Financieel Dagblad Interview

Working safely from home

Almost everyone works, where possible, at home. However, this raises a number of problems, according to Jesper Smits and Victor Degenaars, internet and software security experts. "You can see that a lot of Internet service providers are experiencing failures. Service providers should squeeze the lines, with the result that, for example, a YouTube, Netflix, and Disney+ is no longer allowed to stream with the highest streaming time." You can also see this on Skype and Teams, which have lost many customers as a result. Customers are therefore looking for an alternative, but these competitors have also had to take the same measures, according to Smits. "They often end up with a product that doesn’t take privacy as seriously as you’d want.

The Internet is overloaded because everyone is now working at home. The network is not equipped for this, Continues Smits. "Despite the fact that the Netherlands is a perfect internet country. We have an awful lot of data centres here in the Netherlands and a lot of internet lines come together here, but you can see that the networks can't handle it. The Amsterdam hub reaches record on record in the number of processing operations."

What many organizations and home workers are now facing is a lack of knowledge, says Degenaars. "Many people don't know how  to work safely from home and that can lead to problems. In addition, internet criminals strike during this period. For example, many more Ransomware and phishing emails are sent and the RIVM has been hacked." I think that  90% of companies now work unsafely, because employees now work from home without proper security and knowledge. And this is not only the case in the Netherlands, but at the moment this is a global problem, says Smits. "For example, email can be protected by means of an SPF record which can be checked by DKIM, which ensures that the sender is guaranteed. In addition, you can use a VPN for, for example, storage on Amazon, Azure, or Google if you have files for your work there that you need to use."

The right security and software on the computers allows you to work safely from home. But because cloud applications are incredibly popular and accessible, it is often difficult for organizations to secure all these applications, says Degenaars. "This responsibility lies with the end user and especially with the company you work for." Some cloud services do offer that protection, but that varies on a case-by-case basis. There is a difference between SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (platform as a Service) and IaaS (Internet as a Service or virtual Wan). It is now even more important that employees encrypt passwords and set up a two-step identification, which was already highly recommended, convenience is no longer desirable, according to Degenaars. "Do not click on phishing emails and take into account certain risks, an awareness course can help. These can also be found online with understandable methods that reduce the risk and attack surface." Services like Office365 have built-in security against risks like phishing, but these are never foolproof. I would recommend that each company take additional measures to secure the email channel and inform employees, says Smits. "Providing employees with the right security is quickly an overpriced task for small businesses. For the short term, consciousness is the most important thing. The people working from home should be even more alert to phising mails and Ransomware. There are many online awareness programs that can help."

It is up to the company and the IT department itself to ensure a safe online working environment for the home workers, says Smits. "It is difficult for an end user, the home worker, to organise, but companies have a responsibility to take care of this." For example, by using end point systems that you connect the devices to and follow rules, according to Degenaars. "This creates an extra control layer. It is especially important that the home workers stay (mentally) healthy, and are alert when they work."

Finally, the home workers also have to think about themselves and occasionally walk outside a round, according to Degenaars "Working about six hours at home can be mentally as hard as eight hours in the office, I read the other day. I too experience this and that can make you less sharp." Don't forget the sitting position, if you work at home on the sofa instead of an office chair it gives less support and one can start experiencing lower back pain. Occasionally look away from your screen, preferably outside. And get plenty of daylight during the day for vitamin D intake. Just keep your breaks as you used to, move and eat healthy. Let us all get out of this crisis as best we can, conclude Smits and Degenaars.


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