It is my first day back in the office in well over a year, and minus the Boston-area traffic on my way in this morning, it felt kind of good to get out of the house and see some of my coworkers again.
However, tech issues were abound as we all fired up our monitors and docking stations in a very dispersed and socially distanced office. A new employee was having trouble getting monitors to work, people forgot how to connect to printers, and I was having a hard time getting a Bluetooth headset to connect to my laptop.
There were easy solutions to those problems that we eventually solved without the help of IT support, but I can already see how this return to the office will cause a lot of headaches for the IT department. Already, some are taking to social media to vent their frustrations with their organization’s return to the office.
One Reddit user on r/sysadmin said their company made the decision to return to the office at least two days a week but didn’t anticipate how to ensure technical parity for employees regardless of location. The company let employees take whatever devices at their desks home during the pandemic but didn’t allocate any additional funding to replace those devices, leaving it up to employees to either lug equipment back and forth or work without the additional technology at either their home or the office.
Those issues are very real and can be very cumbersome – specially for the professionals tasked with managing and keeping tabs on where those devices are at all times.
However, there are also some very real cybersecurity implications of welcoming employees back to the office, especially when devices that were on unsecure home networks for more than a year come back to the corporate network.
With those issues in mind, here is a quick checklist to help IT departments navigate these tricky waters.
- Run deep scans of all returning devices. These devices were on unsecure home networks for over a year, so ensuring that they’re free of malware and other threats should be a top priority.
- Take an inventory of all office technology. Some employees brought things like monitors and keyboards home, while others took it into their own hands to set up a home office. Take an inventory of what is in the office, what employees took home and what new devices employees are bringing into the office.
- Patch and update everything. Cybercriminals are especially active recently in exploiting new vulnerabilities, so IT teams should ensure that every device is patched and up to date before end users get to work.
- Training and awareness will be critical. The last few months have been busy for IT security and incident response teams with large-scale compromises and ransomware attacks occurring at a much-too-frequent pace. Make sure employees know how to spot phishing attempts and practice good password security.
- Although vaccinations are up and virus cases are down, people are still rightfully wary of a resurgence. Troubleshooting tech issues on site may require the use of someone’s keyboard or mouse, so make sure to have a sanitization protocol in place.
One main thing to keep in mind is that remote and hybrid work is very much fluid right now. The corporate world is just starting to develop what it thinks hybrid work looks like, and we’re not even entirely sure if it will stick like a lot of people think it will. Shape your hybrid work IT policies based on your end users’ particular needs and develop security protocols that address your organization’s specific hybrid work vulnerabilities.