The Suddenly Remote Workforce

It’s strange to think about how quickly the world has changed, seemingly overnight. A virus that has plunged the world into global economic and social catastrophe is also forever altering the way you look at cyber security.

Social distancing” basically has forced a lot of companies and business that operated in a “butts in seats” capacity to suddenly go fully remote. Hospitals have sent non-healthcare staff home to do their jobs, and virtually every other business that can function with a workforce that isn’t required to be in person, has followed suit. That’s a huge deal. Huge. Massive.

Think about what this means. Employees that are largely non-technical are headed home to work from their home Internet connections. Let’s ignore the support implication for just a second (which you can’t in the real world, but that’s not your department, per se) and think about what this means for security. Wait … what about compliance?! I guarantee your employees at home aren’t going to have the same clean desk policy you institute and enforce at the office. What about getting your audit passed… well I guess there’s no time to think about that now. Right?

That’s the problem I’m concerned with, right now. That reaction to business continuity without having a plan in place, that throws everything else into “worry about it later” land. Our government is doing this right now and I promise you it’ll have implications for us and the next several generations that we aren’t even thinking about because we’re too busy “doing something” that feels right.

OK, so as you’re reading this you probably have deployed your workforce remote. Your staff went home, and maybe even took monitors and other equipment home with them. What are you thinking about right now, or rather, what should you be doing to keep them and your company safe? Here’s some thoughts, loosely collected, for your evolving checklist.

  • Resist the urge to “enable local admin” for those of you whom have managed to restrict your users’ local administrative rights. Remember you disabled that for a reason. And while people now want to add local printers and random devices and configure things for their home — there needs to be balance, erring on the side of safety and security.
  • Track those assets! When company assets (laptops, monitors, etc) leave the confines of the office, they need to be tracked so that they come back in when the employee leaves, or when it’s decided they come back to the office. Don’t forget to track them!
  • Turn on logging, if you haven’t already. Although, I suspect if you’re not logging enough today, tomorrow won’t look much better.
  • Resist the urge to turn on new and untested technologies. During a crisis is positively the worst time to go testing things you don’t have yet. Do your best with what you have until things return to normal… unless you don’t have the operations staff
  • Outsource the operations you can’t do yourself. This feels natural to say, especially since I’ve spent time at managed providers (or near them) over the last decade or so, but right now you should be focused on your core competencies. Support your business, and let the experts do the things experts are experts at.

I’m Rafal, and I’m a 20+ year veteran of the Cyber Security and technology space. I tend to think with a wide-angle lens, and am unapologetically no-bullsh*t.