Great article today in Kawartha Lakes This Week, featuring our advice and comments about balancing cyber security, employees' privacy and working-at-home relationship during the pandemic:
Working online, from home? Protect yourself from cyber criminals
The COVID-19 Pandemic has forced many Kawartha Lakes businesses to rely on the online market for the first time
NEWS 03:00 AM by Sarah Sobanski MyKawartha.com
As businesses head online to continue their work through the pandemic, they need to consider cybersecurity threats and their legal obligations regarding the confidentiality of personal information and remote work. - Torstar file photo
It takes careful planning to make it as a small-business owner – and COVID-19 has thrown many into the deep end of the online market without precedence.
Jason Ward, owner of Wards Lawyer PC, says he’s fielding nearly 100 emails a day filled with questions about work-from-home policies, privacy, COVID-19 regulations, support and more.
At Netmechanics, owner Graeme Barrie is busy, too. He’s working with the Innovation Cluster on cybersecurity workshops and advising businesses on cyber threats to their information and employees.
Many businesses are not only using new technology to do business, but using well-established tech in different ways such as sharing information via email they might have otherwise shared in a one-on-one conversations.
“Cyber criminals, they love a crisis,” Barrie says, adding that businesses should be vigilant when it comes to communications.
The video-conferencing application Zoom has been a popular choice for businesses since COVID-19 sent people to work from home. The app has seen its number of users skyrocket from around 10 million in December to more than 200 million users.
With its increasing popularity have come increasing privacy concerns. Various media outlets have reported security breaches such as easily accessing Zoom-recorded meetings online and cyber criminals hijacking meetings.
You can be held responsible if the information of your clients or your employees is hijacked, Ward says.
“Businesses are now required by law to have what’s called a privacy breach protocol workplace policy,” he says, for businesses that collect information online. The protocol outlines what steps a business will take if there is a breach of personal information.
“A small business in Lindsay might not have the resources to be as cyber-secure as a larger corporation,” Ward says, noting the government recognizes this in its legislation.
“But you must by law, if you are compromised, have a policy mitigating steps you will take to minimize the damage. If you have that policy, and you take those appropriate steps to satisfy (the government), then the penalty to you is not likely to be as severe.”
Ward adds that businesses need to make sure they have good privacy policies in general when it comes to protecting consumer information in compliance with federal and provincial laws – and that extends to online.
Why would cyber criminals want that information? Barrie says it's often for ransomware attacks, where cyber criminals will hold your information hostage for payment. They can also gain access to your computer and collect your information without you noticing.
“They make more money off the ransomware because data is the heart of so many businesses, they know that it’s critical,” he says.
He notes that startups may be the target of intellectual property theft or corporate espionage. Some small to medium-sized businesses may be the target as part of a supply chain to a larger company.
One way to gain access to your computer and information are phishing scams. These scams trick you into giving access to cyber criminals through links in emails or via text message.
For businesses who suddenly find themselves having to do everything online, Barrie’s best advice is to get educated. He says you can’t protect against what you don’t know about.
While e-learning and considering how cybersecurity and privacy legislation go hand in hand, business owners might also consider brushing up on workplace legislation and how employees are able to work from home through online connections.
Ward says Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act doesn’t apply to working from home, but in a scenario such as this pandemic, it could be applied in the future. Business owners should consider developing a remote working policy.
“Managing the working from home relationship is a challenge,” he says. He notes employees are dealing with a lot at home from distractions to obligations – it can be challenging and stressful. Employers may need to make compromises.
Employers and employees need to work together to define expectations, including for productivity. Ward says there are applications to supervise remote work.
“Many businesses, the monthly revenue coming in relies on the productivity of the employees,” he says.
“Employees have to understand that if your output isn’t at a certain level, we have to look at alternatives for that particular employee.”
Understanding expectations can be imperative when businesses are struggling to sustain themselves until the end of the pandemic.
“I fully anticipate that we’re going to be seeing new legislation ameliorating what the consequences are for having to lay people off, particularly if you were declared a non-essential business.”