Securing Communication Channels During COVID-19

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The future of work is still unknown. As we wade through the daily commentary, everyone guesses what the "new normal" will look like in the future.

What we do know is that business and industry, worldwide, have had to pivot quickly to create Remote Workforce policies.  Business leaders and HR departments leaned on secure communication channels to walk employees into the new reality.

To fully understand the landscape, it is helpful to pause and reflect to a time before the COVID crisis. As new employees were onboarded, they received a guide to the policies and best practices, including communication and security. Many signed a pledge to follow the guidelines.  Some businesses may have held a periodic policy review, while many did not.

But what happened during the COVID-19 crisis?

Today’s work environment during COVID-19

Fast-forward to today. Many of our employees are now part of the Remote Workforce or just returning to the office environment. To understand today’s climate, we must understand the outside factors impeding a distributed team. Here are a few considerations:

  • During their time out of the office, some employees may have depended on public WiFi to complete business tasks.
  • Time at home became hectic for many. Between having a house full of action, homeschooling, and limited office space, business devices such as tablets and laptops may have a dual purpose between business and personal.
  • Some may have used a personal mobile device for business, and many participated in online meetings.
  • Without a group or team channel, some set up a chat within Facebook Groups

Recognizing the risks involved with the new world of remote work, both federal and state government agencies compiled guidelines to secure corporate data. One risk is apparent, the risk of online meetings. 

The Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of Homeland Security, created an eBook, Guidance for Securing Video Conferencing. Tips within this five- page free publication are a value when creating your corporate plan.

Answers from Jeremy Kaikko & Kurt Schneider—MainSpring vCIOs

How will employees remain steadfast to the company policies and best practices? How can we both plan for the “new normal” and correct some underlying issues to provide secure communication channels?

To find out, I sat down with MainSpring teammates, Jeremy and Kurt.  Follow along as we discuss the future of remote work and the challenges facing IT staffing and infrastructure today.

It takes 21 days to form a lifestyle habit. Most employees have been out of the office and part of the remote workforce for four months. What work-from-home habits have crept into their business day? 

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce surveyed over 1,000 businesses and learned that business leaders want to address two challenges as their employees return and their business re-opens. 

  1. They want to restore worker confidence.
  2. They have liability concerns.  

Some leaders may think that liability concerns of COVID-19 are only related to the contagious virus. But what happens when employees bring their newly cemented bad habits back to the workplace? What tips can you provide to secure communications as employees return to work?

Kurt:  Establish a written business continuity plan for working remotely and returning to the office. Some examples are staggering departments on given days, separating the office geographically, limiting shared space like conference rooms or lunchrooms by following social distancing, size of the group, and personal protective equipment.

That's an excellent point.  Perhaps, companies should not rely on plans written in the past and distributed by HR only when onboarding a new employee. It is time to create a new Business Continuity Plan—for both remote work and a return to the workplace. It is time to update the continuity plan and redistribute, maybe even host an online video seminar.

Video conferencing has moved from selective use to a frequent and mainstay tool for business and government teams. What tips can you provide to control access and securely manage files and screen shares?

Jeremy:  There are many options available to secure a video conference. I would recommend not using a personal room for meeting, so that you are always generating unique meeting IDs. If someone has access to a recurring meeting ID that you use, they can hypothetically connect to any random meeting at any time. I would also recommend avoiding the posting of meeting IDs on social media or public-facing sites as then your session is much more likely to get hijacked. Finally, many platforms offer the option of a waiting room, to maintain control of the meeting.

Kurt: As a best practice, separate the voice and data within the videoconferencing. Use your office or mobile phone for voice and your computer for the video. The benefit of this is so if your internet freezes up due to bandwidth, you can remain on the call until you can restore the video portion.

Additionally, recording the meeting allows attendees to go back and revisit the conversation or training and is a great tool to begin to create a library for reference.

If you are hosting a large group, muting the attendees minimizes talking over each other, allows you to better facilitate the conversation and reduce background noise. There is also a setting to restrict attendees from being able to screen share.

Tell us about Microsoft TEAMS and why it is a secure choice for teleconferencing.

Kurt: TEAMS is part of your Office 365 license, which means any participant must be connected to your Active Directory internally with the permissions activated to use TEAMS.

Is Microsoft TEAMS the secure choice for teleconferencing?

Jeremy:  It  is one choice, but there are several secure teleconferencing tools that make sense in a variety of deployments. Most of the tools have similar features as well. One significant advantage of MS TEAMS is that the license is included as part of Office 365, making it highly scalable for an organization currently using Office 365. Organizations can then look to reduce the number of total applications in use and standardize on a single platform.

Secure your future with a communication action plan

In the last four months, we learned that open and transparent communication within the workforce saved the business. It kept employees engaged, motivated, and productive. The conversation became the light; it fought employee loneliness and became the source for creative problem-solving.  

Communication also brought liability. By creating an action plan, you can have secure communication channels.  If you would like to create and adopt a comprehensive, secure employee communication plan, consider starting with the MainSpring Automated Security Awareness Program.  The best way to launch a plan is to first build a “human firewall for your organization”. 

Meet the MainSpring Team…

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