Remote security working in world of coronavirus

With a large influx of people working remotely due to COVID-19, cybersecurity is becoming a topic of concern for employers and their employees.

By Gregory Hale March 20, 2020

Coronavirus is changing where we work and live to the point of not one person in this country, if not the world, hasn’t felt some kind of effect.

In the manufacturing automation sector, one issue becoming clearer is with more people moving out of the office, plant or factory, there is an onslaught of those working remotely from home, which brings up the issue of remote security. However, the idea of people working remotely is not new.

“Having companies looking to go to more remote operations, more remote maintenance is not a new trend,” said John Cusimano, vice president of cybersecurity at aeSolutions. “In recent years it may have slowed down a bit, but overall the movement toward cost savings and efficiency benefits have been there. Some, however, are addressing security concerns better than others.”

The issue is not necessarily about remote operations, but the volume of folks working off site.

“Coronavirus is forcing everyone to upgrade and create remote operation as soon as possible,” Cusimano said. “Companies may look at this and say, we were able to do this; we were able to operate. Companies may be encouraged by the fact we can do this, and they may be looking at how we can do this on a more permanent basis. Responsible companies will want to make sure they are doing this securely. It can be done.”

With lines of people waiting in grocery stores and even the president of the United States asking citizens not to horde food, Cusimano said he is not getting a sense of anxiety in the business environment.

No panic here

“I am not seeing any panic on the business side, there is more panic and fear overall in the general population,” he said. “I will say with our business clients it is not business as usual, there are more people working from home. The tangible impacts we have seen is certain projects are being delayed, but not for a long time. We are doing more projects remotely, which is interesting. We started a large assessment project at a large industrial facility in China. We started January 3. Our typical assessment project includes on site work. We sent a team over there and they were able to get out of there just in time before all the major issues started. They were fine. We were halfway through the project. But the Chinese were at reduced onsite staff and they and we cancelled the next visit. However, the project needs to go on, so we reached an arrangement with the client where we can work remotely. We have all the data and we can do analysis of the data and then we have a workshop, which is usually done face to face. But we are going to do it all remotely.”

With a larger influx of people working from home, does the idea of remote monitoring and all things remote seem poised to take off?

“It seems reasonable that it will,” Cusimano said. “The technology has been available for a while and it is definitely more cost effective to do things remotely. The only thing that may have slowed this is making sure it is secure. Also, the mindset of this is how we have always done it also comes in. The main impact from coronavirus is it is just going to accelerate the demand if it can be done remotely, then let’s do it.”

One other aspect Cusimano point out is working on the business disaster recovery plan to include things like a pandemic.

“Whatever the next event that is going to occur where we face an interruption of business where we can introduce disaster recovery and we need to do it quickly and we don’t have boots on the ground, the ability to operate and maintain facilities remotely in the event of a disaster is going to be a heightened awareness,” he said. “There are companies dusting off their business continuity and disaster recovery plans saying we didn’t even have a plan on pandemics.

Add pandemic chapter

“Business continuity and disaster recovery plans should have a section for a pandemic, and they should also have a section on cyber recovery. A lot of times they will talk about natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, just natural disasters. But they should look to add cybersecurity that could interrupt business,” Cusimano said.

Along the lines of working on a remote basis, switching from the office to home can create cybersecurity problems for employers and employees. Here are some general tips to help guide those working at home:

  • Be suspicious of any emails asking people to check or renew their passwords and login credentials
  • Suspicious of emails from people you don’t know
  • Ensure your Wi-Fi connection is secure
  • Ensure anti-virus is in place and fully updated
  • Lock your screen if you work in a shared space
  • Check if you have encryption tools installed.

“The lesson we have to learn from this is if we are going to be called upon to periodically work remote in some kind of disaster where you have remote operations they better be robust they better be resilient and they better be secure,” Cusimano said. “If you send everybody home and expecting them to work remotely, if that technology doesn’t work you are in a real mess. Everything I have heard is remote technology is working.”

This content originally appeared on ISSSource is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector.