The COVID-19 outbreak has large portions of the workforce working form home. Businesses should ask themselves how they can facilitate a remote work situation without compromising on cybersecurity.
For the individual: securing your home office
As an employee you have a responsibility to contribute to the security of your organization. For organizations with an established practice for remote work, this may not pose much of a challenge. For others, there may be a lack of preparedness and worker’s are left with working from their personal devices without much guidance. First of all, follow the guidelines from your workplace. For those who do not have such guidelines, here are some things all of us can do to improve security in practice:
- Be careful with links and attachments in e-mail, social media messages and on collaboration tols such as Slack and Teams. You can expect phishing positing as information about the current disease outbreak.
- Agree upon a backup communications channel with your closest colleagues in case Teams/Slack/etc is down.
- Make sure the computer and smartphone you are working from is up-to-date
- Use a user account without adminstrative privileges while performing day-to-day work.
- If using a shared device, make sure you have your own account that is password protected.
- Run anti-virus software on your computer.
For the firm: ensure your workforce are able to stay productive from the home office
Many workers are not used to working remotely, and the difference in access to co-workers and systems can be a real productivity challenge. Try to provide the necessary tools, and try to provide training and documentation to help people who are not used to this way of working get into a new habit. Don’t cut off social interactions, use collaboration tools wisely. Good training in the use of productivity tool is good for cybersecurity too, as we wrote about in our recent post Fighting hackers with productivity tools. In addition, here are some things to think about for companies having to move to a primarily remote workforce:
- Make sure your access gateways have sufficient capacity for the number of connections (e.g. your VPN solution).
- Ensure middle-managers check in on their employees regularly through chat and collaboration tools, exactly like they would do by talking to employees in the office. We all have a need to be seen, we still need feedback when working remotely.
- Have a pre-arranged business continuity plan in case your primary tools fail; downtime may be longer for major cloud providers too if large portions of their workforce is ill or quarantined. Backup channels for communications, local copies of important data should be considered for your critical functions.
- Create a collection of how-to’s and make them available to all, to make sure the new working enviornment is not too much of a stumbling block.
- If you can, allow more flexible working hours, as working from home while watching the kids and and pets will give workers other challenges than they are used to in the office. If you normally work 8 hours per day, perhaps it now makes sense to do 2 hours in the morning, 4 during mid-day and 2 in the evening?
With the right precautions we may be able to remeain productive and collectively limit the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, while creating working habits that can bring us better work-life balance and a lower carbon footprint in the long run.