Apr 2, 2020

Coronavirus: Planning for Remote Computer Access & Business Continuity

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020. On that day, the business landscape turned on its head. Isolation became imperative and companies adapted by telling workers to stay home and work remotely. But those flexible work conditions, though necessary, were implemented without contingencies in place. Now more than ever, cybersecurity steals the spotlight.

Without security protocols, remote workers could unintentionally open a window to your firm’s sensitive information. And since the law world is built on confidence, protecting client knowledge is a top priority.

How should law firms support remote workers?

Below you’ll find a detailed list of remote computer access requirements for law firms, and management tools needed for business continuity. Read on!

Protect Your Employees from Coronavirus

COVID-19 is a virus that affects your upper respiratory tract. Infections range from mild to severe, with more than 52,000 deaths worldwide at the time of this post. COVID-19 spreads via airborne droplets and the virus survives up to 72 hours on hard surfaces. To prevent the spread, social distancing is advised. In some cases, the government has forced business closures. Whether closing your physical doors was a mandated or voluntary decision, it’s important to know that you can continue to provide your services from afar. The question is, how do you do that both efficiently and securely?

Efficiency: The right tools for remote workers

There is no shortage of apps available to facilitate communication between coworkers and clients. Some are easier to use than others. Some require more bandwidth than others. And some are more secure.

It begins with a designated workspace, a computer, and a remote desktop connection to your business systems and data.  Many employees have internet service at home, but that service may be unreliable and slow. Internet speed and latency has only gotten worse since COVID-19 as more people are at home using the internet. It is all over the news how the internet is under huge strain due to this increased usage.  Do a quick survey to determine if you need to invest in mobile hotspots, improved data plans, or upgraded internet access plans.

Determine how much bandwidth workers will need to be productive. Some will need to sync their files and data, which requires expanded bandwidth to download appropriate information. Remote applications, such as video conferencing, stresses available bandwidth.

Here are the recommended communication tools you can leverage to be productive, efficient, and on task:

  • Microsoft Teams for collaboration, file sharing, and task assignment
  • Team task manager like Teamwork or Monday that assigns projects, deadlines, and tasks
  • Team communication tool like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Google Hangouts to keep conversations rolling.
  • Video conferencing tool like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to conduct face-to-face meetings with coworkers and clients.
  • Accessories: quality webcam, headset, and microphone for conferencing (not required, but facilitates clear lines of communication)

That sets up your tools. Keep in mind that robust onboarding with these tools will be required. You may have already used these tools as part of your day-to-day activities on-site, but using them from home presents one major red flag: security.

Security: Safe tech for remote workers

Without remote-access safeguards in place, your firm is exposed to these threats:

Waterholing: if your remote team subscribes to third-party software (like those mentioned above) and one team member gets attacked, that breach can infect other team members. The SaaS is the “waterhole” where all the team members come “to drink.” If one member is infected with malware from an unprotected home wifi connection, other members could be infected.

Phishing: a team member is contacted by email, phone, or text message by someone pretending to be a legitimate figure. But these phishers are skilled at gathering sensitive data such as password and financial information in order to walk in through a door and do damage once inside.

Malware: software designed to infect a computer network. These include viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, etc. The list goes on.

What can be done to prevent these threats?

Home wifi networks aren’t protected by the same firewalls as your firm’s managed IT system. At home, workers will need their own firewall and a way to mask who they are from hackers.

  • A VPN is a virtual private network. It hides where you log in from and makes it difficult for hackers to intercept communications between your computer and your router. A VPN creates an encrypted conduit between your computer and the information you access from headquarters. VPNs can—and should be!—installed on laptops, tablets, and smartphones to keep business assets secure. It’s also important to make sure that a VPN has a large capacity so it doesn’t get overloaded by a sudden spike in traffic.
  • Multi-factor authentication helps protect against breached passwords and can be added to most remote access platforms and SaaS applications.
  • Microsoft Advanced Threat Protect (ATP) will test links in emails to test their validity and safety and prevent users from being able to open dangerous links.
  • Anti-malware on your home computer to help protect against dangerous malware.
  • A Firewall Appliance installed on your home network to add additional protection between your internal home network and the world wide web.
  • Cyber-security training to stay apprised of current threats and how to identify and protect against them.

Putting these risk-mitigation strategies in place is a great start. But proactive monitoring and continuous management of your business systems and networks are critical. Vertex provides a Managed Cloud Desktop solution for law firms that does just that. We securely host your business applications and desktops with an easy-to-access remote interface. You can securely access your corporate network from wherever there is an internet connection. Vertex’s Managed Cloud Desktop solution comes with award-winning Service Desk support, continuous security updates, automatic backup, and employee training to keep your remote workers securely working disruption-free—to maximize productivity.

Business Continuity

Apart from the right communication and security toolkit, Human Resources (HR) is challenged by providing non-traditional support for remote workers working in a non-traditional way. Who can work from home? And who will have to continue to work on-site? For those who cannot work remotely, HR responsibilities include safety measures to keep staff healthy, and psychological support to reduce anxiety. Employees who can work from home need support with isolation.

Remote work success also relies heavily on the trust between employees and managers. Managers should provide positive support to minimize the stress of COVID-19 and help employees set up a distraction-free work environment so they can stay on task without direct supervision.

Communication is key to business continuity. The steps outlined above keep communication lines open and safe in order to maintain business flow, keep employees informed, and determine which tasks are critical to operations.

IT Services for Law Firms

Vertex’s team of IT professionals is dedicated to our clients’ success. We have been for over a decade. We deliver exceptional results and impeccable customer service, and our team helps clients maximize their full potential. We deliver innovative, secure, and flexible IT enterprise solutions with tangible results that grow and evolve with your company’s technology requirements—all for one fixed hassle-free price.

You owe it to your clients to keep their data safe. That’s why cybersecurity should be at the forefront of your IT strategy. Contact us today and make troubleshooting remote computer access problems easy.

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