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COVID-19 to test technology for working remotely – and securely

working remotely, laptop, ImageQuest

The coronavirus pandemic has sharply focused attention on working remotely.

Dozens of articles now offer advice on how to stay focused, how to battle feelings of isolation. Just a few discuss the technology needed to do this.

Many of our clients work with protected data, so it’s not as simple as setting aside some space for an office in the home, adding a web conferencing account, and firing up a laptop.

Regulated companies  – such as mortgage companies, financial services, law firms, and medical billing companies – have the flexibility to allow staff to work remotely. But at the same time their workers need to work with protected data offsite  – from their homes, or at a client’s location, or other sites.

With data being accessed outside the controlled corporate environment, regulated companies must use measures that ensure remote workers don’t dramatically increase the risk of a breach. These workers must have the IT security tools and compliance measures necessary to protect the data they use.

This includes:

  • Sufficient broadband capacity for communications and file transfer;
  • A robust and secure Wi-Fi signal, ideally segregated from other users in the location;
  • A reputable VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, with end-to-end encryption;
  • Two-factor authentication activated on all accounts;
  • Data stored in a secure, compliant cloud system where employees can work on the data but not download it.
  • An email security program, beyond the email software, that stops many phishing efforts and spam.

Also helpful – internal messaging programs such as Microsoft Teams or Slack and other cloud-based collaboration tools.

These measures ensure that home or remote setups provide the security and compliance controls required for protected data. It is not an overnight quick fix, as organizations also need to ensure a remote worker, once set up, isn’t blocked from accessing the information they need because they are logging in remotely instead of booting up internally.

COVID-19 may be the “stress test” of remote work, due to many more people logging into work from home in the coming weeks. But the need to support remote work seems unlikely to dissipate after the pandemic ends.

The portion of the U.S. workforce working remotely grew nearly 117 percent from 2005 to 2017 –  from 1.8 million to 3.9 million – according to a study of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs. 5G technology will only accelerate that growth.

We have helped many of our clients incorporate the right technology to protect their data, yet allow their team to work remotely. If you would like to learn more about what’s needed, contact us. Ask for Jay Mallory or Milton Bartley.