Maintaining Secure Connectivity in the Virtual World

By Brendan Kiely, Co-Founder, ThinScale Technologies

2020 saw many of us quickly shift into a home working model, putting our best foot forward to continue business operations. Remote working has inevitably changed the way we work this year, and it has also changed the minds of many organizational leaders who weren’t fond of this model. They’ve now seen firsthand the benefits that remote working brings to the table, including the high levels of productivity, employee satisfaction, as well as organizations’ ability to collaborate and stay connected in a virtual atmosphere. 42% of the US labor force is now working from home full time, and 57% of employees in the finance sector can (and do) work from home. The financial service sector has the greatest potential to remain mostly remote, with three-quarters of time used for work that can be done remotely without any productivity loss.

Brendan Kiely, ThinScale technologies

While the concept of remote working isn’t particularly new, the pile-up of research and discussions reported on it this year have ramped up its popularity. There are frequent articles and papers on the benefits of remote working: the flexibility it provides, the reduced carbon footprint caused by a dramatic decline in commuting, lowered business expenses, improved business resilience, disaster preparedness, and increased productivity and employee satisfaction or retention levels. But of course, with all the ‘pros’ comes the ‘cons’ too – remote working is not one-size-fits-all. Many don’t benefit from this model due to the loss of social interactions, increased isolation, communication gaps, and a more challenging time trying to stay motivated or focused in a home environment. 

There’s also the issue of maintaining security outside of the office, particularly in finance where information can be highly sensitive. 

Many global outsourcers, contact centers and financial service companies are physically replicating the office environment by moving the office setup directly to the home environment. Employees are working from home via their office computers or were given the flexibility to work on their personal devices. Both options are not secure or compliant with HIPAA or PCI DSS requirements. 39% of workers use personal devices that are less secure than devices provided for work in order to access corporate data in their work from home environment.

The weakest link in any remote environment is the endpoint; the device the employees are working on and the confidential data it stores. As more companies are going digital during the pandemic, cyber threats and data breaches have also increased due to employee negligence and the companies’ inability to manage or protect data effectively. In 2020 itself, we’ve seen a dense spike in phishing attacks and data breaches from the end-user device, which is why our advice to our clients (even before the pandemic) is always to secure your endpoints.

Aside from security, trust in your employees is critical. Companies have a responsibility to ensure how well the employees are set up at home, and they have to provide them with the support to do their best work. The reality is, most employees didn’t sign up for a remote or home working job and might not be able to put their best foot forward under the circumstances. Some have unreliable internet connections, an unstable housing situation or are also in charge of watching children whose schools are currently closed. Remote working today isn’t what we’re used to; it’s unprecedented for so many of us, even the veterans who have been working remotely for the last decade or two. 

To help ease this transition for our new hires and current employees, ThinScale recently introduced a Remote Office Coordinator into the company. This role serves as a point of contact for all things remote working – from a home office budget, onboarding queries, concerns, wellbeing; all in all, simplifying the transition into a home working environment and ensuring that the employees are set up correctly and are meeting requirements. 

We’ve seen the vast benefits of working remotely this year and have put our best effort in transitioning quickly to keep the operations running. The challenge now is maintaining the effectiveness of this environment in the longer run, including tightening security policies, keeping productivity up and boosting employee satisfaction in the way they work.