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Securing information during extreme weather

Extreme weather.jpg


Recent days have seen extreme weather hit many areas of the northern hemisphere with high winds, flooding and freezing temperatures causing disruption to services, challenges for businesses and dangers to human life. 


While public authorities, commercial concerns and individuals struggle to deal with the impact of unexpectedly adverse conditions it is easy to overlook the threats that these conditions pose to our information.


The evacuation or inaccessibility of homes and business premises, transport disruption and failure of power and communications make ‘business as usual’ virtually impossible but as we strive to deliver basic services in unusual circumstances it is all too easy to forget good security practices. 


As ever, preparedness is the key to surviving a crisis and businesses that have planned ahead will be in a better position to ride out the storm until normal service can be resumed.  A well thought-through and communicated business continuity plan will mean that people know what to do if they not able to reach their usual place of work; alternative equipment and lines of communication should be available and employees should know who to contact for instructions and guidance.


Efficient businesses should keep backed-up copies of data at alternative locations and will have made provision to protect premises, equipment and information if buildings need to be evacuated.  Encryption of media and devices prevents access to the data they contain should they fall into the wrong hands. 


But all too often plans have not been made, unforeseen circumstances mean that expectations turn out to be unrealistic or, as is sadly often the case, people have not been made aware of what is expected of them so it is left to the individual to decide on how they can, and should, proceed.  


Many workers who find that they are not able to get to their workplace will work from home if it is possible or perhaps in another place if their home is also inaccessible.  Information is at greater risk in these circumstances and, while many companies have well-communicated policies to help people work remotely and securely, many workers may be unaware of the guidelines, unused to the changed conditions and struggling to deal with impaired services and broken lines of communication.


Observing a few of the general rules for remote working will help to protect sensitive information:


Avoid discussing your work in public places or at home if you could be overheard by third parties.


Don’t work in a place where your screen or documents could be overlooked.


Only access company information and networks through an approved, secured connection such as a Virtual, Private Network.  Other networks including your home internet and especially open, public Wi-Fi are vulnerable to snoopers, hackers and malware.


Home computers, tablets and mobile phones are less likely to be secured to the same standards as company equipment.  Sensitive information should not be stored or transmitted using unencrypted devices or devices that do not have up-to-date anti-virus protection.


In emergency situations and when moving between locations it is all too easy to leave documents and equipment vulnerable to physical damage, interference or theft.  Be extra vigilant with mobile devices, papers, tokens and keys which hold - or allow access - to confidential information.  Keep these valuable items with you at all times and don’t leave them in unoccupied premises or abandoned vehicles.


In some situations you may need to acknowledge that it is impossible to work without putting sensitive information at risk.  Try to keep affected colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers aware of the limitations you are working under.  If you can manage their expectations of your ability to deliver to usual schedules or meet deadlines you may be able to postpone work until it can be performed more securely or find someone who is in better circumstances and can do it for you.  

Jo Wise, Owner and Finance Director, The Security Company
Latest comments
Philip VIrgo
20th February 2014
Most timely
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