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Security for Remote Workers: A COVID-19 Crisis Planning Guide

This Sunday, the administration announced they were extending the social-distancing guidelines in the United States for another 30 days through the end of April. With no definitive end of COVID-19 in sight, businesses are being required to extend the work from home period for its employees.

As I write this article, I sit at my kitchen table, retrofitted to act as my makeshift desk for the past couple of weeks. With continued quarantine on the calendar, my monitors are placed perfectly to give me a view of the world outside. Is this becoming the corner office I never had? All that’s missing is the upbeat presence of my coworkers.

Unfortunately, many remote workers are missing much more than the hustle and bustle of their team. Unreliable network connection, lack of leadership communication, and other device mishaps are leaving some work from home stations unworkable.

For those able to work from home, there is still at least another month ahead. Ensuring the workstation of you and your employees is operating at top efficiency is a priority that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

It is important that companies have a comprehensive business continuity plan to ensure their products and services remain available, secure, and reliable for their customers and employees. Chief information officers must have an IT strategy to help people be productive from anywhere, to better enable today’s modern workforce.

If successful, they will be positioned to support remote workers with technology that allows their employees to work from anywhere, anytime, and any device. To help you get there, we have created a security guide for remote workers. Below are some solutions and practices to provide a seamless experience for your remote workers.

#1 Set up Virtual Access for Employees

Some employees need to work on physical desktops because of software or hardware requirements. Architects, for example, may not be able to take their robust workstations home, but if you provide them or other designers and engineers with secure remote access to their desktops through company laptops or personal computers, it will keep them productive and able to work from anywhere.

Another issue to consider is laptop availability. Similar to how many households are stocking up on items for their home, companies are ordering laptops in large quantities, leading to a global supply shortage. Proactively stock off-the-shelf laptops to address the supply-chain issue and provide employees access to virtual computers from their personal devices to keep business running even if laptops are unavailable.

Finally, provide literal virtual access. Investing in applications like Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Go to Meeting, or Zoom allows for some sort of normalcy. To keep employee morale up, encourage departments to take part in daily virtual meetings. Keep the ideas flowing with video meetings to inspire collaboration. This may spark ideas that may have not came from the typical conference phone call.

#2 Invest in Cloud Technology

For uninterrupted business, it’s critical to invest in flexible solutions that enable productivity and collaboration regardless of location or device.

Even as you adopt an agile roadmap; it is important to keep the end user in mind. Ensure that the cloud solution you select is responsive to employees and/or customers. Have a continuous improvement mind-set, so you are always looking for opportunities to learn and make your system better. Seize those opportunities that improve your organization’s core goals.

IDC research has shown a connection between companies that digitally transform and companies that do not. What they have found is the ones that proactively update their technology portfolios, are the ones that are successfully disrupting their industries.

#3 Continue to Onboard New Employees

Even though your employees may not be going into offices, it does not mean you should stop hiring, or onboarding new employees for that matter. So, it may not look like the typical hiring process, so what? You just need to make a few adjustments.

Face-to-face meetings are still happening over video conferencing instead of in person. Your internal IT staff can still continue to ship company laptops to your new hires’ homes and securely inform them of their login credentials.

If they need technical assistance getting started, your support technicians can assist them over the phone, email, or chat. New employee orientations or trainings may not be happening on-site, but they can still be presented virtually. Adapting to the current circumstances is the key to overcoming obstacles during this pandemic.

Find new ways to create a virtual company culture for new hires. You can start by sending out a company-wide email introducing employees to any new hires.

#4. Provide Employees with Basic Security Knowledge

Once you do onboard new employees, the first thing you should do is provide them with basic security knowledge. It never hurts to have current employees brush up on this information as well. They should know to be aware of phishing emails, to avoid use of public Wi-Fi, to ensure home Wi-Fi routers are sufficiently secured and to verify the security of the devices they use to get work done.

It is likely that cybercriminals will use this time of vulnerability to their advantage. Targeting those who do not have the knowledge or support team right around the corner, like usual.

Remind employees to avoid clicking links in emails from people they do not know, opening suspicious attachments, and to be on the lookout for social engineering attacks.

Team members must be equipped with this basic security knowledge and know who to go to when help is needed, or suspicious behavior needs to be reported. Ensure you have a support team that is ready to take on this responsibility.

#5 Install Software Updates

Encourage your teams to upgrade their software to the latest version supported under the company’s security policy. Some enterprises lag the release schedule for Apple software, though most do not. Activate automatic updating on all your devices.

#6 Enforce Mandatory Backups

It will be useful to ensure that online backup services are used, if available.

Otherwise, employees should be encouraged to use external drives to back up computers. Many organizations already use a colocation provider to help with data protection.

Backups describes the process of creating and storing copies of data that can be used to protect organizations against data loss. A backup is the process of duplicating important data like documents, data, network configurations, or anything that your business needs to stay operational.

These backups take place at specific, regular intervals and are stored off of your network. These backups make sure that your organization can go back in time and retrieve important data or files in the event you lose or cannot access them for any reason.

Consider this: 93 percent of companies who lose their computer systems for 10+ days due to a disaster, file for bankruptcy within one year, according to the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration.

Colocation facilities are designed to weather nearly any conceivable incident with very minimal downtime.

LightEdge always recommends acquiring space with two or more of our seven-world class facilities to guarantee that your critical IT infrastructure never goes down.

Executing true N+1 redundancy planning can place an enormous burden on the budgets and workloads of IT professionals. By switching to colocation, your organization can maintain control over your data while tapping into the redundancy of professionally designed N+1 cooling, power, and data protection.

#7 Develop a Contingency Plan Now

Even when you think you have thought of everything, something like a global pandemic occurs and destroys your plans.

Ensure that management responsibilities are shared between teams and ensure you put contingency plans in place now in case key personnel get sick. Tech support, password and security management, essential codes and failsafe roles should all be assigned and duplicated.

Disaster recovery and business continuity planning efforts are an important part of any business. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop-in profitability. Businesses cannot rely on insurance alone because it does not cover all of the costs such as customers who move to the competition that was prepared.

Now is a great time to test and update your business continuity and disaster recovery plan.

#8 Set up Multi-factor Authentication

Having a strong password often is not enough, for example, if your credentials are leaked in a data breach. Using multi-factor authentication adds another layer of security and addition protections for employees.

The extra step could be an email or text message confirmation, a biometric method such as facial recognition or a fingerprint scan, or something physical.

Using multi-factor authentication, administrators can adapt the level of support needed using contextual information, such as login behavior patterns, geo-location, and type of login system being accessed.

Multi-factor authentication enables IT admins to rest a little easier, knowing that they have deployed a security strategy that protects the company’s platforms and users alike, thus reducing complexity while ensuring access and boosting the flexibility of remote workers.

#9 Secure Your Home Router

Do you know if you changed your router password when it was first installed? Many people did not, leaving their home network vulnerable. It is important to take simple steps to protect your home network to prevent malicious parties having access to connected devices.

Changing your router password is a good first step, but there are other actions you can take. For example, you should make sure firmware updates are installed so that security vulnerabilities can be patched. The encryption should be set to WPA2 or WPA3.

Restrict inbound and outbound traffic, use the highest level of encryption available, and switch off WPS.

Updating your router’s firmware is an important security measure to help protect your router against the latest threats. Most modern routers allow you to enable notifications to prompt you when the manufacturer makes patches and updates to the router’s available firmware.

LightEdge Can Help Secure Your Remote Workplace

What would happen to your mission critical infrastructure and data if a disaster were to hit this very second? Are you prepared? If not, or if you’re in need of a better disaster recovery solution. thankfully, LightEdge can help. Now that modern IT practices have started to blend physical with virtual, and cloud with on-premises, safeguarding your applications and data requires several tools and methods.

LightEdge is committed to keeping our customers’ IT operations, critical applications, and data protected. We provide the technology and resources our customers require to get back to a production state that meets their RTO and RPO requirements.

LightEdge offers a comprehensive set of disaster recovery solutions to ensure uninterrupted performance of IT operations and mission-critical systems in the event of a disaster.

The reliable availability of business IT is essential to the management and livelihood of every company, large or small. All elements hinge on the dependability of your technology to deliver vital information right when you need it.

Our LightEdge facilities are more advanced than traditional data centers. We have created true Hybrid Solution Centers designed to offer a complete portfolio of high speed, secure, redundant, local cloud services and managed gateways to public clouds through our hardened facilities.

Want to learn more about LightEdge’s disaster recovery and business continuity services? Contact one of our disaster recovery experts to get started or to schedule your private tour of any of our data center facilities. We have disaster recovery, colocation, and business continuity experts standing by to answer any of your questions.



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