Many organizations have already crossed the “working from home”. If you have IT team, you’re most probably used to preparing laptops for staff to use remotely, and setting up mobile phones to accesses company data.
But global concerns over the current (Covid-19) outbreak, and the need to keep staff safely, means that lots of companies may soon and suddenly end up with lots more staff working from home and it’s vital not to let the precautions intended to protect the physical health of your staff turn into a threat to their cybersecurity health at the same time.
Importantly, if you have a colleague who needs to work from home specifically to stay away from the office then you can no longer use the tried-and-tested approach of getting them to come in once to collect their new laptop and phone, and to receive the on-site training that you hope will make them a safer teleworker.
You may end up needing to set remote users up from scratch, entirely remotely, and that might be something you’ve not done a lot of in the past.
So here are our five tips for working from home safely.
Look for security products that offer what’s called an SSP, short for Self-Service Portal. What you are looking for is a service to which a remote user can connect, perhaps with a brand new laptop they ordered themselves, and set it up safely and easily without needing to hand it over to the IT department first.
Many SSPs also allow the user to choose between different levels of access, so they can safely connect up either a personal device (albeit with less access to fewer company systems than they’d get with a dedicated device), or a device that will be used only for company work.
The three key things you want to be able to set up easily and correctly are: encryption, protection and patching.
If users genuinely can’t do their job without access to server X or to system Y, then there’s no point in sending them off to work from home without access to X and Y. Make sure you have got your chosen remote access solution working reliably first – force it on yourself! – before expecting your users to adopt it.
If there are any differences between what they might be used to and what they are going to get, explain the difference clearly – for example, if the emails they receive on their phone will be stripped of attachments, don’t leave them to find that out on their own. They’ll not only be annoyed, but will probably also try to make up their own tricks for bypassing the problem, such as asking colleagues to upload the files to private accounts instead.
If you’re the user, try to be understanding if there are things you used to be able do in the office that you have to manage without at home.
Don’t just leave your users to their own devices (literally or figuratively). If you’ve set up automatic updating for them, make sure you also have a way to check that it’s working, and be prepared to spend time online helping them fix things if they go wrong.
If their security software produces warnings that you know they will have seen, make sure you review those warnings too, and let your users know what they mean and what you expect them to do about any issues that may arise.
Remember that a lot of cyberattacks succeed because the crooks try over and over again until one user makes an innocent mistake – so if the first person to see a new threat has somewhere to report it where they know they won’t be judged or criticised (or, worse still, ignored), they’ll end up helping everyone else.
Teach your users – in fact, this goes for office-based staff as well as teleworkers – only to reach out to you for cybersecurity assistance by using the email address or phone number you gave them. (Consider snail-mailing them a card or a sticker with the details printed on it.)
Shadow IT is where non-IT staff find their own ways of solving technical problems, for convenience or speed.
If you have a bunch of colleagues who are used to working together in the office, but who end up flung apart and unable to meet up, it’s quite likely that they might come up with their own ways of collaborating online – using tools they’ve never tried before.
Sometimes, you might even be happy for them to do this, if it’s a cheap and happy way of boosting team dynamics.
For example, they might open an account with an online white boarding service – perhaps even one you trust perfectly well – on their own credit card and plan to claim it back later. The first risk everyone thinks about in cases like this is, “What if they make a security blunder or leak data they shouldn’t?”
But there’s another problem that lots of companies forget about, namely: what if, instead of being a security disaster, it’s a conspicuous success? A temporary solution put in place to deal with a public health issue might turn into a vibrant and important part of the company’s online presence.
So, make sure you know whose credit card it’s charged to, and make sure you can get access to the account if the person who originally created it forgets the password, or cancels their card.
So-called “shadow IT” isn’t just a risk if it goes wrong – it can turn into a complicated liability if it goes right!