Will Remote Working be the New Way to Go?

    As solitary working becomes the new norm owing to social distancing, buying a phone and a laptop to become a remote workers must also match with the greater responsibility of self-discipline, professional image, networking opportunities, training and daily motivation.

    Dr. Bright Mawudor, Head of Cybersecurity, IS guiding Lilian Mutegi, former Senior Tech Writer, CIO East Africa through steps of enhancing online security.

    Although cultures die-hard, COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus seems to have not only pulled a first one on people but imposed social  distancing, a new global norm at workplaces and other spaces where meetings must be held face-to-face.

    The impact of disruption in businesses where conventional one-on-one meetings among representatives from various entities have to converge with investors are steadily fading off.

    Playing on Fears and Concerns

    With the first rush of efforts playing on fears and concerns, COVID-19 seem to have started a journey of breeding a support of solitary culture within organizations with staff working away from their regular offices.

    Seemingly, forcing a new way of life immediately the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a pandemic; businesses are halting all operations or finding ways to continue functioning, while taking into account social distancing measures recommended by governments and health agencies.

    “Considering that COVID-19 has the potential to disrupt the continuity of operations in organizations as a cyber-intrusion or natural health disaster, it is time that those privileged to lead the digital transformation and operation teams in corporate business set-ups to quickly adjust.”

    David Igweta, CIO & COO, HF Group

    Both digital point-of-meeting platforms and video conferencing have become the organization’s new best friends, helping companies maintain business as usual while devising remote-working initiatives.

    C-Suite is Under Pressure

    In situations like these, the role of CIOs, COOs, CISOs and CTOs have become more key. The C-Suite are under pressure to make sudden shifts in operations and ensure their workforce have all the support and necessary technology to enable them to work from home.

    As social distancing purposed to uphold safety of people gains momentum, working in solitary according to the leadership of various organizations continue to demand discipline particularly in the corporate circles and government.

    David Igewta, CIO & COO, HF Group

    Noting that while it remains easier for people to get in the mood to work when everybody else around is working, David Igweta, CIO & COO, HF Group is assertive that organizations have no choice but to deploy new ways of working in response to the obvious business disruptions occassioned by the global coronavirus health crisis.

    Continuity of Operations

    “Considering that COVID-19 has the potential to disrupt the continuity of operations as well as cyber-intrusion and natural health disaster, it is time that those privileged to lead the digital transformation and operation teams to quickly adjust and conform with the new way of life,” said Igweta.

    While observing that the prevailing situation is a wake-up call to organizations, Igweta who released his entire team to operate remotely from home and branches stressed that this is a moment to as well review the traditional channels and operations that would be impacted by the outbreak as companies improve the value of digital channels, products and operations.

    Professional Image

    For solitary workers, re-creating the workplace goes beyond buying a phone and a laptop. Lone workers must also take greater responsibility for their own professional image, networking opportunities, training and daily motivation.

    According to Dr. Bright Mawudor, Head of Cybersecurity, IS (formerly Internet Solutions), as companies and government agencies send their employees home to avoid contact with the coronavirus, many cybersecurity teams are exposed to a floodgate of IT headaches and security challenges.

    “Every time an employee connects to their corporate network from home, they’re creating possible access points for hackers to exploit,” said Dr. Mawudor.

    He stressed that while those using company-provided laptops are more likely protected by internal safety measures, they could still be vulnerable if their security software are not updated or their remote network connection isn’t perfectly configured. “The bigger problem is if employees would ignorantly us their own equipment that security teams can’t monitor for malicious traffic,” he averred.

    Pivoting from Desktops

    The challenge, observed Dr. Mawudor could overwhelm security personnel, especially in companies that have previously discouraged employees from working from home. Pivoting from office desktops to laptops at home should be an ongoing project that security teams, particularly in large companies should execute over months.

    Cyber criminals are according to Dr. Mawudor ramping up their tactics to take advantage of those who may have inadequate or naive security postures, more especially during these times that they are privy to people’s fear over coronavirus.

    “People working from home are easily distracted, especially if they are normally used to working in the office, and they will mix work with personal email and web browsing,” said Michie as he expressed fears that the sudden switch to work from home poses a wider range of security challenges.

    Naive Security Postures

    Should companies mind the gap? Well according to Mawudor, As organizations rush to shift their businesses and classes online, the cyber criminals are ramping up cyber tactics to take advantage of those who may have inadequate or naive security postures as a result. Given the challenges in securing work and learn-from-home environments, the attack surface represents an attractive opportunity for threat actors.

    Michael Michie, CIO, TripleOKLaw

    Michael Michie, CIO at TripleOKLaw said: “While working from home is not new, the challenge that’s likely to emerge with instant migration of people from enterprise and learning institution networks that are closely monitored and secured, to largely un-monitored and often un-secure home Wi-Fi networks, is how to deal with cyber-criminals all out to cash on the opportunity.”

    “Users migrating outside the perimeter-based security tools will most likely have higher exposure to phishing and network attacks,” Michie observed and that the huge influx of people working at home has expanded the places hackers can exploit.

    As companies across the East Africa region come to grips with this new normal, hackers, stressed Michie are tweaking their attacks by sending phishing emails that claim to be about the coronavirus or purport to be from a trusted health agency to leverage fear of the global pandemic.

    Michie further notes that there has been a “flood” of cyber-scams and hacking attempts related to the virus. “Bad guys have rapidly moved in,” he quipped.

    There has also been a surge of hackers targeting work-from-home tools, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which companies use to let employees re-create their secure office connections.

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