How local companies are ensuring data security while employees work from home – LebTown - Freelance Rack

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Friday, May 15, 2020

How local companies are ensuring data security while employees work from home – LebTown

4 min read15 views and 3 sharesPosted May 15, 2020

Cyber security is an ongoing concern for businesses. As many businesses shifted from staff working in office settings to a remote working environment in mid-March, the need to keep data secure remains, and is perhaps heightened.

Karen Groh, president of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the organization hosted a panel meeting about cyber security and working from home.

At Jonestown Bank & Trust, COO Ed Martel said about 30 percent of the bank’s workforce is working remotely from home. “It’s a move to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but there are certain positions that can’t work from home such as our community bankers,” he explained.

He said there are existing protocols in place via a business recovery plan, which undergoes testing on a regular basis.

“We have a number of policies and procedures in place that employees have to review and accept annually,” Martel said.

Before any employee can work from home, the change has to be approved by a member of the bank’s executive team. With the approval in-hand, the bank’s IT team works with each employee individually to ensure that they have a secure network connection at home. Then, a secure encrypted network is established to allow for the transfer of information back and forth.

“It’s literally the same as that employee being in their office location. Our network is monitored 24/7 for breaches,” he said. “We do internal training with employees about cyber-security, and we also hire external companies to do training.”

Martel said cyber attacks happen to companies every day, but having the proper protocols and protection place can make them a non-issue.

“We’re constantly monitoring for anything out of the norm,” he explained. “If we send data via email, it’s encrypted, and our system double-checks that if data is sent via email that it is encrypted.”

Christopher Gebhard, president of insurance company Hoaster Gebhard & Co., said most of his 11-person staff is working remotely from home. However, he said, he’s in the Lebanon insurance office every day, and there’s also someone staffing the front desk. The person at the front desk processes mail and scans documents that are then sent to the staff member handling that particular client or issue.

“We’re almost completely paperless,” Gebhard said.

He pointed out that working remotely is not new to Hoaster Gebhard; it’s the way some staff members have been working for about seven years. One staff member has been working remotely for about five years from locations that include Kentucky and Puerto Rico.

“A company needs to have the technology backbone and structure to allow staff to work remotely,” he said.

As an insurance company, Hoaster Gebhard deals with information that needs to be secure. An encryption technology, known as SSL VPN (virtual private network), is used to move information back and forth between the company’s server and remote computers that are connected to the network.

“Our top priority is to securely move information back and forth, and it’s worked seamlessly,” Gebhard said.

He said a cloud-based agency management system and a Microsoft Office suite of software is used by staff. The Microsoft Teams platform is used for weekly staff meetings. Periodically, staff will meet with clients via video conference.

“Having the right IT people is a lifesaver—our IT person has structured everything to meet our specific needs,” he said.

Robert Yeagley, president of Eagle Secure Solutions, has been in the IT field since 2003. He said prior to COVID-19, a number of his clients did not see a value in having staff working remotely, so they didn’t have their operations structured for it.

“Now that employees are working from home and being productive in that environment, they may be more open to considering it in their operations when we get to the other side of COVID-19,” he said.

But for now, the challenge has been setting up secure networks for clients. He said some clients had to start at ground zero when employees had to be sent home to work remotely.

“In some companies, employees are using their own home computers, and those same computers are also being used by other members of the family — including kids,” he said. “That situation can be a challenge for keeping data secure, but we try to meet the challenge in several ways including by reminding employees to be aware of cybersecurity.

“The home computer is now the work computer, and it’s important for employees working remotely to maintain a mindset of being in the office. They may be working in the comfortable environment of their home, but they need to take the same precautions about surfing the web and opening what could be spam emails as they would in the office.”

Yeagley said it’s more important than ever to keep security software on those home computers up-to-date and to have updated software.

“When an employee has issues connecting to the office network, it can be more time consuming to troubleshoot the issue since we’re not sure if it’s a network issue or the result of having outdated software,” he explained.

For businesses, he stressed that it’s critical to back up information on the server either to the cloud or a remote offsite storage facility.

“It’s always a good practice to perform backups regularly,” he said. He added that Eagle Secure Solutions is available to provide a system assessment for clients, and it can be done via remote access.

Candoris Technologies, an Annville tech firm, is also providing resources for companies whose staff is now working remotely.

“There’s been a huge uptick with regard to security,” said Emily Hopkins, marketing manager at Candoris. “Initially, companies were most concerned about making sure employees could work from home—that was something they had to do pretty quickly. After that came the concern with security.”

Candoris hosted a short series of webinars focusing on a remote workforce, and one of those focused on security. For businesses seeking information, those webinars are available on Candoris’ website.

Hopkins said throughout this month, Candoris is hosting Tuesday Tech Talks, 30-minute online sessions focusing on security that begin at 1:30 p.m. They’re led by Candoris IT staff and include guest panelists. They’re free of charge, and businesses may register here.


Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Access LebTown’s comprehensive COVID-19 resource guide here.

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