IT Departments Must Pay Attention to Telecommuting Security

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Additional Security Risks for Telecommuters

Unique security risks associated with telecommuting.

Telecommuting from home is a big topic and a growing trend as broadband speeds increase, social concerns - i.e., the need to be green - become dominant and connections to corporate databases deepen.

A vital issue is how to secure telecommuters. This is, of course, a challenge that is deeply related to, but separate from, securing mobile devices. In some cases, of course, folks simply work from home using mobile devices. From the technical point of view, that activity comes under the mobility label. In most scenarios, however, regular telecommuters do so from wired home networks.

This is something of an 800-pound gorilla in the IT room. We are in an era in which security is front and center and, in many ways, wired networks are more secure than they were a few years ago. The wildcard is simple: How secure are homes? IT departments must be highly sensitized to the reality that telecommuter end points are potential targets of hackers for both the data on the devices - which is growing more valuable as telecommuting becomes common for higher-level employees - and as potential entry points into the enterprise network.

There are steps that IT departments can take, such as training telecommuters on safe security, encrypting data and assuming telecommuting networks are insecure. The questions are how many IT departments take these steps, and how many home workers pay attention.

The government, which through the Office of Management and Budget released data security guidelines for teleworkers last month, has long been a proponent of telework. This week, Officescape, a cloud-based provider of telephony services, received federal certification for its Telesecure VoIP offering, according to Federal Computer Week. The story says that the scrambled digitized voice stream cannot be replayed, hijacked and otherwise used by crackers.

Just as more people automatically put on their seat belts and fewer people are smoking, the security message may be getting through to telecommuters. Staples - which has a vested interest in the growth of telecommuting - recently ran a survey. Smallbiztechnology reports that 95 percent of respondents said they install operating system updates immediately and 84 percent don't store personal information on work machines.

Apparently, security isn't uniform across the United States. In July, CIO posted a slideshow on the unfriendliest cities for telecommuting. VPN Haus went through the list and found that they qualified partially because of their inability to provide secure remote access. The three cities cited: San Francisco, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.