As the work-from-home (WFH) trend continues around the nation, cybersecurity incidents have also increased, including soaring phishing email rates relating to COVID-19. Not only can remote workers put their own privacy at risk, but working remotely could result in a breach in their company’s security.
The fact is, during this massive shift to WFH, few organizations are prepared to have large numbers of their employees suddenly work remotely at the same time. Many companies don’t implement the infrastructure needed to support a mass amount of people working remotely, and don’t have the security measures in place to ensure their sensitive data isn’t being exposed.
With new security threats and risks emerging during the ongoing pandemic, research and advisory company Gartner says there is an urgency of securing access and devices for remote employees.
A Gartner study also found that 82% of business leaders say their organizations plan to let employees continue to work from home at least some of the time, while 47% plan to allow employees to do so permanently.
That means businesses looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic are going to be facing the challenge of managing a new kind of highly complicated, hybrid workforce.
One company in Orange County, Cox Business, is helping to ease these challenges. Below, Jodi Duva, Vice President of Cox Business for Orange County, Palos Verdes, and Santa Barbara; and Brent Bowers, Vice President, Technology Engineering and Operations for Cox Communications in its California markets, take a deep dive on how the company has pivoted some its service offerings to support a remote workforce while expanding its infrastructure and network to meet the residential and commercial demands of the future as they continue to merge.
Secure This: With millions of employees transitioning to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, residential broadband networks are strained by increased bandwidth demands from video streaming, remote learning and remote workforces. In order to provide a more robust WFH service, this summer, Cox Business launched a separate connection for home use that includes broadband, WiFi, and related security services that protect endpoints and mitigate malware threats.
The Cox Business WFH solutions provide enterprise-grade connectivity along with security features such as McAfee endpoint security and MalBlock. It also provides access to additional commercial features such as static IP addresses, Microsoft 365, and Cox Complete Care for remote troubleshooting.
“The COVID-19 crisis changed the network paradigm for service providers, which now means home-based employees need managed access points, more robust routers and corporate provided phones as part of an increased focus on standardized home office infrastructure that can be managed by a business or service provider,” Duva said.
Cloud Bursting: In an effort to protect WFH employees and their employers from cyber attacks and prevent malevolent breaches, Cox also recently launched a cloud-based tool called MalBlockSM that blocks access to known malicious domains. This helps prevent business owners, employees, or guests from accessing an infected internet site. MalBlock automatically covers devices connected to a company’s Local Area Network (LAN) or wifi network, from mobile phones, smart devices, and printers, without needing software installations on each device.
“By learning from internet activity patterns, MalBlock automatically uncovers current and emerging threats,” Bowers explained.
DIY: While Cox is ramping up its infrastructure and offerings to support the new WFH culture, there are also strategies that businesses and their employees can put in place to thwart cyber attacks.
- Use Industry Best Practices for Passwords: Make sure that your users know and follow industry best practices for passwords is step number one for any small business concerned with cybersecurity. That means a different password for every site and application; long, random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols; and multi-word passphrases.
Tip: “Remembering all of your passwords and sharing accounts among all the people on your team who need to use them can create some challenges, which is why a password manager like LastPass or 1Password is critical in a small business environment where people are already wearing several hats,” Bowers said.
- Improve Your Cybersecurity Training: Creating a security system that is completely impervious to human engineering techniques might be close to impossible, but helping people know what to look for and what to do about it can greatly reduce your chances of getting caught out. After all, Bowers said, “When the average data breach costs a small business around $200,000, it’s worth it to take the time to train your employees to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
- Commit to a Patching and Update Schedule: As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more and more a part of our everyday life, an increasing number of devices, from our printers to our watches, are connected to our business networks. That means more points of potential entry for an attacker.
“The fix here is to commit to regular patching and updates, so you know that every device connected to your network is up to snuff,” Bowers explained. “It can be a sizable addition to your IT staff’s workload, so considering something like managed IT services – where you can hand off updates and day-to-day network administration to a third party – can free up resources for focusing on the bigger problems, like how to incorporate tech more effectively into your business.”
- Use a Managed IT Services Provider: Keeping everything on your network up-to-date, secure, and working properly is a tall order for any small business’ IT department. With a managed IT service provider, you can hire a team of experts who specialize in network security, giving you the resources, you need to fight back without breaking the bank. You get support for everything from network connectivity to device updates, along with 24/7 network monitoring and threat detection, which gives you a chance to respond to whatever comes your way.
“Working with a managed IT services provider also means that you can free up your internal IT resources to focus on what they do best – helping you use technology to gain a competitive edge,” Bowers said. “Your IT team can shift their thinking from reacting to whatever problems pop up to a more proactive mindset, looking for opportunities to transform your core business processes and score some big wins.”
Back That Thing Up: Cox Business also has a complete portfolio of cloud services that helps any size company manage the day-to-day monitoring, maintenance, integration, backup and security of their IT infrastructure, such as:
- Cloud Security
- Virtual desktops
- Connected mobile workforce
- Disaster recovery and backup
- Seamless cloud migration
- Scalable IT architecture
Cox Roadmap: Cox has been operating in California since 1962. Since 1998, the company has been serving commercial customers in California through its Cox Business division, which provides voice, data and video services to businesses, including health care providers, K−12 and higher education, financial institutions, and federal, state and local government organizations. The company has more than 10,000 network miles delivering video, phone, and high-speed internet service to homes and businesses in the company’s service area nationwide. The privately-held national Cox Enterprises is a 122-year-old family-run business.
In the past 10 years, Cox has invested more than $15 billion in its communities nationwide through infrastructure upgrades to homes and businesses in the company’s service area, including its California markets of Orange County, Palos Verdes, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. Cox plans to invest another $10 billion in the next five years.
Community Connections: During the pandemic, Cox has also increased internet speeds and offers free technical support, as well as additional resources to its low-income service areas.
“It’s important for us to provide support and relief for our customers and communities in greatest need,” Duva said.
Going the Distance: Cox operates a high-speed, national fiber optic backbone, which comprises tens of thousands of fiber miles. Additionally, routers serve as a huge component of the network backbone in which Cox currently operates with 100 GB of bandwidth connections, but plans on advancing to 400 GB or TB connections in a few years.
Cox’s multiple diverse connections help ensure backbone locations are not isolated in the event of an outage and that it maintains ample capacity to handle peak traffic periods.
“Our experience includes keeping customers online and connected during wildfires, mudslides, severe weather events and numerous other natural disasters,” Duva said.
“Now, with the ongoing pandemic, it has placed an unprecedented demand on communication networks. We are working to meet the changing demands of our customers during these uncertain times. It’s critical we keep the Internet up and running during times of crisis while protecting users from rising security threats.”