As we continue to work from home due to COVID-19 and a shift in our working practises and business models brought on by the pandemic, we need to consider that we are moving our business activities into potential hostile environments outside the safe confines of our office security systems.

Out of a need to move quickly we have all been learning how to connect remotely from our personal devices and how to continue business within our new work environment.  But, what may have be left out of your considerations is how secure is this new work environment.  Also, how many new work environments does my business now have which I currently have little or no control over?  Each employee working from home will have their own unique setup within their household for their own personal IT.  What we need to consider is this:  was this setup with business in mind?

The answer will likely be no as before now, unless they worked from home as part of their contract, the most they might have done remotely is to check emails on their home network via webmail or on their phone.  What their home setup will predominately be catering for is their personal use: entertainment, children, life admin!  The security setup will depend on their personal interest in IT and their appetite for risk.  If they are a security conscious individual concerned with internet safety they may have anti-virus software on personal laptops and have changed the default password on their router (if they know how to do this).  However, they could also have no software and have left the default password on their router as supplied from the manufacturer resulting in every hacker in the world knowing the password for their router in fact a 10 second internet search will likely provide the password to anyone that wants it.

This is where our term “hostile environment” comes into play.  When you ask employees to work from home, whether using company issued devices or not, you are introducing a new network into your business network parameters.  This means to ensure your network security is comprehensive you need to consider each employee who works from home as a satellite office and part of your overall IT network.  Ask the questions would you allow your employee to take commercially sensitive files out of the office and leave them in an unlocked home overnight?  This is effectively what you maybe doing with your electronic files.

Now we’re not trying to panic anyone and we’re not saying that you need to stop people working from home, quite the opposite!  Working from home has been vital for many businesses during COVID-19 and will probably continue with many workers afterwards. Here at MJD we’ve been working hard with our clients to set everyone up with safe and secure work from home solutions to allow them to protect their workforce and their business as best they can from the effects of the pandemic.  What we want is to increase the awareness of the security risks posed from the work from home movement and highlight that there are some key tools to implement to increase your opportunities and decrease your threats because of working from home.

In fact have you considered the fact that your employee could be in the kitchen making a cup of tea while other members of the family may have access to the computer and ultimately your valuable business information and whilst not being malicious children can be very inquisitive and can cause a lot of damage deleting things in the 5 minutes that the pc is unsupervised?

First and foremost, if your employee is working from home using a personal device it is highly recommended to make sure you have a Bring Your Own Device policy in place and that a stipulation of this is that a company approved anti-virus and anti-malware software is installed.  The National Cyber Security Centre have a fantastic advice document on their website on Bring Your Own Device policies which can be found here.

The team here at MJD can help you to implement such a policy and we can recommend suitable Remote Access software to help you manage this policy for mobile devices, laptops and PCs.

An IT policy should also be implemented alongside your BYOD policy, which we recently wrote a blog article on and can be read here.  This will help to protect the business should any IT hardware or services provide by the business to your employees be used outwith the manner agreed to and intended for while in the work from home and office environments.

A password manager should also be utilised to ensure the secure management of company passwords and allow employees to share credentials in a safe and secure method.  You can even share read only view permissions between members of your organisation so they can login but not view or edit the password themselves.

We would also recommend the use of Email Encryption for members of your organisation who require to send confidential or sensitive information.  This allows you to add a further layer or security on your business communications in these new hostile environments.  We recently wrote a blog article on email encryption which you can read here.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide on to how to fully protect your IT network and business in the work from home environment, but is a good starting point to encourage discussion and planning on the area.  If you have any questions about your remote setups or would like advice or guidance on improving your work from home security please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

With us now moving towards working models where we may be a flexible mix of working from home and working on site and in our offices, the ability to takes notes and have them on our person where ever we are has become increasingly important. And with the requirement to reduce the amount of our own things we take into spaces where they could pick up contamination of COVID-19 from communal spaces, we need to think about maximising our use of technology.

We want to introduce Microsoft OneNote to any users out there who do not already utilise the programme. Or if you are aware and already use, hopefully we can share some handy tips and functions within the programme to maximise your usage of OneNote.

OneNote is a flexible electronic notebook, which you can access from your phone, PC, tablet, laptop etc so long as your notebook is linked to your Microsoft account. If you have 365 you will already have a Microsoft account you can log in with. If not, it only takes a few minutes to setup and link your OneNote notebooks too. This means the notebooks will be stored in the cloud so from any device which you have the app installed on it will sync and update your notebooks.

One of the key ways you can make OneNote really work for your business, is sharing notebooks between team members. This allows everyone to see the information held within them, to action tasks on check lists etc. Your imagination is the limit for the uses a shared electronic notebook has! It encourages collaboration and can be used during meetings for everyone to have access to the notes, tasks can be added to a To Do List as the work day progresses or can be used as a handover tool when people are out of the office, those covering have access to shared notes that may help them cover the work in their colleagues absence.

Within OneNote you can setup your notebooks in very much the same way as a physical notebook. You can have separate notebooks, sections within the Notebook and then different pages within your sections. Your sections can be colour coded and each page can be given a title. I find this personally much more organised than a paper notebook as I can easily find the notes I want from the title of the page, rather than numerous sticky tabs with small handwritten titles that wear off and disappear over the course of a working day!

Within a page, you can have text notes, use a pen tool, format your notes to have headings and layout different boxes to highlight particular information for yourself. A particularly handy formatting function that I use is the check box. I have a separate section just as my To Do Lists using the check box function which allows me at a glance to see tasks still to complete. There is also a dictate feature within OneNote if you are on the go and need to quickly add some notes. The audio record function can be useful when in a training or a meeting which you’d like to take more detailed notes from later, given that everyone in the room is happy for you to record. The sound recording is then embedded in that page in your notebook for review later. This was a handy feature while at university, to further augment the notes for studying later from lectures.

A handy automatic feature, is when you copy and paste text, images, content from online, OneNote will automatically include a link to the source in the Notebook for you. So gone is the issue of trying to remember where you read the information or searching through your browser history to locate the source. A useful tip for anyone at university and writing essays!

One feature that may be useful if you prefer to handwrite notes on your tablet or mobile with the Ink function, is the “Ink to Text” function. This means you can use the Lasso tool and select your handwritten notes and it will do it’s best to turn this into text. Obviously, this depends on how clear your handwriting is!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the features of OneNote but just a few highlights we find useful ourselves here at MJD. Hopefully this has been insightful and sparked some ideas about how you can use this Microsoft Office offering to help in your daily working routine. If you have any issues or would like some further help in setting up OneNote please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, we’d be more than happy to help. We have included a small run through video below as a visual aid to where some of the features above are located within OneNote.  Lets make your IT work for you!

 

 

Key Timings in Video:

Share Function – 00:27.30

New Sections and Pages – 02:37.36

Change Section Colours – 04:08.46

Search Function – 04:22.20

To Do Lists – 05:31.00

Dictate – 06:14.20

Ink to Text – 07:00.50

Automatic Source Copying – 08:25.83

Audio Recording – 09:04.93