In our Covid world, “running twice as fast” has involved the need for rapid focus on a variety of issues managerial, technical, procedural, legal, and personal. Considerable research and reaction have already been accomplished. It remains to be seen the extent to which our newly implemented practices and procedures will be temporary or permanent, sufficient or in need of refinement and/or expansion. Or what new technologies proffered by other companies – also running “twice as fast” – will be necessary or available for adoption.
One thing we do know is that it’s important that our Work-From-Home (WFH) staff remain at all times as productive as possible. “Uptime” is important.
There are two important areas which, if “broken,” will result in disruption, downtime, or both: Security and Continuity.
WFH security concerns have been around for years. Many of us have long lugged laptops to and from work even while on vacation! (After an urgent office call, I had to get off at Interstate 40’s “Middle of Nowhere” exit to find a McDonald’s with WiFi.)
Basic security issues are well known, but bear repeating because of their importance.
- Is the employee using a personal desktop or laptop PC for company business? This is never a good idea and should be prohibited. Conversely, the company device ought not be used for general web surfing, interesting videos, playing Minecraft, or opening email attachments from Aunt Mabel.
- Is working on behalf of the company funneled through a virtual private network (VPN)? Are all files accessed thereby housed on servers – corporate or cloud? On the flip side, are connections made via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)? Brute force attacks are reported to have “rocketed” since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
- Is the corporate laptop fully managed by some level of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) that enforces strong passwords, protects corporate data and infrastructure, ensures software and security patches are in place, and anti-virus protections current?
- Has an assessment been made of the employee’s on-premises network? Is the WiFi router firmware current? Is WPA2 protocol used and is access controlled by strong passwords? Is it a dual- or tri-band device, allowing for separation between company-related traffic and the myriad of personal endpoints in many homes (smartphones, streaming devices, and the ever-growing number of IoT devices)? Should a new device be purchased? Should it be pre-approved by the employer? Should the employer buy or cover part of the cost if an upgrade is needed?
- Finally, have WFH employees been warned – often – about bad actors trying to exploit WFH, using references to Covid-19, the WHO, or CDC as subject matter for phishing attacks., Have procedures been defined and disseminated outlining actions to be taken when a security breach is suspected (e.g., unexpected new programs appearing, laptop performance inexplicably degrading, strange pop-ups appearing, or loss of mouse or keyboard control)?
As our story begins, we find the WFH employee diligently working from home. Suddenly the lights go out. The cable guy down the street cuts off service. Frustrated, our hero throws up his arms in frustration and knocks over his Red Bull energy drink, dousing the keyboard. This scares the nearby snoozing cat who then blindly leaps into the monitor, knocking it over. Our hero leaps forward to save the monitor, tripping over the power cord, and sending the laptop into a rapid pirouette to the hard tile floor.
Who ya gonna call?
How quickly can our hero get back to business?
- Is a procedure for emergency support documented?
- How busy is Tech Support, and can they provide a timely response?
- How quickly can repairs be made or replacement parts acquired?
- Can equipment be quickly serviced at the office or is a house call unavoidable?
- If employee-owned equipment used for WFH needs replacement, who writes the check?
- Is the telephone number for the cable company ready, at hand?
- What’s the backup plan? How long before Internet service is restored? Options?
- Hot-Spot connection via smartphone?
- Panera Bread? McDonalds? The local library? Who’s open at this hour?
Working from home is of little benefit if it’s not working at home.
Each WFH employee should know what steps to take if/when “the lights go out.”
To protect the WFH employee’s ability to perform, be productive, and enjoy job satisfaction a variety of issues must be considered. Though only Security and Continuity have been discussed here, they are “front and center” to his or her smoothly and satisfactorily contributing to the overall success of the employer.
 According to William Altman, Senior Analyst at the Global Cyber Center of NYC, “Organizations of all kinds are facing an uptick in email-based threats, endpoint-security gaps and other problems as a result of the sudden switch to a fully remote workforce.”