As states begin to lift stay-at-home orders, many offices are re-opening their doors. They are re-establishing their operations and balancing recalling essential staff to the office and evaluating the future of working from home (WFH).
Office life will find a new normal, but that reality will require flexible and strategic leaders.
Reinventing Office Space
Forget business as it was. Social distancing is here to stay and will force a reinvention of the office space. Cubicles will become more like desk hotels. Employees need more room to work and higher walls to keep everyone safe. Similarly, shared spaces, such as bathrooms and breakrooms, will require a redesign.
- Will people take a number or make an appointment for the breakroom?
- What about bathrooms or hallways? When staff only has 5-feet of space, how can they maintain the recommended 6-feet of social distance?
- How will elevators be kept clean and safe?
These are big questions, and they require answers, equally important is the larger issue of cybersecurity concerns in the age of COVID-19.
A New Normal in Office Technology
Specific technologies have already started to become obsolete. The desk phone is finally dead in many industries. The demands on mobility increased, and that caused other tools to become ubiquitous. The needs of the COVID-19 world pushed many companies to route calls to mobile phones or adopt softphone technology, where a computer or smartphone can function as the primary communication device. At the same time, virtual meetings and teleconferences became the way people connect.
Together, those technologies introduced new efficiencies. Cameras, headsets, and microphones will become the new standard in business operations. Still, that reality presents a new concern: how secure is your conversation?
WFH and Compromised Security
With the nearly instant shift from Work-From-Office (WFO) staff to WFH staff, IT departments in all businesses did whatever had to be done. Security was secondary to enabling the workforce and business. In many companies, IT departments compromised security to get their employees up and running.
Productivity is priority number one. Security is 1.1. Everything else is secondary.
Those security compromises must be addressed in a way that doesn’t close off the WFH employee but enables them to shift to WFO AND WFH model. Further, the compromised security that occurred initially must be addressed in earnest.
Smart Security Measures
Rethink how your services, applications, and systems are accessed from insecure networks (e.g., home networks). While it is unlikely that an organization can take responsibility for individual home networks, the need for a strong security posture still stands. A more enduring approach is to design your systems to support access from various networks. This requires strategic thinking and a sound fundamental understanding of business technology.
For instance, how are you going to protect the corporate data that people downloaded to their home computers after they return to the office? The data is still there.
Your company needs to implement the right security measures before making additional staff moves.
Start with the Basics
Updating all operating systems is an effective and simple place to begin. These are frequently outdated, and create vulnerabilities. In April 2020, Microsoft released 113 security updates to Windows 10. Most of these apply to Windows 7, but Windows 7 is no longer supported. Given that 26% of the computers in the world still run Windows 7, and most of those are in people’s homes according to Netmarketshare, there are now 113 new ways that someone could compromise those Windows 7 systems.
Adopt a Password Policy
Traditional passwords are outdated. The number of characters in your password will drive more security than complexity. We recommend that users pick a 16-character passphrase as the new minimum. A passphrase like “my dog has fleas” is a 16-character passphrase that would currently take over a thousand years to crack and is easy to remember.
Change this passphrase once every six months to maintain effective security practices. Passphrases and their respective policies must be implemented for every account, even the executive staff.
Adopt Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) leverages an existing user device, like a smartphone or token, to verify a known quantity, like a passphrase. Once the MFA/2FA is established, it only requires the passphrase. Unrecognized devices will require an authentication process that involves sending a code to a registered device for a human to acknowledge.
Not everyone will be returning to the office. While increased productivity and lower costs will incentivize some organizations, others will still need to support dual office and remote environments. I expect many roles will never come back to the office.
Companies of all sizes will need to prepare for a new office landscape after COVID-19 and implementing new cybersecurity measures to support both WFO and WFH should be the first place they start. If you have questions about how to manage a secure WFO and WHF environment, reach out to your Aldrich Technology Advisor today.
Meet the Author
Vice President, Business Strategy
Aldrich Technology LLC
Peter Adams leads business strategy for Aldrich Technology. Prior to Aldrich, Peter founded and ran Lighthouse Information Systems, a West Coast technology consultancy focused on leading clients through technological and operational challenges in order to promote growth and facilitate successful systems. While running Lighthouse for more than 35 years, Peter served clients across countless industries,…
- ERP selection and implementation
- Operations and process analysis
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- Business assessments