetting a vendor, find out what kind of data security systems they use.

Security Certifications

Vetting the certifications an outsourcing vendor has is just as important. They should have ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 as the most widely recognized security protocols.

In the case of using phones to pass information back and forth, PCI compliance is a must. Check out the PCI Security Standards Council to learn more about why this is so critical to use and to monitor the latest threats.

Without these protocols in place, it could mean legal trouble later if private data from customers or employees ends up being stolen.

Use of the Cloud to Back Up Data

No doubt you’ve used the cloud to store data already. Regardless, do you use it to back up all data in your company? Only partial use of the cloud could bring future problems if a data leak takes place while outsourcing.

Even worse is when a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack occurs. These can shut down networks in an instant, often asking for ransoms to restore the locked data.

What would you do if you and your virtual assistant couldn’t work because the network became locked from a DDoS event? If you use some form of the cloud, you can retrieve everything from there if your on-site server is shut down.

Before looking into the cloud, find out exactly what type of cloud service you’d really need to work well with your VA:

Public Cloud

When using this model, you place all your data in the premises of a cloud company that stores data for many other businesses. This is usually a safer option since you can turn to a remote place to get your data back if a DDoS attack prevents access. How long it takes to retrieve data, though, varies by provider.

Private Cloud

Here, you host the cloud on your own, giving you more security in the process. Still, hosting on your own means the possibility your data is compromised in a DDoS attack. On the other hand, you assure hackers can’t get in because you set up your own security protocols.

Hybrid Cloud

Using a hybrid gives you a combination of public and private cloud. You have a choice which things you want to keep on the public cloud server and other things in the private model. For the utmost safety, the data you most need to keep your company running should go in the public server for immediate access in an emergency.

Community Cloud

You share your cloud service among organizations here if you have more than one location. In certain scenarios, this could work well if one of your locations becomes burdened by a DDoS attack, but other locations still have their cloud servers safe.

In addition to these, consider other cloud services like Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, or Software-as-a-Service. Many other “as a service” features are available, allowing you access to pertinent things in the cloud that keep your process of outsourcing going.

Through the worst cyber calamity, you and your virtual assistant can continue to work by accessing what you need through these cloud options.

The Security of Hiring a VA You Can Trust

Let’s turn to the more human side of security and what you should do to ensure the virtual assistant you hire is one you can trust. Much of this falls on the outsourcing vendor you work with, providing you with the most reputable people.

A few things to consider about your virtual assistant before you hire them through a vendor:

What is Their Education Level?

Just like any job, you want to know they have the educational prowess to take on the duties demanded in your company. Should they not have the proper skills available, this could pose a security risk on its own in doing the job right.

While you can always train virtual assistants, knowing you have one ready to go who already understands their roles (plus security protocols) saves you money and time.

Are They Located in the U.S.?

Working with a remote virtual assistant in another country can also become a security risk if you don’t know much about their background. A vendor outsourcing their assistants from another country could mean playing risk giving them access to your data.

Besides, it also means someone from another country has no skills to properly communicate well enough with customers when taking calls during the day. Being able to hire a VA from the U.S. adds more benefit knowing they speak the languages you expect to prevent confusion and frustration.

Using Background Checks and Password-Saving Tools

A complete background check goes without saying during the vetting process for virtual assistants. Thanks to better digital tools available to do vetting, only the VAs with pristine records get hired for the top jobs.

In addition, password-saving tools should become a part of normal procedure so no one has to enter new passwords during every log-in. Many browsers like Firefox enable this feature nowadays, though separate tools are now available to do the same for heightened security.

Deciding What You Should and Shouldn’t Give to Your VA

Security audits should also be done often in your company to determine where your biggest security vulnerabilities are. A number of areas are perhaps being overlooked, leaving you exposed to any type of cyber threat.

Without proper vetting, your VA could even be a part of that vulnerability. Deciding what kind of data they gain access to should always take top priority since you need to trust them implicitly with sensitive information. A lot of that is likely private data about customers or clients they never want exposed to anyone.

Making a smart decision on this is easier when you have a VA you already trust thanks to the vendor vetting them for you. You still have all freedom to decide what the VA sees and what they don’t see. All of that should become a part of standard security policy as you use for all outsourcing.

Where do you turn to find an outsourcing vendor with virtual assistants you can trust? At Zirtual, you can count on our team to provide the best VA’s in America, complete with hiring only those with the proper credentials.

Visit us to find out more about how we take secure outsourcing seriously with the best security steps in place.