Remote working during the lockdown: not quite ‘business as usual’, but the right tools and thinking can assist

Stefan van de Giessen - Networks Unlimited
Stefan Van De Giessen, General Manager, Cyber Security Networks Unlimited

Having their employees working from home during the current lockdown phase has become the current ‘new normal’ for many companies around South Africa, and indeed the world.

And as much as people are trying valiantly, it is not quite ‘business as usual’. However, being able to use the right tools, and adjust our thinking, can help significantly while we wait, with hope, to get through the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This is according to Stefan van de Giessen, General Manager and Cybersecurity expert.  “People generally understand that this period of remote working, for most companies, is not part of the usual routine, but rather a phase of trying to work from home during a crisis period. While there are many organisations globally where working from home is more of a norm, whether full-time or in a flexi-manner, in South Africa it is not a relative norm except for a very few, and they are largely freelancers or consultants in the SMME space and so, when employers try to keep the wheels of their businesses turning while their employees work remotely during this lockdown phase, it is important to consider matters from a holistic perspective.

This includes considering factors such as using the right technology tools, being aware that many people will need to be able to work more flexible hours – for example, those who are now also looking after children at home – and having understanding and empathy while staff members try to get more settled.”

Van de Giessen also says some employees will find the adjustment more difficult than others. “However, organisations that are able to give their employees the right tools can empower them in important ways, at least from a technology perspective.” This allows  continuity to provide critical services to other essential service companies, and to play a part in helping to keep the wheels of industry and business turning over as best they may during the lockdown period.

“From a practical perspective, we use remote email systems, and also check in with each other, and our technology partners, using online connectivity apps for online meetings. We do our best to make allowances for those with children, and everyone has become used to the sudden barking of dogs during an online meeting, or South Africa’s informal national bird, the hadeda!

Van de Giessen says “as his organisation distributes best-of-breed solutions within the converged technology, data centre, networking, and security landscapes, they do practise what we preach by making sure that employees are comprehensively covered from cybersecurity and bandwidth perspectives”.

He notes that unfortunately, malware attacks have increased enormously all over the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is borne out by a report from FortiGuard Labs, which says it has documented many malicious attacks taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak theme, such as those appearing to be reports from trusted sources, such as governmental agencies and news outlets,” he says.

“The issue has become so problematic that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a statement on their website titled, Beware of criminals pretending to be WHO. The UN also recently added an advisory on the 29th of February as well, reminding citizens to be vigilant of such scams.”

It is therefore critical to ensure that  employees working remotely are covered by adequate cybersecurity software. This includes all endpoint devices being used for corporate work such as laptops, mobiles and tables, and ensuring software updates.

It is also extremely important – now, more than ever – to make sure that employees do not click on emails from unknown or strange sources, which could be a phishing attack that is intended to introduce malware.”  By Staff Writer