If you recall the end of 2019, you would remember how we all shrugged at the thought of a sudden pandemic outspread all over the world. But COVID-19 did knock on everyone’s door- sooner than we could have expected.
Almost all the organizations, thus, resorted to adopting the remote work culture, but it came with a heavy lift for a majority of us. WFH did sound pretty luxurious in the beginning, but we all know the truth now. Various factors and regulations have made this sudden shift very complicated for some sectors as compared to the others.
Remote work is not always possible for the staff who have to be physically present to accomplish a task or duty. Doctors, nurses, police, the army- everyone worked long shifts despite the lockdown. Also, there’s a risk of compromising with data if specific individuals start implementing WFH; for instance, the financial and government sector employees.
Under normal circumstances, it would make the perfect sense for a lot of corporations to forbid their staff from taking over their work from their insecure home environment. But a lot of regulations altered after, at least temporarily, during the time of COVID-19 in order to keep the continuity of work and still keep their staff safe.
Nevertheless, things will take time to fall back to normal, and we have no other option but to carry on with this lifestyle for quite some while. As a matter of fact, telecommuting is probably going to be the new normal even after the pandemic wears away.
Read an article on How The Workplace Management Will Look Like After the Global Pandemic.
Nevertheless, here are 07 primary sectors that have experienced drastic effects of remote work:
✔️ Law and Order
✔️ Financial Institutions
✔️ Labour Class
Let us dive into some of them to know how hard COVID-19 hit them and discover the alterations that they have deployed to keep their sectors running:
As I already stated earlier, the healthcare sector never went into a phase of total lockdown, because of the pivotal role played by the doctors and nurses during this time of crisis. But there are other people involved, too, in maintaining this sector like the management staff, accountants, cleaning staff, etc. and they did accomplish WFH as well.
As a result, it becomes very crucial to protect every information associated with the staff- from patient records, doctor-patient communication, diagnosis reports, staff attendance, salary records, transaction details, etc.
Beyond the fact that people opt for privacy with their health records, they also contain a hell lot of personal data like birth dates, addresses, family details, and other tidbits that may lead to identity theft or fraud. Such info gets readily available to the fraudsters, if not kept a strict eye.
As a result, the government came up with regulations and guidelines for healthcare service providers. It includes the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the very recent Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).
The security rules under HIPAA state that the covered entities must:
✔️ Ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of all ePHI (digital copy of a medical report) that they create, maintain, receive, or transmit.
✔️ Identify and protect against the reasonably anticipated threats for the integrity and security of the concerned information.
✔️ Protect against the reasonably impermissible uses or disclosures of data.
✔️ Ensure compliance with the workforces.
It is, to be very honest, somewhat tricky to comply with each and every regulation mentioned above for an average hospital/clinic. It is easier said than done for workplaces with outdated systems and not-so-qualified IT departments. Hackers can easily break into such servers and steal the data. And here, we are not even talking about WFH.
This COVID-19 outbreak has only made everything worse. As more medical services are shifting from in-person appointments to the digital, it is becoming increasingly common for the people to communicate via Zoom, Facebook, Whatsapp, FaceTime, etc. with their doctors. And it is VERY risky to let every workplace do so if they are not strong enough to take the necessary precautions.
While remote work is raising a lot of concerns, the healthcare sector would still choose safety over security for their doctors and patients. There has to be a way that ensures data security while letting everyone communicate and work remotely.
Well, it’s no brainer why the WFH culture stands as a barrier in all the sectors, but the government is facing the heaviest punches in this COVID-19 pandemic. From local to state and federal government, everyone must contend with risks that come along.
Similar to healthcare, government agencies also have a significant disadvantage at the cybersecurity level. Certain departments do have more distinguished security standards, given their assumed security, for instance, the office of Personnel Management. So, the staff cannot take their work home with them.
As a matter of fact, government data is the last thing that one would compromise. Imagine handing it over to the wrong hands, and not being able to sleep until you get it back safe and untampered. (I know, right?). Even if you manage to keep everything safe, how do you ensure network safety?
A majority of the people remote workers rely on WiFi. We all know that using a public WiFi is a straight NO when handling sensitive data, but private WiFi is also not a very safe option when you share it with third parties and don’t use VPN. Also, folks tend to share their working devices with their siblings or kids at home. Meaning, they might download apps or software that carry malware or other online threats for your data.
Although a significant number of people have been following remote work culture for years, whenever necessary, there has never been such a large scale of workers going remote all at once before the COVID-19 era. There are many potential pitfalls in this WFH culture, and it looks like this sector has to make sure every single word stays confidential with their employees, it doesn’t matter how far they stay from their offices.
We all felt relieved when we knew the banks wouldn’t close during the lockdown. But not all the employees had to sit there and work. Some of them got assigned to work from the comfort of their rooms. While your money stays INSIDE the bank, a majority of the transactions take place digitally.
Now, unlike the healthcare sector, finance and government sectors do have a well-funded system of security. But the finance sector faces the risk of losing their privacy (transactional confidentiality), integrity (accuracy in calculations), and accessibility (availability of the info). One slip from the track and any system could find themselves in serious trouble.
Apart from the obvious WFH issues, like the availability of a desktop at home, stable internet connection, work-life balance, ensuring data security, etc., the employees faced other issues as well. For instance, some documents require a hard copy, and virtual signatures won’t work on them.
When working from the office, the employees get a safe and secure employer-provided IT network and computers. But what if their home VPN is not secure? Are they using their office computers or personal ones? Have they updated their system recently? Literally EVERYTHING accounts for how safe you can keep the data with you.
Under normal circumstances, the managers can double-check any questionable online or offline behavior, but WFH makes it a hard nut to crack. Hackers take advantage of the employees who are not technically sound. They may launch phishing campaigns that target such workers or may disguise themselves as a part of the team to get a hold on various credentials.
The financial sector needs to tighten their security and deploy some measures to keep a regular eye on their staff’s systems, or else they might not be able to manage their workforces properly.
Screen recordings of students messing with their teachers might look funny to some of us, but they are actually a red signal towards the direction we all are heading.
Attending lectures from home is way more boring than doing so in actual classrooms- taking into consideration the luxury every student gets in their bedrooms. As a result, only a fraction of them actually focus on learning; the others disappear from their rooms after logging into their attendance records.
Apart from the students, the teachers are at a loss as well. WFH is not similar for a corporate employee and a teacher. It becomes very stressful for them to keep track of what their students are up to, especially the ones who keep their microphones and webcams off. As a matter of fact, taking online tests without cheating seems like an IMPOSSIBLE task now.
Also, a section of parents is worried about the screen timing of their kids, while there is still no other option of teaching them from schools other than the digital route. Conducting exams is also a debatable aspect now due to the ever-rising cases of COVID-19 patients all around the world. As a result, this crisis is affecting the education sector more than we could imagine.
Many private institutions are not able to afford the fees of their staff- be it their teachers, janitors, drivers, conductors, management staff, or the accountants. As a result, this sector saw a financial toll along with the concerns of data security. What’s more disturbing is that there seems almost no ray of hope until the gates of the schools reopen.
To ensure that the teachers, as well as students, stay grounded and dedicated to their assigned tasks, the concerned authorities have to find a way to be vigilant even when commencing remote work.
WFH has taken a serious toll on a lot of organizations and workplaces, but it has hit very hard on some sectors, as we already discussed above. How do we cope up with this mass transition, then, and make it through the end of this COVID era without any loss?
BTW, Here is an article on How the COVID-19 Reshaped Remote Workforce Management: A Step Closer To The Future
Tips to Deal with the Demon
There is no shortage of advice available on the internet when it comes to cybersecurity in remote work. Nevertheless, here are some key points for you and your team to avoid the most pressing threats available online:
1. Use Monitoring Software:
I can’t stress enough on this point, but if you want to ensure your organization’s privacy, you have to deploy a tool or software that captures what everyone does on their systems without hampering their privacy.
Monitoring tools like EmpMonitor let you keep a regular eye on your remote staff by taking regular screenshots of their devices, providing you with a list of the most used apps, visited websites, and graphically analyzing the user’s overall activity throughout the day. Make sure they stay productive, vigilant, and loyal to their companies even when commencing remote work.
2. Think Twice Before You Click:
This step is the easiest, but, ironically, the most difficult to follow. A majority of the employees do not think twice before clicking on any random link that pops up in their emails or any website.
Educate your teams to spot suspicious emails. Focus on telltale signals like a spelling error, suspiciously promising offers, etc. But some hackers, these days, are a pro at crafting these phishing campaigns without making it look like a suspicious campaign. In such cases, it is always a better option to send the link to your IT department for security checking than risking your organization’s safety. It brings me to the next point.
3. Cross-Check with a Second Channel:
Most often, hackers pretend to be an executor at a company or a vendor looking for potential audiences. Always keep it a habit to google the name of the company that they mention before you even think of taking another step ahead.
But it is not the final solution as some workers pretend to be working in an organization that actually exists. So, once you are sure that the name of the company they mention is legitimate, send the concerned link to your company’s IT department for confirmation. Having a one-to-one conversation with the sender of any phishing e-mail is the best way to determine if they are a scam.
4. Keep Everything Updated:
One of the best ways to make sure no attacker gets through the barriers of security is by making those barriers unbreakable. The primary step to doing is staying up to date with the software updates.
I mean, I know it’s an annoying task for the IT team as well as the workers. But why let your boredom come in the way of your security? It may be time-consuming, but a new update might affect the functioning of the recent software. This way, you can fix the vulnerabilities that may lead to the exploitation of your system. Remember, just because we are not working from our offices, it becomes even more crucial to cross-check the security measures. WFH is way too risky when not taken seriously.
Stay Secure in Uncertain Times!
This year has almost come to an end, and we barely feel anything unusual in our routine now. Meaning, we have adapted pretty well with our lockdown routine, and we will be totally cool with it even if it continues till we retire (just kidding).
Nevertheless, it would be totally fair to say that the employees are in LOVE with their WFH lives, and remote work is no more a challenge for anyone. As far as some sensitive sectors are concerned, well, we are all trying to deal with them in the best possible way.
I hope this article was helpful to you. Is there something that you would like to add? Did I miss anything? Do you have a doubt? Please drop your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!