Remote Working & Cyber Security
AUGUST 2020

Gregg Knowles

By Gregg Knowles

Technology Director at plan.com

How can businesses maintain cyber security in the age of remote working?


According to a report by the ONS, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in almost 40 per cent of the UK workforce working remotely instead of at their normal place of work. The rapid transition to home working has allowed many businesses to maintain operations and continuity during this uniquely challenging time. But with it has also come greater risk, as organisations struggle to remodel their IT, telecommunications and security infrastructure in order to accommodate a dramatic shift in operating conditions under extremely tight time restrictions.

Many businesses will have had a robust mobile-first digital transformation strategy in place, and those are the firms that will have been able to make the transition with the least disruption – both to the workforce or their customers. However, a significant number will also have been unprepared for the speed at which this change was forced upon them as the Government’s lockdown measures were rolled out. Organisations heavily reliant on physical security, such as call centres and banking institutions, have been forced to adjust current security protocols to facilitate working from home, permitting employees to take desktop equipment home to work or permitting the use of work laptops and devices on home networks. Data security issues need to be considered and re-evaluated in the home environment, where physical privacy screens or audio devices may not be as readily available or as easy to transport from one location to another.

At a very basic level, installing firewalls on every machine and device has never been more important. Even seemingly innocuous devices such as child’s games consoles – or an old, unpatched tablet – all expose new vulnerabilities to an organisation whose equipment is now being used on the same home network. This in itself is not a new issue, as remote users have existed for decades; but on the scale we are seeing now it certainly is.

When it comes to cyber security, businesses should never be afraid of taking the belt and braces approach. Often there are simple and cost-effective steps which can be taken alongside the bigger initiatives which can still play a significant role in a firm’s overall defences. For example, many businesses simply do not use tools they already have access to, or turn on powerful security features which are not on by default. Both Windows and MacOS, for example, include drive encryption technologies which are often not enabled, and email services such as Google Apps or Office365 contain link-scanning phishing protections. Simply exploring what resources businesses already have access to could yield huge time and cost savings, while also having a big impact on mitigating risk when time is of the essence.

Finally, given the current circumstances, there is a heightened need for businesses to proactively monitor their network for potential threats and vulnerabilities, rather than simply reacting to threats as and when they become a problem.

“As with most issues relating to security, one of the hardest components to manage is the so-called “human factor”. This is just one of the reasons why our new my.plan platform enables businesses to see what data is being used on employees’ mobiles, so they can make risk-based decisions as to what should and should not be acceptable use on company devices. "


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