As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, many companies and IT teams are assessing how they can prioritize their employee safety and still maintain regular business operations.

The solution many companies are turning to is requiring employees to work from home to avoid potential illnesses. Most recently, Google has recommended all North American employees work from home if their role allows it. To help ease the burden on businesses, Microsoft, Google, LogMeIn, Cisco Webex, and Zoom are providing free remote working tools.

Whether your company is already heavily invested in cloud collaboration tools or just migrated, your IT team will have to prepare in various ways to avoid cybersecurity risks or interruptions to business. “When supporting a remote workforce, understand that security controls shift. Therefore, firewalls, DNS, and IDS/IPS could be ineffective when employees head home. Most environments that support VPNs should be able to protect the remote user, be sure to account for the bandwidth of users and remote desktop sessions,” said Dan Garcia, Senior Information Security Engineer II at Datto, Backupify’s parent company.

The CDC has released some best practices for a disease outbreak plan:

  • Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, visit the Department of Labor’s external icon and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s external icon websites).
  • Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.

In addition, we spoke with customers and experts across our business to get their best practices and advice for how IT teams can enable employees to remain secure through all potential remote work scenarios.

  • Use a Secure WiFi Network: let employees know that they need to work on a secure, private home network instead of relying on public WiFi. Remind users that if employees send their data through an unsecured WiFi connection, they lose the power of privacy making it possible for cybercriminals to intercept company data. They may be putting both personal and company information at risk if they are accessing their email accounts or sending sensitive data over a public WiFi network. It’s essential to ensure employee networks are secure through the use of a VPN and a strong password that isn’t easily cracked. According to Andy Katz, Network Solution Engineer at Datto, the main issue in public WiFi is the potential for eavesdropping. “If you connect to a public WiFi environment that doesn’t require any authentication using WPA you’re network communication has many elements in the transmission that go over clear text and there is also a greater potential for rogue APs that can attempt to get in the middle of transactions that you would typically trust such as a VPN or banking website.”
  • Secure Home Workstations: Ensure employees have fully patched and updated anti-virus and anti-malware software. It’s important to train your users to follow the same best practices they would as if they were in the office, and report any suspicious activity or concerns to IT
  • Send out your Office 365 and G Suite training guides: with the influx of workers in collaboration apps, it’s the perfect time to refresh their memories of the tips and tricks of each platform in order to keep calls and ticket submissions down. If you don’t have your own user guides prepared, Microsoft and Google offer resources that can help both new users (Office 365 basics and G Suite basics) and the resident experts (Office 365 modern workplace training and G Suite support).
  • Brush up on cloud admin tools: familiarize yourself with where security or recovery gaps might exist in your collaboration platform of choice and be ready to support in the event of outages or data loss. Checkout Downdetector to keep employees in the loop.

For the latest information on COVID-19, follow the CDC information page with FAQs, situation updates, and more.