Autumn is most definitely here and days are most definitely drawing in. Before you know it we will have arrived in the depths of Winter. It is therefore easy to appreciate why October the 10th was selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the world mental health day. I would not for a second suggest that we here at PAV could make a meaningful contribution to people suffering from this infliction, but I do reflect on the effect that information technology (IT) has on our wellbeing and certainly can have both a positive as well as negative impact which in the extreme situations (end point failure / corruption / application downtime) can be a really large source of personal stress. This in my view doubles down and really hurts individuals who are already struggling with deeper mental health issues brought on by a mixture of complex issues that also now include the loneliness that many experience when working remotely from their colleagues and a feeling of isolation that can result without quality leadership and remote support.
As part of our surviving #COVID19 marketing campaign, I was joined by Amanda Dowson from our customer Peritus Health Management and also by Martyn Wells of Wells Technology Services Ltd. We specifically discussed many aspects of wellbeing in this post COVID era and delved into the adjustments being made daily to modern working practices and the consequences that were being felt within many organisations. If you are interested in listening to the webinar and gaining additional wellbeing insight, please feel free to go to our YouTube channel and view the “Morale and wellbeing of employees when not in the workplace” recording. Alternatively, you can access this content on this LINK.
In our opinion, the organisations that will be the most successful in the future will be those that have most effectively embraced the present day COVID related issues. They are strategic in thinking and will have adapted to ensure their employees are productive anytime, anyplace and anywhere. This is the modern workplace and one that PAV ourselves rolled out during in 2019. We wanted a fully managed and integrated platform that enabled us to communicate with our customers, quote them, raise tickets for them, maintain an appropriate contact database and history of prior events and transactions, configurations databases and previously closed tickets for root cause analysis. All with no paper, ink or infrastructure being required. Nothing was physical… it was all virtual. The goals were employee productivity, operational cost reduction, improved business agility and a real green agenda.
This modern workplace project had several associated benefits to our bottom line costs as well as secondary productivity enhancing improvements as follows:
- 95% reduction in physical records, paper trails and record storage space
- 90% removal of legacy on premise “IT stuff” that is simply antiquated and expensive to maintain and anchors you to office space and data centres e.g. servers for applications, networking equipment, security equipment, physical telephony switches plus the plethora of things required to power and cool all of the “stuff” and as well as to ensure power redundancy as well! Tens of thousands of pounds saved every year
- 75% reduction in our environmental footprint through the switch to shared cloud services and SaaS utilisation
- Support our clients anytime, anyplace and anywhere. Only recently did we really understand the true value of this point as outlined next
During the COVID lock down, our new systems and processes were put to severe tests. Social distancing limitations made access to office space temporarily impossible until we adopted COVID measures. We adapted by simply sending our support operatives home. During the 6 months between January and June we handled 28,000 support requests. At all times these requests were first handled 90% of the time and were resolved within service level >90% of the time. Low priority tickets were effected when we had support pinches but this was done with the awareness of the affected customer. We always wrap up support calls with a support questionnaire as this helps us to maintain an awareness around ticket handling and resolution success. We received 386 survey responses in this timeframe with the average customer satisfaction level being 4.86 out of 5. If we were a restaurant… you would definitely want to dine with us!
For most organisations, modern workplaces are far more problematic and we believe that the transformation issues relate to a mixture of corporate preparedness and also on the enablement of the staff. In other words the design of work flows that ensure both effective and secure interaction by employees within the new modern workplace tools / applications. This we explored in full in this blog, should you wish to have a deeper dive into the inevitability of data loss and data breach which resulted in 8.8 billion records having been breached in the month of May 2020 alone. A new record at the time!
This morning I heard of yet another client being hit by a ransomware attack that successfully targeted an employee accessing content from their endpoint in the confines of their own home IT environment (i.e. outside of the core office environment and with minimal core IT protection). This is not unusual and this year we have seen quite a few attacks via phishing e-mails, browser links followed, unsecured VPN connections, public facing IP addresses without MFA etc… The uptick in cases often stems back to rapid tactical decisions to react to COVID19 and keep the employee base productive.
Some stats from CISCO first to help you conceptualise your risks:
- 53% of midmarket companies have experienced a breach
- Midmarket companies experience up to 5000 security alerts
- Only 55.6% of these alerts are investigated
- A successful breach costs 29% of clients about $100K with 20% of organisations experiencing a cost in the $1m+ bracket
The full report can be viewed HERE
Here at PAV, we want to provide some guidance to help all of our customers understand that now… ESPECIALLY NOW, investment in security for employees within and outside of the office is of paramount importance and that training and enablement is included to ensure that your organisation is less likely than one of your competitors to suffer breach… less likely as ultimately a breach event is now inevitable. Our solution to protect modern workplaces is outlined HERE which includes productivity suites and the security tools to protect.
As a minimum we would remind clients to configure properly the operating system as there are some free tools built within. Windows 10 includes Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center. In addition to antivirus, it manages Windows Firewall, SmartScreen Filter, and Microsoft’s parental control system, and also helps with PC health and performance issues. However, many of the configurations that can provide a base level of protection for an employee are just not turned on by default… to do this, you will need to go into the antivirus settings, find the setting called Controlled Folder access, and turn it on. Once activated, this feature prevents unauthorized programs from making any changes to files in your Documents, Videos, Movies, Music, and Favourites folders. But you can add to the list of protected folders.
If ransomware attempts to encrypt those files, Windows Defender stops it and displays a warning. The same thing happens if you use an uncommon program to edit your documents or photos.
Over time Windows has incorporated numerous technologies to make life difficult for malware writers. The introduction of Data Execution Prevention (DEP) completely wiped out a type of attack that concealed malicious code in memory marked as reserved for data. Some old hacking techniques worked because they knew where to find certain operating system elements in memory. With Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), those attacks fail. And so on.
The ransomware protection added to Windows Defender is nice to have and is a minimum to utilise in the modern workplace. It does prevent untrusted programs from modifying your important documents but for the average user, that’s about the extent of it.
It is true to say that the whole community of Windows users benefit as prior successes from zero day ransom payloads are subsequently analysed and then detected with fixes rolled out to the entire Defender community. There are hundreds of millions of active Windows 10 users and as a result an exploit / loophole is plugged pretty quick. However, many clients have not properly activated Windows Defender and also if this is your only endpoint strategy then at some stage your user base will succumb to the inevitability of an exploit that can lead to a data breach. Windows Defender doesn’t come close to the accuracy and effectiveness of the best free antivirus utilities from other companies and certainly not from our preferred solutions from Sophos or CISCO.
In conjunction to our recent discussion on employee wellbeing mentioned above and available on YouTube, PAV at the same time held relevant discussions on Data Security and the Evolving Threat Landscape and also Employee Mobility, Collaboration and Productivity. The discussions are available in our YouTube channel which holds a wealth of information on all aspects of IT and we would recommend our customers return to it from time to time as a source of information that can help guide your technology decisions.
We hope you find the content valuable, and we’ll be in touch again soon.
Nathan Collins – Sales & Marketing Director