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Safe at home? How remote work is impacting cybersecurity now and later.

by Sheron Patrick | Oct 20, 2020 8:46:31 AM

October is National Cybersecurity Month, but in today’s uncertain climate, a heightened awareness of how we interact online may should extend through the rest of the year (and beyond). From smartphones to thermostats to doorbells, seemingly each device we interact with has internet capabilities. Plus, more of us than ever are logging into work from home.

That all adds risk to our daily routines. So, as we become increasingly connected, how can we safeguard the devices we rely on?

Paul Haven, owner and CEO of IT Haven Pro, an IT security solutions management company based in Kennewick, Washington, has more than 25 years of experience in the technology industry. He shared his insights on tech issues both businesses and consumers are facing right now and offered an understanding of what may be coming next.

Working from home was an option only some employers provided prior to the pandemic.

Now, for many organizations, it’s become almost mandatory. What does the future of remote working actually look like?

More of the same. What 2020 has done is accelerate the “work-from-home” or “work-from-anywhere” movement where people can be very diverse about where they are working from. It sped up the technology drastically. Back in April, we felt it because the internet couldn’t keep up with the demand that was being asked of it because so many people were working from home.

If the movement to work from home is growing so rapidly, how does that shift impact brick-and-mortar businesses?

Now that we have the technology able to do so, and businesses can see they are still able to meet or beat their goals, I see a large percentage of the workforce working from home from here on out. If they can do it safely with a lower overhead cost, then I see the new standard of 30-80% of the workforce working from home, depending on the company and their needs.

How have IT security companies like yours been preparing employers whose teams are now having to work remotely?

[We] as managed service providers need to be ready for that need to be able to support them in a secure fashion to be protected on the internet with firewalls, secure DNS, inspect their computers to insure they are not infected from a home network or any other smart devices in their home. To educate businesses so they can educate their employees on the potential cyber dangers of working from home.

What do you see as a next step or where are we going from here?

As businesses start to integrate their employees back to working in the office, whether it be full-time or just a couple days a week with the rest at home, we have seen that’s the type of model that a lot of employees want – to be connected and work from anywhere. The days of desktops are being phased out, and portable laptops with docking stations is the technology we are moving to. It’s not a slow move either. For the most part, we’re already there.

For those business owners needing to improve their company's cybersecurity practices to meet both current and upcoming workforce trends, Haven and Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific collaborated on these simple tips:

  • Remember to save your work and lock your computer when stepping away from your desk.  This applies to personal and corporate PCs alike.
  • Log off. When you are finished for the day, log off your remote PC.  Don’t just lock it or disconnect from it without logging off.
  • Password protect your office cell phone. 
  • Don't click. Watch for any coronavirus (or other) communication asking you to click a link, login or supply a password. These messages should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
  • Never open an attachment, click on links, or reply to messages unless you are 100 percent certain that the source is legitimate, and that the communication was expected.
  • Call to verify. If you get an e-mail requesting you to do a favor for your manager (like purchasing Target gift cards or wire transferring money), always call the person to verify before acting.  Many of these requests are bogus
  • Don't allow remote IT support without verifying the source. Your IT department will communicate with you first before connecting to your computer.  If anyone you don’t recognize calls you and claims to be with your IT department and asks you for your password, Connectwise, Automate, Machine, or TeamViewer ID or other sensitive information, hang up and call your IT department to see if the request was legitimate.
  • Do not accept unsolicited support calls claiming to be from Microsoft, Apple, or other vendors.
  • Avoid pop-up numbers. If a message box pops up with a phone number in it, do not call the number.
  • Always run anti-virus/anti-malware software on your computers, particularly home PCs.  Ensure that your subscription and antivirus definitions are kept up-to date.  Also ensure that Windows PCs are rebooted regularly and that Windows Updates are routinely installed on home systems.

For more cybersecurity tips, visit trust-bbb.org/cybersecurity.

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