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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Work from home day presents corporate security challenges

12 May, 2008
Thursday the 15th of May is the UK national work from home day when as many as five million workers are likely to be based at home on that day.
Technology is a great enabler and many workers are now benefiting from the ability that communications technology has given them to work from home. Now, between about 3% and 6% of employed workers are making use of this and working from home bringing both productivity and personal benefits.

The disadvantage is security and whilst such initiatives as national work from home day should be encouraged in any progressive nation, we shouldn't forget the security implications.

The main issue with security in this respect is "boundary management". If the IT infrastructure could be contained within the same physical boundaries of the working premises, it would be less of an issue and the IT administrator could contain things within the firewalls but this is practically impossible in today's communications environment. Many factors influence this such as portable computers, e-mail enabled PIDs and mobile phones, VPN's, the internet and endpoint devices such as CD writers and flash memory. All of this make the network boundary fuzzy which gives us the ability to work from home but also makes security a much more complex issue.

Endpoint portability enables the worker to take the data outside the boundaries on physical devices thus compromising their security if strong encryption isn't used. Using a VPN or, worse, an open internet connection to access the data affects the security of data in motion so the IT administrator now has much more to worry about.

Social aspects also play a part in this with a significant number of workers using their company-supplied equipment to access questionable web content and for social networking, exposing the company to legal action and adding further risk in terms of malicious code.

Some would therefore argue that the easiest solution is therefore not to allow workers to operate from home but this stunts progress badly. The answer lies in the adoption of available security technology for securing extended networks and endpoints. By using such technology, businesses can make full use of the opportunities for home working that National Work from Home day is trying to promote.

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