Industry Voice: Eight steps to digital distancing

clock • 3 min read

Maintaining a digital distance is just as important as a social one in the age of coronavirus

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the fragility of many systems we took for granted, from supply chains to economics. Organisations, too, have been feeling the strain of the new normal, as demand for cloud workflows grows and the remote working trend accelerates.

A workforce that has suddenly been forced from the office and had to adapt to home working brings a multitude of risks. Many firms have had to adopt home-based, agile working for the first time; in many cases not as a strategic programme, but as a reactive, tactical move to keep the business afloat.

The perimeter of nearly every organisation has widened far beyond head office, to wherever employees and managers happen to be based, but many organisations lacked plans for that scenario. Even those organisations that have long since enabled remote access to core systems, applications and data may not be equipped to support home working on such a massive scale.

Computing research shows that more than 50 per cent of staff are working remotely at nearly three-quarters of organisations, and 87 per cent of respondents report that this move was in response to the crisis.

In this environment, the threat of security breaches is higher than ever, which is why organisations need to practise ‘digital distancing'.

Just like social distancing aims to reduce shared risks in the physical world, digital distancing does the same for cyber security.

Managers and employees must apply the same sense of collective and personal responsibility to minimising digital risks as they have for limiting the spread of coronavirus; the idea is to limit the risk of malicious intrusions into your immediate cyberspace, affecting both yourself and others using the wider network.

Here are eight tips to help you and your workforce stay both productive and safe, in no particular order:

  • Use a VPN to obfuscate your web traffic, mask your location and IP address, and make it more difficult for outsiders to snoop on your activities
  • Deploy both of your home router networks. Every WiFi router comes with the ability to host two separate WiFi networks; use one for personal content and the other for work. This walls off the corporate one from any risks encountered online by yourself, friends or family members.
  • Think of strong, hard-to-guess passwords. Hackers can use brute force to crack passwords, so use full sentences and unusual combinations of letters and numbers to draw out character length to make it harder for machines to guess.
  • Adopt multi-factor authentication to further minimise the risk of unauthorised access.
  • Use the latest anti-virus/malware/adware protection on all devices, including Macs.
  • Use common sense and good judgement. Be careful who you interact with online and avoid clicking on suspicious links and files.
  • Update all of your devices every Tuesday night to ensure that the latest security patches have been deployed to mitigate against software vulnerabilities.
  • Create a safe room - and beware of your smart home. Home hubs, cameras, and other smart-home devices are well-known targets, and often lack basic security protocols. Dedicate one room in your home to be free of such devices - and keep smart devices off the office network.

When it comes to coronavirus, we're all in this together; and the same can be said of our cyber health. Remember to maintain your digital distance, and think of your colleagues and organisation before taking avoidable risks.

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