Remote working during the Olympics: any new security risks?

What enterprises need to consider as large numbers of staff prepare to work away from the office.

Video post based on my interview* with Stuart Sumner of Computing – Part 1.

A large proportion of staff are set to work remotely this summer as the Olympic Games disrupt the UK’s transport networks. In a recent video interview, Stuart Sumner of Computing asked me whether remote working during the Olympics will create any new security risk for UK firms. My answer is I don’t think so.

Remote access and remote working have been present in many companies for a long time now. IT security is certainly a big concern for many firms. However, let’s not forget other critical factors, such as remote access software licensing and scalability.

During the Olympics it is reasonable to expect the whole employee base to access corporate applications and data from home – likely from employee-owned devices. Let’s not forget that most of the software eventually used in this way may not be licensed for this specific use case – i.e. Microsoft Windows or Office home editions used for work.

The scalability of the system also needs to be taken into consideration. Typically, remote work is supported from a network perspective through VPN. Well, the VPN architecture usually requires a concentrator or some sort of backend component. This backend component needs to be scalable enough to support not just travelers or a few occasional remote users, but the whole population of the company. The same consideration applies to Remote Desktop and Virtual Desktop infrastructure.

There has been a precedent we can look at. We had a similar situation in Japan in 2011, when Japan was struck by the triple tragedy of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. What happened ‑ based on my conversations with many customers ‑ is that most of corporate Japan IT infrastructure collapsed. Firms kept operations going by relying on highly scalable consumer technology such as Yahoo mail, Google apps, Dropbox, Skype and millions and millions of personal mobile devices – such as smartphones and tablets.

In conclusion: with larger numbers of staff requiring remote access than usual this summer, VPN scalability and software licensing deals – to ensure that the terms are not being infringed by remote workers – are two critical aspects your firm should consider.

NEXT: BYOD security risks

*Computing, Incisive Media, London 2012

About Cesare Garlati
Co-Founder, Hex Five Security, Inc. - Chief Technologist prpl Foundation

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