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Five Rules for Remote Working

Stay Cyber Secure

Working from home has become the new normal for almost anyone with an office-based job. Bringing with it many benefits but also a number of additional challenges.  Most importantly, home workers now need to become much more active in managing their own cyber security.

In order for businesses to feel more secure it is essential that your workforce follows these five simple rules to reduce the likelihood of a cyber incident and the resulting impact on the business.

Rule One: Stop and Think

Be careful about who you share data with, and how you share it.  Is it really necessary to send that spreadsheet, client presentation, HR data etc? If so, add passwords to the most sensitive documents and follow up with the recipient to ensure it has gone to the correct email address.

Always question documents received from outside of your network; even if you know and trust the sender.  Although your company’s own internal security might be strong you can’t presume the same of your contacts, no matter how honest they might personally be.

Rule Two: Remain Vigilant

Always be vigilant, especially if connecting to your work network via a personal device.  This means that you shouldn’t allow yourself to go into ‘home’ mode.  Follow office rules:

  • Don’t go onto websites you wouldn’t visit in the office.
  • Don’t click on unknown links.
  • Don’t leave your computer unlocked.
  • Don’t download videoconferencing (or any other) software not explicitly condoned by your company.

If you are a manager, it is important when working remotely to ensure employees are continually reminded to remain vigilant and to treat their work computers and other technology (especially phones) in the way required by company policy.  This can be done via daily or weekly email reminders, to ensure that cyber security always remains top of mind for your staff.

Rule Three: Don’t Ignore Software Updates

This one is simple.  Keep on top of software updates.  These are now more crucial than ever and you should restart your computer to allow updates to complete as soon as it is viable to do so.  In addition shut down computers at the end of every day to allow overnight updates to occur.

Rule Four: Use VPNs

A VPN provides a secure and properly encrypted web connection for you and your employees’ work devices to access the work network. By encrypting traffic – where an employee has to connect to the internal network via public internet – it reduces the chances of exposing them, in particular to man-in-the-middle-attacks, but also to other intrusions from cyber criminals.

Rule Five: Backup Data

If you have responsibility for projects which contain data (which these days means most of us), make sure that you confirm with your IT team or IT service provider that backups of your files are occurring daily.  To make these effective, set up protocols with teams to save all work to the company network, not onto the desktop.  This ensures it will be backed up and also that it is protected by a more robust level of security.  The new environment has driven us a huge step further towards paperless working, and this means that protecting our online information is even more important.

The article below, by Tom Malcolm, Head of UK Cyber at New Dawn Risk, was originally published in Insurance Day magazine on 3rd February 2020.

Most people look forward to retirement, and many have a ‘bucket list’ of ideas for what they want to do.

However, in the rapidly moving world of cyber risk, one fact of growing importance that is regularly missed by new retirees is that the withdrawal of the corporate umbrella also means the withdrawal of corporate cyber protection.  Once the company laptop and phone are handed in, retirees are on their own with IT, and will, possibly for the first time in their lives, have to navigate their own way through the murky waters of cyber safety.

A critical multiplier of this problem is that not-for-profit organisations which interact with the retired community tend to have much lower levels of cyber protection than actively commercial companies.  This means that this area is high risk and yet also severely under-protected – an almost perfect storm of increased vulnerability.

Active retirement

Most people who retire want to try something new, and the most common list of ideas includes taking holidays, volunteering or joining a club.

Unfortunately, all of these activities are characterised by high levels of cyber risk.  Take travel.  With 81% of holidays being booked online (Association of British Travel Agents) it is estimated that only 29% of travel sites offer full protection against phishing attempts.  Holiday money firm Travelex was subject to a large-scale ransomware attack in January 2020. Although denied by Travelex, the hackers claim they had been in the Travelex systems for six months and had taken 5GB of sensitive customer data.

Meanwhile, local clubs and volunteer organisations also carry high data risk for participants.  Almost all clubs and volunteer organisations have extremely low levels of data protection and limited cyber awareness.  Payment protocols for club membership fees can be very insecure.   Sports and social clubs and the like often have amateur committees, which leave levels of cyber awareness low-level and subject to chance.  For example, if the club treasurer’s computer gets hacked, the direct debit and payment details of all members can quite easily be accessed.

With the exception of a few of the largest, very few charities also have the manpower to manage and protect fully against cyber risk.  At their core, charities are looking to help the people they serve. This is done by maximising the money spent on their chosen sector and so additional spend and allocation of time on other security matters is limited. 

But at the same time, they hold funds as well as personal, financial and commercial data.  There are signs that this risk is now being recognised.  The number of charities who treat cyber security as a high priority has gone up to 75% in 2019, compared with just 53% the year before, and is now at the same level as businesses.

With good news at the charity level, individuals here can help widen awareness of the issue by focusing on cyber security for any small community organisations that they’re involved in, and by asking whether some form of protection can be afforded.

Ill health and social care

Many older retirees have issues with health, mobility and care.  People become more vulnerable, and yet the organisations that they interact with are not famed for their ability to protect the people they look after from hacking and related issues.

Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been at the centre of large-scale hacking incidents more than once, while care homes are acknowledged as often lacking strong central IT resources, let alone the risk factors that come from large numbers of care workers having direct access to residents’ belongings, including bank cards and data.  A glance at the findings of Australia’s recent Royal Commission on care for the elderly gives some horrifying evidence of how regularly those who live in homes can be preyed upon by the teams that are supposed to care for them.

Individuals can do little to influence hospitals or doctors’ surgeries, but here the risks have become more well-known since the 2017 Wannacry attack paralysed 60% of NHS services.  We are all reliant on both private and NHS organisations investing in cyber protection and ensuring that they prioritise the safe management of patient data.  Of course, it is worth considering that private medical facilities are in some ways more of a risk than the NHS because, although better funded, they will hold details of patients’ payment information alongside their medical records, doubling the impact for those involved.

Creating a cyber shield

Those who are cared for at home will also be vulnerable.  They are often alone, accessible to casual visitors, and with their bank details and cash available to anyone who visits the home.  The risks are obvious, but what is less clear is how to take action to build a complete protective shield around the growing retired community, helping them to ensure that they, their data and their finances are protected throughout the later years of their lives.

Families cannot shoulder the whole burden.  So, what can those businesses who work with the elderly do to protect their community?  Care homes are a particularly vulnerable part of the front line, as they hold a huge amount of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) data on their patients.  Much work could be done here, in terms of increased training and awareness for care home staff and for families of residents, combined with an up to date and well-maintained IT infrastructure. Insurance coverage also needs to be increased, with a step change needed in residential home groups awareness of the need to protect their residents from cyber risk at every level.

Solutions can be found

Action is needed, and the insurance industry can help with this.  Care homes, private hospitals and charities are at the front line. All of them need to tighten their cyber protections, and also develop greater awareness of the need to knit together full protection for the people in their care. Let’s work with these groups to build their educations and protection as much as we can.

Tom Malcolm is Head of UK Cyber at New Dawn Risk

The original article can be viewed here