Risks of Telecommuting
by Randy Johnston
Fundamental building blocks that all firms must have to mitigate risk include 1) firewalls, 2) spam control and 3) anti-virus protection. The bad news is that each of these three major product classes doesn’t do as good or comprehensive job as they did last year or in many of the years before that. Why? The intruders and bad guys are getting more sophisticated at writing their code and creating effective attacks. Even the best of the firewall, spam and AV providers are now routinely letting more attacks, bad messages and malware through.
Firewall vendors such as Cisco, WatchGuard and SonicWALL are the best options for protecting your firm today, and entry level versions of these products should be considered for use by telecommuters. Home vendors like DLink, Belkin and Linksys have no chance of protecting your firm, and little chance of protecting telecommuters. As more firms choose to use hosting companies as a public cloud strategy, and more firms allow telecommuting using private cloud technologies like Citrix, Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP, the former Terminal Services), GoToMyPC, LogMeIn Pro or other remote access products, you will need to manage the risks of the remote users and home environments.
Getting Mobility Right for Telecommuters
Many of you have invested in tablets, smartphones and of course portable computers to improve the productivity of your team members, professionals and firm. Have you protected your firm properly by managing all of these mobile tools? Our fundamental advice is to encrypt all mobile devices.
Managing mobile devices properly is difficult. There are many technologies involved from 1) hosting software such as Citrix XenApp, Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View, to 2) wireless and cellular data connections to 3) the devices themselves. If a computer is used on a team member’s home network, other users in the home can infect the team member’s machine and access to your office can be granted via these other home machines. 4) We recommend isolating telecommuter’s business computers from other home users using a hardware firewall. Finally, it is wise to have 5) software that can manage all of your firm’s mobile resources.
The Final Outcome
When telecommuting is done right, team members can work as effectively at home or at a client site as they do at the office. Speed and the use of multiple monitors should be comparable, too. The main things you give up are wasted time spent around the water cooler and on commuting. It is also more difficult to keep engaged, personal relationships. You’ll have to have a plan to keep team members engaged with others in the organization to keep them from being susceptible to predatory hiring by other companies who use telecommuters.
Randy Johnston and his K2 Team provide CPE courses through the SCACPA at the Society offices, in-house at your firm or via webinars. His NMGI team provides IT consulting services and recommendations to CPAs as a benefit of your membership and attending K2 events. If you have questions on any hardware, software, procedures or IT strategies for your firm, contact Randy@k2e.com with your questions or to schedule a time to speak.