Remote Work is going the new normal – a few things to consider…

Don’t expect the days of working from home to end once the pandemic has passed. In fact, some job analysts think the remote-working environment will continue to thrive long after the coronavirus diminishes.

“Remote work has been a growing trend in the workforce in recent years. However, until now, it has not been widely adopted. The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent social isolation measures have caused companies to explore remote work options and implement collaborative tools in an attempt to sustain business through the crisis,” says Rick Gibbs, “As the number of remote workers increases and teams prove they can maintain productivity outside the office, some employers may consider remote work as a permanent solution.”

Gibbs admits that not all companies will want to keep all of their employees out of the office. “This may not be a valid option for every organization or individual. For example, employees who have little or no technological skills may struggle with an entirely remote setup that demands an aptitude in various teamwork platforms and tools,” he says.

Staying connected

Sociologist Jeanne Hurlbert, Ph.D., president of Hurlbert Consulting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, predicts a net increase in individuals working remotely after the pandemic passes but says the extent of permanent future remote workers depends largely on how companies manage their workers in the present. “Both companies and workers must focus on ensuring that employees remain as connected as possible to their co-workers and encourage them also to stay in touch with friends and family,” says Hurlbert, “This will combat the isolation effects that can harm not only employees’ productivity but also their health.”

stay connected covid 19

Cutting costs

Not only will business owners learn to value the effectiveness of employees who work from home, but they’ll also be looking for ways to cut costs, including reducing their overhead costs for expensive office leases. “This could be an option for companies as they attempt to rebound from the current business environment,” says Gibbs.

Companies that own property may see an advantage in reducing their on-site workforce if they can save costs by not maintaining their existing facility. They could also increase revenue by leasing out existing space. If a company is still interested in using a brick-and-mortar location, they might negotiate a better deal because of a reduction in necessary space due to rotating workers.

But that’s not to say companies truly interested in ramping up their online options won’t incur new costs. “[Companies should expect to pay] a dramatic increase in expenditures on teleconferencing capability to reduce travel and lodging expenses locally, regionally, domestically and internationally, particularly with the emergence of virtual or hologram technology, creating an almost ‘you are there’ environment,” says Albert Goldson, executive director of Indo-Brazilian Associates, a global risk-management firm.

Cybersecurity Tips to Consider when Working Remotely

With the global health crisis forcing people worldwide to work from home, there is increasing evidence that malicious actors are using people’s fear to prey on remote workers. Home networks, actions of family members, and the security of workstations can impact your company’s security.

There are some simple steps companies can take to keep safe.

First, you must increase your awareness of current attacker activities and tactics to avoid falling victim to their schemes. Second, you must use secure workstations when working remotely. Attackers are already taking advantage of the current crisis and our strong desire for information and answers. They are using a variety of tactics, but the most common attacks observed are:

  • Phishing Emails: Bad actors are sending emails impersonating trusted sources of information, such as the World Health Organization or CDC, health organizations, universities, government entities, or other official sources to trick recipients into clicking links or opening attachments that can compromise credentials or infect devices with malware.
  • Health Crisis Website and Interactive Map: Bad actors have registered domains and launched sites that host information about the health crisis, or show interactive maps detailing the spread of the virus. Attackers have laced many of these unofficial sites with malware, which commonly leads to ransomware, credential theft, or persistent remote access to workstations.
  • Malicious Apps: Attackers are creating malicious mobile device apps and deploying them to different app stores, mostly Android.

Minimum Standards for Securely Working from Home

To ensure your new work environment is secure when accessing company systems, data, networks, we’ve put together some guidance:

  • Modern Operating System: You should use a company- managed workstation or a personal device with a supported operating system (OS).
  • Patched Operating Systems: You must be current on OS upgrades and patches (no more than 30 days since last patch application) for any workstation from which you conduct business.
  • Patched Browser: You must use a vendor-supported and fully patched browser.
  • Current and Enabled Antivirus: You must have Antivirus installed and operational on any workstation.

    Additional Guidance for Securely Working from Home

  • Email and Web Security:
    ◦ Remain vigilant while reading emails, messages, web browsing, and be aware of common phishing techniques.
    ◦ Exercise heightened caution while engaging with health-based content. In these challenging times, please only seek information on the health crisis from well-known, reputable websites such as the World Health Organization, CDC, or other government websites.
  • Networking:
    ◦ Stay connected to a VPN Client when working from any laptop or desktop, as additional security protections have been added to prevent malicious attacks.
    ◦ Avoid public network access points (i.e., coffee shop WiFi) and stay on your home network anytime possible.
    ◦ Confirm in your wireless router or cable modem that your home WiFi is secured, with WPA2 or WPA3. Ensure insecure features like UPnP are disabled and default logins to IoT devices (smart doorbells, wireless cameras, robot vacuums, thermostats, etc) are changed.
  • Authentication Security: Protect personal accounts with two-factor authentication, staying vigilant with interactions on online platforms. Use strong passwords and a Password Manager.
  • Data Security: Work on documents within company-provided cloud applications to make sure data is safe and being backed up. Do not store company data on personal devices or your computer’s hard drive.
  • General Security: Lock your personal computer when walking away from it (Win+L on Windows or Command+Control+Q on Mac).

Things to Avoid While Working from Home

  • Using unsupported communication platforms to conduct business.
  • Leaving your business accounts logged in on a shared system(s). Instead, log out completely when you have finished your work.
  • Using your personal email(s)/accounts to conduct business.
  • Connecting unknown and untrusted devices (USB sticks, peripherals, etc.) to workstations with access to company networks and system(s).
  • Installing unknown or untrusted software that may put your workstations at risk (unsupported remote desktop, etc.).
  • Waiting to report any adverse events or suspicious activity identified with workstations to your MSP.
  • Using file sharing (P2P), and other high-risk applications on workstations that have access to company services, systems or data.

Stay healthy, safe, and vigilant!