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coronavirus

Don’t let the coronavirus make you a home office security risk

Welcome to life working at home, where the only one standing between you and all kinds of malware, ransomware and other security foul ups is, well, you.

Sure, the tech support desk will try to help you, but it’s not like they can stop by your desk and install a patch for you anymore. It’s a brave new scary world and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, here, are six tips on how to keep your computer safe.

We hate to say it but all too many computer problems are, as they say in tech support land,  “Problem exists between chair and keyboard (or PEBCAK).” That is, little old you. No one’s asking you to become a security guru and win the next Pwn2Own competition. But you must learn a little bit about how to keep your computer safe and you must be warier of potential threats.

You see, there really are people out there who want to grab your password, steal your data and your company’s data, and infect your computer with ransomware while they’re at it. Or, to be more precise, there are automatic botnet systems out there spending every second of the day pounding on your virtual door.

It’s nothing personal. Just like the coronavirus, though, these really are out to get you. So, you need to act accordingly.

Enable automatic updates (usually)

If you, or your corporate IT staff, haven’t done it before, turn on automatic software updates for your operating system and programs.

Everyone says that, but let me add a caveat: If you use Windows for your desktop operating system, learn what your business’s recommendations are for Windows update. You may not want to update Windows at all.

You see lately Windows 10 has a truly lousy patching record.  This included machines not booting properly; your desktop vanishing into the ether; and the File Explorer Search box went haywire for a while. Microsoft has even delayed retiring Windows 10 1709, known to you as the 2017 Fall Creators Update by six months. That’s just so people don’t have to update their older Windows 10 systems and possibly run into problems.

Given all this, do you really want to update, run into a problem, and then try to troubleshoot it on your own? No, I didn’t think so.

Instead, I suggest you pause Windows 10 updates for now. To do that with a business edition of Windows 10, you do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Once there, under the “Choose when updates are installed” heading, select Semi-Annual Channel. This delays major feature updates by about four months, when all the bugs should be worked out. Under the quality update heading, change the deferral period to 30 days from its default of zero. These are the Patch Tuesday patches.

If you’re running a Windows 10 Home and it’s Windows 10 1903 (aka the May 2019 Update, or newer) you can also delay patches. To do this go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and look for the “Pause updates for 7 days” button. With this, you can keep delaying it in 7 day chunks for up to 35 days.

Everything else, just go ahead and update. There may even be programs you rely on hiding in your system that need patching but do a poor job of alerting you. For these, you can use SUMo or  PatchMyPC or to track other programs software on your PC that may need an update..

Finally, if you go to a random website and it tells you must update Adobe Flash or some other program before you can use it and you can download it from a link they provide, DON’T DO IT. Often this is a corrupted website trying to put malware on your computer.

Anti-viral software: Who needs it?

You wouldn’t know if from all the ads, but viruses are among the least of your security worries these days. There are all kinds of malware out there, but the traditional virus or worm? Not so much.

That said, while you can use one of the latest and best antivirus programs for most of us Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender Security Center is all you’ll need. If you want more check out, Norton Security Premium or AVG Internet Security,

If you use a Mac, you may think you’re safe. Nope. While you’re far less likely to run into malware than your Windows-using colleagues, there are viruses out there with your Mac’s name on them. For overall protection, we recommend Sophos Home Premium. If you just want good free antivirus protection give AVG Antivirus for Mac‘s free tier a try.

Desktop Linux user? You don’t really need an antivirus program. It’s not that Linux’s security is perfect — nothing is in this world — but it’s better than the rest. There’s never really been an effective Linux desktop virus.

Password management

We all hate passwords and want to move on. Well, maybe someday two-factor authentication (2FA) will be perfected. But, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, here are some simple suggestions on how to use passwords safely and efficiently.

First, use passphrases, like “I-Hate-Coronavirus!!,” which you can remember instead of easy to guess passwords like “abcdef,” the ever popular “password,” or your birthday. Nor, should you use memory unfriendly passwords such as “Gog$^Yack4.” Your memory and your security will thank you.

You should also use a password manager. With most of us having to deal with dozens of sites and services requiring passwords, no one can remember all of them. The answer’s a password management program.

Password managers enable you to manage your login credentials across all your devices while keeping your passwords secure. They can also automatically fill in web forms for you. Many web browsers, such as Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome include this functionality

If you don’t trust Microsoft, Mozilla or Google with your data, or you want non-internet password management, you need a standalone password manager. The best of these are LastPass and 1Password.

Of course, if 2FA is available on services you use all the time. Use It. Yes, it can be a nuisance entering in a PIN from a text message or the like, but it makes them orders of magnitude more secure.

Bad guys gone phishing

The single biggest security problem you’re most likely to run into is phishing. There are two kinds of phishing. In the older type, scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. Once they have your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security number, you can kiss your privacy, credit score and possibly your job good-bye. In the other, you’re encouraged to download or open a file or click on a link, which will infect your computer with malware.

In either case, they often look like they’re from someone or a company you trust.  They often tell you a story to trick you into making a fatal mistake. This can include the following: Saying they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or problem, there’s a problem with your account, you’re eligible for a refund or you need to pay a (fake) invoice. 

There’s already been a significant rise in coronavirus phishing messages. You can be sure they’ll be many more proclaiming a cure, an urgent message from the CDC, and the like.

Phishing messages also disguise themselves with personal information. They’ll include your home address, your pets’ names and so on. Don’t buy it. It’s easy to find your personal information on the internet. Just consider for a moment how much to tell people about yourself on Facebook and the other social networks.

You can spot phishing messages with several tell-tale signs. If you look closely at the address instead of being from a real address, say [email protected] it will be from [email protected]. They also often open with a generic solution such as “Hi Dear” instead of your real name.

When you get a phishing message, delete it. Never reply to it or open any link or attachment within it.

Finally, another phishing variant is the Microsoft support call scam.  In this one, you’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a partner and that an automatic scan of your PC has shown a problem and they’re here to help all for one low price No, no they’re not. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you’ll lose a few bucks and the worst you may find your computer and all your company’s files locked up with ransomware,

Virtual private networks: VPNs still a necessity

These days a lot of our front-line business programs, such as Office 365, Google Docs, and QuickBooks Online use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model. For these, you don’t need a VPN. But, a lot of our in-house applications still are humming away in our data centers and server rooms. That means, you’ll need a VPN to safely get to them.

If your company hasn’t set up a VPN for you, tell them to set one up right now. Otherwise anything you send between your home and your office is vulnerable to be spied on.

Picking a VPN isn’t your job — you may be acting as a chief security officer, but you aren’t paid like one nor do you have the technical expertise.

If you’re running a small business, you need to pick a small-office/home-office (SOHO) VPN now, Some of the best, easy-to-deploy choices are ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, or TunnelBear

Backups: Your last chance for survival

Last, but never least, you may not think of backups as part of security, but they are. They’re the last safety belt to save you from disaster when everything else has gone wrong. As long as you have a good backup, even if your files are frozen by ransomware and your machines are working more for a botnet than they are for you, you can still wipe everything and start fresh.

Again, this is something your IT department should be handling for you. But, in the rush to get you out the door and working from home. it may have been neglected.

The quickest, easiest way to back up your business PC from home is to use a cloud backup service. Once your company’s sysadmins catches up they’ll also find it easier to get at your backups if they’re on the cloud rather than if you’re using an old-style DVD or even tape backup system. Ones to consider are Acronis, Carbonite, and IDrive. A more home Mac and Windows friendly solution is Google’s Backup and Sync.

Secure at home

Keeping your work safe from home isn’t easy. Butit’s not rocket science either. Just follow these tips and you should be OK.

After all, I’ve been following them for more than 30 years of working from home without a single security incident. If I can do it, you can, too.

Welcome to life working at home, where the only one standing between you and all kinds of malware, ransomware and other security foul ups is, well, you.

Sure, the tech support desk will try to help you, but it’s not like they can stop by your desk and install a patch for you anymore. It’s a brave new scary world and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, here, are six tips on how to keep your computer safe.

We hate to say it but all too many computer problems are, as they say in tech support land,  “Problem exists between chair and keyboard (or PEBCAK).” That is, little old you. No one’s asking you to become a security guru and win the next Pwn2Own competition. But you must learn a little bit about how to keep your computer safe and you must be warier of potential threats.

You see, there really are people out there who want to grab your password, steal your data and your company’s data, and infect your computer with ransomware while they’re at it. Or, to be more precise, there are automatic botnet systems out there spending every second of the day pounding on your virtual door.

It’s nothing personal. Just like the coronavirus, though, these really are out to get you. So, you need to act accordingly.

Enable automatic updates (usually)

If you, or your corporate IT staff, haven’t done it before, turn on automatic software updates for your operating system and programs.

Everyone says that, but let me add a caveat: If you use Windows for your desktop operating system, learn what your business’s recommendations are for Windows update. You may not want to update Windows at all.

You see lately Windows 10 has a truly lousy patching record.  This included machines not booting properly; your desktop vanishing into the ether; and the File Explorer Search box went haywire for a while. Microsoft has even delayed retiring Windows 10 1709, known to you as the 2017 Fall Creators Update by six months. That’s just so people don’t have to update their older Windows 10 systems and possibly run into problems.

Given all this, do you really want to update, run into a problem, and then try to troubleshoot it on your own? No, I didn’t think so.

Instead, I suggest you pause Windows 10 updates for now. To do that with a business edition of Windows 10, you do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Once there, under the “Choose when updates are installed” heading, select Semi-Annual Channel. This delays major feature updates by about four months, when all the bugs should be worked out. Under the quality update heading, change the deferral period to 30 days from its default of zero. These are the Patch Tuesday patches.

If you’re running a Windows 10 Home and it’s Windows 10 1903 (aka the May 2019 Update, or newer) you can also delay patches. To do this go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and look for the “Pause updates for 7 days” button. With this, you can keep delaying it in 7 day chunks for up to 35 days.

Everything else, just go ahead and update. There may even be programs you rely on hiding in your system that need patching but do a poor job of alerting you. For these, you can use SUMo or  PatchMyPC or to track other programs software on your PC that may need an update..

Finally, if you go to a random website and it tells you must update Adobe Flash or some other program before you can use it and you can download it from a link they provide, DON’T DO IT. Often this is a corrupted website trying to put malware on your computer.

Anti-viral software: Who needs it?

You wouldn’t know if from all the ads, but viruses are among the least of your security worries these days. There are all kinds of malware out there, but the traditional virus or worm? Not so much.

That said, while you can use one of the latest and best antivirus programs for most of us Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender Security Center is all you’ll need. If you want more check out, Norton Security Premium or AVG Internet Security,

If you use a Mac, you may think you’re safe. Nope. While you’re far less likely to run into malware than your Windows-using colleagues, there are viruses out there with your Mac’s name on them. For overall protection, we recommend Sophos Home Premium. If you just want good free antivirus protection give AVG Antivirus for Mac‘s free tier a try.

Desktop Linux user? You don’t really need an antivirus program. It’s not that Linux’s security is perfect — nothing is in this world — but it’s better than the rest. There’s never really been an effective Linux desktop virus.

Password management

We all hate passwords and want to move on. Well, maybe someday two-factor authentication (2FA) will be perfected. But, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, here are some simple suggestions on how to use passwords safely and efficiently.

First, use passphrases, like “I-Hate-Coronavirus!!,” which you can remember instead of easy to guess passwords like “abcdef,” the ever popular “password,” or your birthday. Nor, should you use memory unfriendly passwords such as “Gog$^Yack4.” Your memory and your security will thank you.

You should also use a password manager. With most of us having to deal with dozens of sites and services requiring passwords, no one can remember all of them. The answer’s a password management program.

Password managers enable you to manage your login credentials across all your devices while keeping your passwords secure. They can also automatically fill in web forms for you. Many web browsers, such as Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome include this functionality

If you don’t trust Microsoft, Mozilla or Google with your data, or you want non-internet password management, you need a standalone password manager. The best of these are LastPass and 1Password.

Of course, if 2FA is available on services you use all the time. Use It. Yes, it can be a nuisance entering in a PIN from a text message or the like, but it makes them orders of magnitude more secure.

Bad guys gone phishing

The single biggest security problem you’re most likely to run into is phishing. There are two kinds of phishing. In the older type, scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. Once they have your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security number, you can kiss your privacy, credit score and possibly your job good-bye. In the other, you’re encouraged to download or open a file or click on a link, which will infect your computer with malware.

In either case, they often look like they’re from someone or a company you trust.  They often tell you a story to trick you into making a fatal mistake. This can include the following: Saying they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or problem, there’s a problem with your account, you’re eligible for a refund or you need to pay a (fake) invoice. 

There’s already been a significant rise in coronavirus phishing messages. You can be sure they’ll be many more proclaiming a cure, an urgent message from the CDC, and the like.

Phishing messages also disguise themselves with personal information. They’ll include your home address, your pets’ names and so on. Don’t buy it. It’s easy to find your personal information on the internet. Just consider for a moment how much to tell people about yourself on Facebook and the other social networks.

You can spot phishing messages with several tell-tale signs. If you look closely at the address instead of being from a real address, say [email protected] it will be from [email protected]. They also often open with a generic solution such as “Hi Dear” instead of your real name.

When you get a phishing message, delete it. Never reply to it or open any link or attachment within it.

Finally, another phishing variant is the Microsoft support call scam.  In this one, you’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a partner and that an automatic scan of your PC has shown a problem and they’re here to help all for one low price No, no they’re not. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you’ll lose a few bucks and the worst you may find your computer and all your company’s files locked up with ransomware,

Virtual private networks: VPNs still a necessity

These days a lot of our front-line business programs, such as Office 365, Google Docs, and QuickBooks Online use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model. For these, you don’t need a VPN. But, a lot of our in-house applications still are humming away in our data centers and server rooms. That means, you’ll need a VPN to safely get to them.

If your company hasn’t set up a VPN for you, tell them to set one up right now. Otherwise anything you send between your home and your office is vulnerable to be spied on.

Picking a VPN isn’t your job — you may be acting as a chief security officer, but you aren’t paid like one nor do you have the technical expertise.

If you’re running a small business, you need to pick a small-office/home-office (SOHO) VPN now, Some of the best, easy-to-deploy choices are ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, or TunnelBear

Backups: Your last chance for survival

Last, but never least, you may not think of backups as part of security, but they are. They’re the last safety belt to save you from disaster when everything else has gone wrong. As long as you have a good backup, even if your files are frozen by ransomware and your machines are working more for a botnet than they are for you, you can still wipe everything and start fresh.

Again, this is something your IT department should be handling for you. But, in the rush to get you out the door and working from home. it may have been neglected.

The quickest, easiest way to back up your business PC from home is to use a cloud backup service. Once your company’s sysadmins catches up they’ll also find it easier to get at your backups if they’re on the cloud rather than if you’re using an old-style DVD or even tape backup system. Ones to consider are Acronis, Carbonite, and IDrive. A more home Mac and Windows friendly solution is Google’s Backup and Sync.

Secure at home

Keeping your work safe from home isn’t easy. Butit’s not rocket science either. Just follow these tips and you should be OK.

After all, I’ve been following them for more than 30 years of working from home without a single security incident. If I can do it, you can, too.



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17+ ways Apple is responding to coronavirus

Apple is attempting to do as much as it can to contribute to the global response against the Coronavirus. Teams across the company appear to be focused on what they can do to help. We’ve identified 17 things Apple has done so far, quite apart from work it will be doing behind the scenes to fix its supply chains.

Apple warned its investors

Apple in mid-February warned investors that it would fail to meet its previous estimated revenue targets of $63-$67 billion.

At that time it cited lower customer demand in Greater China, but this now seems to have become a more global problem. The company’s stock continues to decline, though most analysts anticipate recovery toward the end of the year.

WWDC will be held online, not in place

Apple will not hold its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose this year.

Instead of inviting thousands of the most important people in its community to get together in one place, the company will hold its conference online instead. It promises its show will still be packed with excitement.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering said:

“I look forward to our developers getting their hands on the new code and interacting in entirely new ways with the Apple engineers building the technologies and frameworks that will shape the future across all Apple platforms.”

No March event?

Apple had been expected to announce new products during a March special launch event. These were thought to introduce new iPad Pro models, new Macs and the iPhone 9/iPhone SE device. Apple did announce Macs and the new iPad Pro in a March press release, but current speculation claims launch of its new lower-cost iPhone may have been delayed for a little while on strength of soft demand and logistical problems.

Sharing the wealth

Apple has donated in excess of $15 million to help support treatment of the sick and mitigate the economic impact of the crisis. This has included substantial donations in Italy.

The company also supports two-to-one corporate matching for any employee donations that relate to coronavirus. The company is presently sourcing and donating millions of masks to health professionals in the U.S. and Europe. “To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a Tweet.

Siri gets smarter

Siri can now help you figure out if you are suffering from COV-19.

When you ask it a question such as: “Do I have the coronavirus?” you’ll be guided through a series of questions to help you answer the question. You’ll be advised to stay home or to request further help if your symptoms appear severe.

App Store help

The company is promoting telehealth applications in the App Store when customers ask Siri about coronavirus. It is accelerating the reviews process of COVID-19 applications from reputable sources to try to help make sure we are in possession of the best available information, rather than false or misleading information.

Apple News gets proactive

There are lots of conflicting claims around COV-19. This is confusing and at a time when the global message needs to be utterly clear, Apple News has moved to curate the content it provides. It now provides a COVID-19 news section offering what it calls “verified” reporting from what it calls “trusted news outlets”.

On iOS and iPad OS devices you’ll find a hand-picked set of headlines and links to a detailed coverage page.

Staying in? Read a book

Apple’s Books store in the U.S. now offers a small collection of free books (including audiobooks) for adults and children to keep you occupied while remaining isolated.

Oprah has an Apple TV+ show on the topic

Oprah has announced a new Apple TV+ show that will focus on the pandemic.

“Oprah Talks COVID-19” is a new a new free to view Apple TV+ series featuring remote discussions with leaders and others affected by the disease. Oprah wants to provide insight, meaning, and tangible advice to help us through the crisis. 

Apple has closed its retail stores

Apple closed all its retail stores in China.

Those stores are now open, but it has closed its stores everywhere else on the planet.

The idea behind this is to limit contact between groups of people. Unfortunately, some customers whose devices were being repaired by Apple Geniuses may have been told they can’t now pick up their item until the stores open once again.

Apple has committed that hourly workers will continue to receive pay “in alignment with business as usual operations”.

Adopt remote working

Apple has moved to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China. It is urging workers to work remotely if their job allows. It is also urging those who must attend the workplace physically stay at least two meters apart.

There have been reports that Apple’s culture of secrecy is making remote work quite hard to do – but that’s only to be expected, and problems have a tendency of getting solved. The company is also deep cleaning all its sites and offices.

Caring for employee health

Apple is introducing new health screenings and temperature checks across all its offices. The company has also moved to accommodate employees who need to take a leave of absence to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19 — including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.

Promoting credible information

Apple is promoting official government information videos via iTunes/Apple Music in the U.S., and also on its home page.

Reduce bandwidth demands

In line with other streaming media providers, Apple has committed to reducing the resolution of shows streamed through its Apple TV+ network in Europe.

Curating podcasting content

Apple’s podcasts app now features a row of reputable Coronavirus-related content. The company is also focusing more on personal development topics through its podcasting service.

Maintaining support

MacRumors cites an internal memo to Apple Authorized Service Providers in which Apple says its network of authorized repair shops will receive maximum payouts for qualifying product repairs for the months of March and April.

Apple Card assistance

The consequences of what is taking place are impacting everybody and creating real hardship for many. Apple Card users have been told that if they need help making it through, they can enrol in a new customer assistance program that will allow them to skip their March payments. 

You should pay attention

Apple isn’t doing all of these things out of a sudden attack of altruism or as a contribution to some twisted form of April Fool’s joke.

It is doing them because it knows we face a global problem that, if left unchecked, will overwhelm global health provision services, cost vast numbers of lives, and generate an economic slow-down akin to the Great Depression, or worse.  

Some of those consequences may now be unavoidable.

Apple’s Tim Cook recently said:

“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment. The entire Apple family is indebted to the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment. We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us.”

That Apple is applying the full extent of its energies in this attempt should make even the greatest cynic wake up to the need to practise social distancing, hide indoors and wash their hands.

Those small steps seem the least we can do for medical staff across the entire planet who are even now risking (and in many cases, losing) their own lives on the front line of our struggle against this disease.

Are you an Apple, iOS or Mac developer who is offering free services, or augmenting existing ones to help in this struggle? Please drop me a line and I’ll let people know.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Navigating the coronavirus pandemic | CIO

In an industry obsessed with disruption, suddenly, everything has been turned on its head.

Reimagining processes and software and infrastructure to satisfy some McKinsey-driven mandate has screeched to a halt. Instead, nearly every tech company — and almost every business — is desperately determining how to use its arsenal of technology to combat the stunningly severe disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Stuck in our home offices, IDG tech journalists are doing the same thing most of the rest of the developed world is doing: teleconferencing, leaning into our collaboration tools, furiously tapping our smartphones, and firing up videoconferencing software like never before. Everyone seems to have realized simultaneously that these communication tools are now our lifelines. The new normal is arriving quicker than anyone could have imagined.

On a personal level, social networking has become indispensable, as we keep track of friends and loved ones, share useful recommendations, trade anecdotes, and identify people in need. At the same time, we’re seeing the inevitable rise of disinformation, scams, and phishing attacks. Already, the world has witnessed the destructive power of bad information wreak havoc.

IDG’s five enterprise brands — CIO, Computerworld, CSO, InfoWorld, and Network World — are committed to providing technology and business professionals with actionable, accurate content in this time of need. This IDG Special Report is the first in a series dedicated to delivering guidance and support. You can also find our latest coronavirus stories on our COVID-19 page. We hope they assist you and your colleagues, partners, and customers as we face extraordinary challenges together.

Battling business disruption with technology

CIO Senior Writer Clint Boulton has it right: If there was ever a time to tighten your business continuity plan, this is it. His “Business continuity: Coronavirus crisis puts CIOs’ plans to the test” explores the extensive prep of two forward-looking companies, AvidXchange and Snow Software, both of which have wedded mature work-from-home policies and procedures to business continuity. That planning is paying off in real time as these companies confront COVID-19. If your time is limited, jump to the conclusion for some quick advice on communications and risk management.

Wondering how the massive shift to work-from-home affects remote-access networks? Network World’s Michael Cooney dives deep into that topic in “Coronavirus challenges remote networking.” He zeroes in on a crucial bottleneck: the enterprise VPN. One issue is simply capacity; VPN gateways may simply not be able to accommodate so many users connecting at once. A different problem is the security and reliability of residential internet-access services and home networking environments. The good news is that, so far, ISPs have not seen a rise in performance problems, although chokepoints at cloud service providers may emerge soon.

In our new work-from-home reality, security quickly becomes top of mind. “A security guide for pandemic planning: 7 key steps” by CSO Contributing Writer Bob Violino addresses the vital points to consider. Ponder the sober advice offered by Nitin Natarajan, principal at a domestic preparedness advisory firm: “Assess risks and vulnerabilities to physical and cyber systems from a reduction in staff, both internally and among key organizational interdependences.” And above all, ensure your response to the pandemic is coordinated among all groups involved: cybersecurity pros, emergency management staff, and risk communications teams.

Several useful articles serve those working at home. Barbara Krasnoff’s “10 tips to set up your home office for videoconferencing” provides great pointers for those of us less accustomed to being in front of the camera (I still haven’t gotten the lighting right). Computerworld contributor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, who has managed to avoid working in an office for the past 30 years, brings us “How to survive and thrive while working from home.” And finally, in “WTH? OSS knows how to WFH IRL,” InfoWorld contributor Matt Asay reminds us that open source developers, led by legions of contributors to the Linux kernel, successfully pioneered remote collaboration long before anyone else. We can learn from their exeperience.

The way we work and interact with each other is about to change forever. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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What your business should do about the coronavirus … right now

If you watch the news, you can be forgiven for feeling like the coronavirus pandemic is more or less a zombie apocalypse event — or about hoarding toilet paper.

Reality check: You, personally, will probably get the coronavirus at some point in your life, possibly this year. Probability is on your side: For most healthy adults under 60, the experience of getting Covid-19 is not that bad, doesn’t last that long and ends in full recovery.

[ Related: Coronavirus: Managing (and pivoting) during a crisis ]

Unfortunately, the prognosis for your organization is not so rosy. Unless you take action right now, your company is the walking dead.

Understanding the coronavirus risk to your organization

I told you last week what you need to do now to protect your organization from catastrophe resulting from the coronavirus, officially called Covid-19.

In this fast-moving story, new facts have come to light which inform your organizational and professional response to the crisis.

The World Health Organization has declared Covid-19 a full-blown pandemic, which means it’s a crisis-level disease outbreak in multiple countries. In fact, it’s a “black swan” event, an extremely rare and unexpected occurrence that has major consequences for just about everybody.

Log in or subscribe to read the full 1,365-word article. 

 

If you watch the news, you can be forgiven for feeling like the coronavirus pandemic is more or less a zombie apocalypse event — or about hoarding toilet paper.

Reality check: You, personally, will probably get the coronavirus at some point in your life, possibly this year. Probability is on your side: For most healthy adults under 60, the experience of getting Covid-19 is not that bad, doesn’t last that long and ends in full recovery.

[ Related: Coronavirus: Managing (and pivoting) during a crisis ]

Unfortunately, the prognosis for your organization is not so rosy. Unless you take action right now, your company is the walking dead.

Understanding the coronavirus risk to your organization

I told you last week what you need to do now to protect your organization from catastrophe resulting from the coronavirus, officially called Covid-19.

In this fast-moving story, new facts have come to light which inform your organizational and professional response to the crisis.

The World Health Organization has declared Covid-19 a full-blown pandemic, which means it’s a crisis-level disease outbreak in multiple countries. In fact, it’s a “black swan” event, an extremely rare and unexpected occurrence that has major consequences for just about everybody.

Covid-19 is similar to past zoonotic coronaviruses, including SARS. It’s less lethal than SARS, but spreads more easily. The death rate is under 2 percent, and for people under the age of 60 under 1 percent.

The coronavirus will probably be with us for many years or decades, and will become seasonally cyclical, with the number of cases rising in winter each year.

The main reason for the widely applied containment strategies of canceling flights, closing borders and postponing or virtualizing conferences, is to slow the rate at which people contract it to avoid overtaxing hospitals. At some point, most people will get the coronavirus and recover from it, as they do with the flu. The potential disaster everyone is trying to avoid is for everybody to get it at the same time.

Because an expected mismatch between the possible number of patients and the actual number of hospital beds, markets are crashing, events and business trips are being canceled and the economy is probably going into recession.

To slow the contagion, we’re told, the remedy is containment and social distancing — basically keeping people away from each other (as well as avoiding human physical contact and washing hands).

And that’s a business problem. Business is usually conducted by bringing people together, not keeping them apart. People come to work, have meetings, travel to meet with clients, attend trade conferences and purposefully interact with each other to forward the interests of the organization.

So there’s your number-one priority in the foreseeable future: Keep your business alive while keeping your people apart.

But how?

The new security situation

Data security is going to get harder before it gets easier. The coronavirus crisis impacts organizational security in three ways, one good and two bad:

  1. Less business travel and fewer meetings temporarily shrink the attack surface. One of the areas of biggest risk to organizational security is business travel and meetings. These usually involve insecure Wi-Fi networks at airports and hotels, and opportunities for hacking, loss and theft.
  1. A massive increase in remote workers. Most organizations have already or will soon implement aggressive work-from-home policies for those employees who can do their jobs remotely. Make sure you have the tools and practices in place to monitor all anomalous activity, remote access events and data exfiltration points on employee home systems. Work from home employees will no doubt become ripe targets during the coronavirus crisis. (More on this below.)
  1. Cybercriminals will exploit virus anxiety for social engineering attacks. The headlines are screaming, and the public is nervous. So malicious actors will seize the opportunity. In fact, it’s already happening.

Cybercriminals are seizing the opportunity to exploit nervous victims during the crisis. New coronavirus-related phishing attacks and other social engineering attacks have sprung up overnight.

Reason Labs, for example, has discovered malware that offers a “Coronavirus map,” which arrives in the form of a malicious application that does display a convincing map, but also installs a binary called “AZORult” that steals cookies, passwords and other data, and can also download other malware. This is just one early example. There will be many more.

Managing a shared crisis

When we think about enterprise risk management (ERM) — which is the planning ahead part — or enterprise crisis management — the actions you take during a crisis — we assume a unique crisis — something that affects our own organization or region, such as a catastrophic breech, ransomware attack or natural disaster.

What’s different about the coronavirus crisis is that it’s affecting all organizations. Why does that matter? Mainly, it adds additional unpredictability that you may not have accounted for in your ERM planning.

How will pressure on investors affect executive decision-making? How will recession-driven layoffs affect your ability to execute? How will changes or problems among suppliers and the supply chain affect your business. What is the impact among employees and contractors who cannot work remotely?

The essential character of this crisis is: unpredictability.

Here are the absolute minimum steps you and your organization need to take immediately to manage this massively unpredictable crisis:

  1. Appoint a cross-silo crisis response team that meets daily.
  1. Monitor government, medical, industry and local sources for updates for the team.
  1. Implement a communications plan to transparently inform all employees.
  1. Develop and implement a comprehensive crisis response.
  1. Develop or update, then communicate and enforce, a remote-work policy.

Your crisis management response must take priority and be tackled immediately.

Let’s talk about communication

One unfortunate and inevitable sideshow in the crisis is disinformation. State-sponsored disinformation campaigns from the Chinese and Russian governments are already trying to cast doubt or blame for the origins of the virus. (The origins are rural wet markets in China where live wild animals and domesticated animals share pathogens in unsanitary conditions; the leading state-sponsored disinformation falsely says the U.S .government created the coronavirus in a military lab. And, of course, there are many other false narratives.)

The more immediately damaging disinformation is hoaxes and social engineering hacks that try to lure people into clicking or downloading malicious payloads. Mass emails promising coronavirus cures or coronavirus tax breaks and other financial relief are circulating. Other malicious emails claim to come from the World Health Organization or the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention offering either cures or asking for donations have also emerged.

It’s important to send out frequent, or even daily, messages exposing these frauds and reminding employees about the nature of email phishing attacks.

The biggest mistake for remote work policies is failing to create a formal agreement with stay-at-home employees. This is the only lever organizations have over the behavioral part of the remote-work equation.

The policy should cover eligibility, the approval process, the conditions for termination of the agreement, description or list of the required tools for communication (include who, specifically, owns each tool) and other aspects of work, performance metrics, schedule expectations, sick-leave and vacation limitations and rules, allowable expenses, security, privacy and confidentiality practices, liability for injury or equipment damage, tech support and troubleshooting procedures, points of contact for management, tech support, security and other issues as well as a complete set of applicable laws, legal assurances and regulatory compliance requirements.

The communication around remote work should begin with a well-crafted and comprehensive remote work policy and agreement, with frequent updates and reminders based on what happens in real life as large numbers of employees work remotely full time.

If you take anything from this column, please take this: Speed is everything. Act now. Get buy-in from your organization’s leadership. Over-communicate. And make sure your related policies are air-tight and comprehensive.

In the long run, the public, the government, the economy and you, personally, will almost certainly be fine. But your organization’s survival depends on what you and your colleagues do in the coming days and weeks.



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Coronavirus: Managing (and pivoting) during a crisis

Creating an environment that fosters online collaboration and an efficient remote worker strategy is hardly a new concept. Whether it’s to accommodate the needs of a more diverse workforce, attract the best tech talent regardless of location or communicate with offices around the world,  flexibility and agility are ingredients to a productive digital workforce.

The need for that collaborative, mobile workforce just acceralated. The rapidly expanding impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is rewarding companies that have prepared and have the needed applications, infrastructure and polices in place. The payoff is a smoother transition during this period of crisis management. That said, few companies can be truly prepared for pandemic.

If you’re in need of collaboration tools, remote worker policies or general advice for how to manage in trying times and maintain operational continuity, check out some of the articles below. We’ll continue to add new articles to the list as the coronavirus continues to present us with what are arguably unprecedented challenges. 

Managing and collaborating during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond

How the coronavirus is changing tech and 5 things to do about it

Due to the Covid-19 virus, some tech-culture trends are radically accelerating. Others are being reversed. And it’s happening all at once. Here’s what you need to know.

4 tips for picking the right collaboration suite

Research shows that workplace technology actually impedes your employees’ ability to work in a timely manner and makes it more difficult to collaborate. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four ways to choose the right collaboration tools.

How to build a collaboration environment for a changing workforce

By 2025, most workers will be millennials. These ‘digital natives’ will have a major impact on how collaboration takes place – and it won’t involve walking next door to an office to collaborate.

Why your company needs a BYOO (bring your own office) policy

Remote work is not a trend. It’s there to stay. Insider Pro columnist Mike Elgan explains why it’s time to re-orient your organization’s thinking around workshifting and BYOO.

How to combine project management and collaboration

A look at several products that offer both chat and project management in one interface so that conversations can be turned into workflow, milestones, calendar entries and other actionable items.

Can you be mobile AND secure?

Despite the security challenges mobile devices create, there is no going back. Users demand corporate access from their smartphones and companies benefit from this access with increased efficiency, better use of time and improved user experience. Here’s how to be safe and mobile.

How to develop a mobile policy

Why you need to sweat the details and avoid a far-reaching (too broad) policy when it comes to managing mobile devices. 
For Andriod | For iOS

 

Creating an environment that fosters online collaboration and an efficient remote worker strategy is hardly a new concept. Whether it’s to accommodate the needs of a more diverse workforce, attract the best tech talent regardless of location or communicate with offices around the world,  flexibility and agility are ingredients to a productive digital workforce.

The need for that collaborative, mobile workforce just acceralated. The rapidly expanding impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is rewarding companies that have prepared and have the needed applications, infrastructure and polices in place. The payoff is a smoother transition during this period of crisis management. That said, few companies can be truly prepared for pandemic.

If you’re in need of collaboration tools, remote worker policies or general advice for how to manage in trying times and maintain operational continuity, check out some of the articles below. We’ll continue to add new articles to the list as the coronavirus continues to present us with what are arguably unprecedented challenges. 

Managing and collaborating during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond

How the coronavirus is changing tech and 5 things to do about it

Due to the Covid-19 virus, some tech-culture trends are radically accelerating. Others are being reversed. And it’s happening all at once. Here’s what you need to know.

4 tips for picking the right collaboration suite

Research shows that workplace technology actually impedes your employees’ ability to work in a timely manner and makes it more difficult to collaborate. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four ways to choose the right collaboration tools.

How to build a collaboration environment for a changing workforce

By 2025, most workers will be millennials. These ‘digital natives’ will have a major impact on how collaboration takes place – and it won’t involve walking next door to an office to collaborate.

Why your company needs a BYOO (bring your own office) policy

Remote work is not a trend. It’s there to stay. Insider Pro columnist Mike Elgan explains why it’s time to re-orient your organization’s thinking around workshifting and BYOO.

How to combine project management and collaboration

A look at several products that offer both chat and project management in one interface so that conversations can be turned into workflow, milestones, calendar entries and other actionable items.

Can you be mobile AND secure?

Despite the security challenges mobile devices create, there is no going back. Users demand corporate access from their smartphones and companies benefit from this access with increased efficiency, better use of time and improved user experience. Here’s how to be safe and mobile.

How to develop a mobile policy

Why you need to sweat the details and avoid a far-reaching (too broad) policy when it comes to managing mobile devices. 
For Andriod
| For iOS



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