As BP plan for more home-working, are businesses forgetting the cyber risks?

11 March 2021 | Thoughts and Opinions

As BP plan for more home-working, are businesses forgetting the cyber risks?

BP has reportedly told office-based staff this week that they will be expected to spend two days a week working from home once lockdown restrictions ease. This new hybrid working model is likely to affect 25,000 of BP’s staff globally, a quarter of them based here in the UK. The oil giant is the latest firm to commit to home-working, citing a pandemic which has shaken up working patterns at businesses of all sizes forever.

Last week insurers the Phoenix Group announced its staff would continue working from home for the foreseeable future. And the Lloyds Banking Group is also set to reduce its office space by 20% over two years. That move came after a staff survey which found that nearly 80% wanted to work at home for at least three days a week. HSBC has announced a 40% cut in its office footprint too.

These announcements underline how Covid-19 will leave a permanent mark on how people work. And they open up the potential for new found flexibility that can enable better working environments for everyone.

Here at Harper James Solicitors, the law firm for entrepreneurs, this model of working has been a part of our DNA since we formed in 2014. Our team of remote-working lawyers, based at regional hubs across the country, enables us to keep overheads low and offer high-quality affordable legal services via subscription, designed with high-growth companies in mind.

With such a seismic shift in how we work comes a change in risk management and no more so than in the area of cybersecurity in the home. A recent report by the cyber-intelligence firm Group-IB concluded how the number of ransomware attacks had grown by more than 150 per cent in 2020.

As rising numbers of firms switch to full-time working from home, Clive Mackintosh, a data protection expert at Harper James Solicitors, has urged businesses planning to make long-term changes to review the networks their employees use.

Clive, who has spent more than three decades advising businesses in this area, comments:

‘It is clear that businesses who introduced temporary work from home models to cope with lockdown may now keep them in place forever. But although working from home brings huge opportunities it also presents huge risks.

The first and most important step any firm should carry out is to review the networks their employees are using at home. They should ask, has the employee changed the default password to the network to secure it? In my experience, in 70 to 80 per cent of cases, employees will not have done this. This makes them sitting ducks for criminals who are able to then infiltrate networks and potentially get access to highly sensitive data. It’s a bit like writing your national insurance number on the front of an envelope before you post it.

Employers need to be mindful that this is their problem. If a data breach occurs because an employee has been working on their behalf from home on an unsecured network, it is the employer who will ultimately face sanctions. This may include a large fine. Whether you are a small business employing one or two people, or a multinational with tens of thousands of employees – the rules are the same. And if you are in any doubt, the best move is to get advice before you alter the way you work.’

For practical tips on how to secure employee homes for work, take a look at our remote-working cybersecurity checklist.

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