Cybersecurity Guidelines Whilst Remote Working

The Epidemic turned Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic, as it was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), impacts our society and economy in many ways. While discussing COVID-19 and remote working, we remember that countries are quarantined, millions of people are forced to stay in their homes, stores are closed, and movements are restricted. All governments are taking measures trying to contain the virus, saving as many lives as possible regardless of the economic cost.

Impact of the Pandemic

Bora’s headquarters are in the beautiful valley of Jalón, Spain. Normally, this time of the year, trees blossom and farmers go to their vineyards to prepare the next crop. But not this year. The Spanish government has imposed very strict measures in an effort to halt the exponentially increasing number of confirmed cases. As with many other companies around the world, the Bora team were directed to work from home.

However, Bora’s case is somewhat unique because its team is spread over two continents and five countries. This geographic diversity is actually a big advantage, because we, the Bora team, are used to working remotely.

Recently, our Joe Pettit on The Human Security Factor podcast with Jenny Radcliffe, mentioned the benefits of being able to work across many time zones. One obvious benefit now is that it is within our team’s DNA to work remotely.

And this exactly what David Turner, Bora Founder says:

“As a technology marketing business, we are used to working with fragmented teams across different geographies. So, business continuity, when we made the decision to work from home was painless.”

Foresight instead of Panic Buying

Kim Crawley in Toronto, Canada agrees:

“Frankly I’ve always worked from home, and I live alone. So the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t affected me as much as most people. In early March, my instincts told me to buy as many nonperishable groceries as I could possibly store in my kitchen. Now I can eat at home for a couple of months without having to go grocery shopping. I guess my instincts are impeccable!”

That’s Kim – always one step ahead! Being proactive is always better than being reactive. Unfortunately, employing a work-from-home mentality isn’t so easy for many businesses.

David Bisson, hailing from New York, explains:

“I’ve long worked from home, so COVID-19 hasn’t affected my work situation. The same cannot be said for millions of employees whom organizations are now asking to work from home.  This sudden transition could threaten an organization’s security.  Employees might not know how to properly configure all the technologies to facilitate their work-from-home status, for instance.”

He adds,

“Even more than that, those who are accustomed to working within an office might feel isolated and disoriented. So much so that they might forget that they still have a responsibility to report suspicious emails and other potential digital security threats that could affect the rest of the organization.”

Kids At Home

Bisson has just brought up one intangible problem related to working from home: feeling isolated and disoriented. Those are sometimes connected with remote working if not implemented well. But there are also some tangible problems, especially when the employee has school-aged kids, such as myself, living in Greece.

For me,the suspension of schools has affected mostly how my family functions. Suddenly you have five kids in the house, without them being able to play outside with their friends, because this is not a holiday. It is an emergency and we are to stay at home. Luckily my wife is a teacher and she has organized their free time with reading, playing their musical instruments, playing board games.

Business Continuity Advice

Therefore, business continuity has worked out pretty well for the Bora team. We are able to provide the same level of services to our clients as we did before – thanks to our inherent flexibility and to technology.

David Turner advises other companies to:

“Adopt technology that allows you to be omnipresent.”

Adding, 

“The advice I would give other companies is to adopt and run your key business management on SaaS apps that can be accessed on PC and mobile in any location. Using services like MS O365, Slack, Asana, Zoom and Xero means that we can do ongoing simple tasks at home ‘out of  hours’ on a  regular basis. Or we can function in the same capacity if we have to abandon the office during a state of emergency. We are equipt to still provide our clients with a great service.”

Secure Remote Working

Working from home means that you must be able to do that securely. Otherwise, it is highly possible that you will see your name in the headlines and not for a good reason. Your employees will most probably use their own equipment – unless you were prudent enough to supply them with corporate laptops or mobile phones. Therefore, you should be able to authenticate them in an effective manner to avoid any bad actors jump into your assets.

I suggest that having a strong and continuous authentication method, supporting multi-factor authentication is no longer an option. Your employees will use their devices from different places; hence you should be able to authenticate them while they are changing locations. On top, this should be done smoothly to avoid any friction or fog which might hamper their productivity.

Shared Access through VPNs

Accessing corporate assets securely is also Kim Crawley’s advice:

“Employers should control and deploy their own VPNs for employees to use for remote access to their networks. You cannot be certain whether a third-party service is keeping logs, regardless of their claims. If your business has fewer than a thousand remote employees and good network bandwidth, you won’t need a lot of machines to do it. OpenVPN and FreeLAN have good software for this.” 

She adds,

“And finally, trust your employees to be productive when they’re working from home! During this pandemic, you’ll likely have no choice. If you expect them to do well, they will.”

The Human Element

Crawley mentioned another crucial factor in the balance of security and convenience: the human element. How can you address the intangible problems of feeling isolated by your colleagues?

David Bisson believes that communication is the key. He says,

“It’s crucial for organizations to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their employees and to let them know they’re not alone.  As part of this process, organizations should provide employees with steps detailing how they can securely and smoothly get up-to-speed with their remote status. They should also send out alerts of new scams targeting remote working employess as a reminder for their employees to report similar ruses.”

It is true that this public health emergency has prompted many businesses to embrace innovation. Many analysts believe that working environments will never be the same again. Remote working, for better or worse, is here to stay.

Stay Healthy

The Bora team wish that above all our friends and clients are healthy and are with their families. That’s what matters most.

And our final word of advice?

#StaySafeStayHome #MenoumeSpiti #RimaniACasa #QuedateEnCasa #RestezalaMaison

Cybersecurity Guidelines Whilst Remote Working

Anastasios Arampatzis

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