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The risks of mixing business and personal technology

Working from home
Working from home

The rapid shift towards working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new cybersecurity questions and issues for many organizations.

While the ubiquity of mobile and portable technology has helped many employees stay connected to their workplace through the pandemic, it has also created new cybersecurity risks for those accessing work files on personal computers and vice-versa, says Andrew Loschmann, chief operating officer of Field Effect.

“Accessing email, putting company data on a personal device, or a company device on a personal network increases your threat surface substantially,” he says. “It increases the set of things that are attackable and we’re seeing that being leveraged by attackers every day.”

Bubble graph from survey

In one example, Field Effect dealt with a case where a personal computer belonging to one of its client’s employees was compromised. While it may seem like a small issue as it was one system out of many, the attacker was able to gain access to all of the company’s data through the VPN the employee was connected to. 

“That’s just one example of how the smallest change in terms of where computers are located can result in a compromise and a cascading set of issues,” says Loschmann, adding that the more users there are on a computer, the riskier it is. “I wouldn’t trust a child to be making smart and reasonable choices as to what website is safe to visit or not, so when you’re talking about sharing devices, you invite all of these risks.”

Jim McConnery, a partner at Welch LLP, notes that the shift to a work-from-anywhere status provides some interesting benefits, both for employers and employees. However, there is clearly a need to manage the related risks and challenges.

“In addition to the cybersecurity concerns, many organizations are concerned with the ability to effectively onboard and train new employees, facilitate collaboration and to address mental health concerns,” he says. “We have clearly learned a great deal over the last few months, however, there is still generally room for improvement.”

Read the full 2020 Welch LLP Ottawa Business Growth Survey report by clicking on the cover below:

OBGS 2020 cover