There’s no doubt that the world of work is changing in the post-pandemic world. As wellness and a better work/life balance take precedence, more traditional and rigid work environments are set to become all but obsolete.
One major change which has emerged in the past nine months or so is that of the coworking office. Also known as flexible workspaces, this working model has a number of benefits for business owners and employees, including cost savings on the rental of premises and increased flexibility.
While these workspaces can offer some significant benefits, they do bring with them the question of safety when it comes to a brand’s precious data. If you fail to put proper procedures in place for data security, you may find yourself subject to data breach claims which, without being dramatic, could bankrupt your business. Although this is a very real concern, it needn’t be a deal-breaker so, in this article, we’ll share our tips on how to keep your data safe while working in coworking offices.
Data Crime During the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the pandemic, cybercriminals have had plenty of time to hone their skills, and many hackers specifically target co-working spaces; particularly those which use guest networks. In 2020, nearly 50 percent of businesses and 25 percent of charities reported that they had suffered either a cyber security breach or cyber-attack in the past 12 months.
Data crime can take a number of forms, including ‘Wi-Fi sniffing’, whereby the hacker steals data that is shared over public networks, ransomware, and theft of financial data. This kind of crime can cost a business a huge amount of time, money, and hassle. In many cases, it can even lead to legal action.
6 Ways to Protect Your Data in Co-Working Offices
1. Keep the office under lock and key
We’ll start with the obvious – leaving your laptop or device unattended when working in a coworking office. We get it, you’re human, therefore you need to visit the bathroom or grab yourself a coffee, and it’s not always practical to lug your laptop around with you. While it’s best to try to avoid leaving your device unattended, this may happen from time to time.
So, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of locking your screen and keyboard until you return to keep it safe from prying eyes. You can set your laptop to lock automatically after a couple of minutes, so perhaps consider changing your settings to prompt this.
2. Secure passwords and authentication
If you’re using a password protection system for your business devices, be sure to make your passwords as complex as possible, and get into the habit of changing them regularly. In 2021, password protection is not generally considered sufficient protection, so you may also want to think about adding an extra layer of authentication, such as telephone number verification.
3. The web is closing in
In some instances, when logging on in a shared workspace, you’ll be given the option of automatically connecting to a particular Wi-Fi network. Don’t.
This simple – and commonly used – time saver can put both your data and your device at risk.
4. Going public for privacy
When connecting to your coworking network, it’s good practice to make sure that you use the public configuration setting. This will disable folder and file sharing, and help to reduce the risk of undesirables getting their hands on your data.
5. Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a security model which is incredibly popular with those working from coworking spaces. A VPN routes all of your internet activity through a super-secure and encrypted connection. In a nutshell, this prevents anybody else from seeing what you’re doing online and where you’re doing it from.
VPNs offer a great solution for security and cost as little as five or six pounds a month.
6. Tapping into the tech
So far, in this article, we’ve taken you through some practical day-to-day ways that you can help to keep your data safe, and while these all make good common sense, technology can also lend a hand, including:
Used by most businesses, firewalls are network security systems that are able to monitor and control all network traffic, both in and out, based on a set of predetermined security rules. A firewall essentially provides a barrier between a trusted network and an untrusted one (for example, the internet), and can be a great first defense against data crime.
Network Activity Monitors
As the name suggests, this clever software is able to monitor the activity on your network to identify, analyze, diagnose and resolve issues in real-time. The use of this software is a reasonably affordable way of getting a vital heads up on what’s going on with your network.
Some forms of cybercrime involve embedding a virus into your system and then demanding a ‘ransom’ for the virus to be removed. Off-the-shelf antivirus software, such as McAfee and Norton, are used to identify and prevent a number of network nasties, such as viruses, trojan horses, and worms.
Think Your Data is Protected in Your Co-Working Space?
Coworking spaces offer a fun, flexible, and cost-effective way of working. That said, the forward-thinking business should always be focused on safety first; both for themselves and for their clients.
When moving to remote, hybrid, or coworking models, business owners need to be putting stringent measures in place to ensure employees are invested in data security, both now and in the long term.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained data breach professional. Be sure to consult a data breach professional or the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) if you’re seeking advice regarding protecting your company and client data. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.