Quick Hit – March 13, 2020

Beyond the Uncertainty

Head of the NIAID and NIH Dr. Fauci

Unfortunately, we are witnessing an epic failure of national leadership. This cannot and should not be sugar coated. Compounding the failure of leadership is a failure to communicate effectively. Actions of business leaders, sports and entertainment leaders, and markets have awakened the nation to the severity of the spread of COVID-19. This should have been a fundamental response of government exercising its obligation to protect citizens. The United States is well behind the curve in dealing with this known global health crisis. My colleagues in Europe have been dealing with this in a much more aggressive manner for weeks. Of course, we will survive as we always do. It did not have to go down this way.

Very near term, Congress has severely restricted access to Congressional buildings. DoD and government agencies have imposed a variety of restrictions on travel and meetings.

You and your company have a new opportunity to demonstrate your leadership in your space.

What it Means

    • Have you communicated with your government customer today? In the last 48 hours?  If not, why not? Their life has changed; yours has or will soon.
    • Do you know your government customers plan for extended periods “out of office?”
    • Is your workforce able to work remotely? Securely? Does your IT infrastructure support remote work in a cyber-secure manner?
    • How long can your remote work plan be sustained?
    • Have you pulsed your supply chain for their concerns?
    • Have you prepared your government customer for impacts on your ability to deliver?
    • Of the many trade events that are canceled or will be canceled, have you thought seriously about how to fill the gap virtually?  Commercial companies are already flooding their markets with virtual sales, etc. Capture the idea and shine a creative spotlight on you and your workforce. Schedule a virtual show!

Some Tips on Remote Work for Your Workforce

President Trump during his Oval Office Briefing

My colleague Sten Vesterli, www.vesterli.com, offers these great suggestions on transitioning your work force to remote work, especially if it has not been your routine:

Ration VPN connections

If people have ever worked from home, the organization has a Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution. This allows a secure connection from company-issued laptops anywhere (even in a hotel lobby) back to the company with full access. Unfortunately, VPN requires hardware and software in the company datacenter, and you are not likely to have dimensioned the company end to support everyone working from home at the same time. You probably need to ration by person or by time slot.

Install commercial VPN

A basic security precaution for those not on company VPN is to install a commercial VPN product. This adds a security layer to the connection from the laptop and to the VPN provider’s server. There is no additional security from the VPN company to the organization, but most attacks are on the vulnerable WiFi, not the commercial backbone connection out of the VPN company. I use Windscribe (https://windscribe.com) but there are many others.

Don’t use private computers

The private computer of the employee is not likely to be adequately protected and might be full of spyware that records every keystroke. Do not allow employees to use these. If necessary, buy new laptops retail, have IT install antivirus and other security and set up auto update before handing them out. The home network of employees should also be considered infected because there are unknown devices connected. That’s why you need VPN even from home.

Raise security awareness

In the chaos of many people using new software, there are already many attacks where hackers try by email or phone to break in. The best security option is to call back via phone. If somebody claims to be company IT, call back to the company reception on their published main contact number. If somebody claims to be your boss (it is possible to fake voices today), call back on his mobile phone number that you should already have.

Enable two-factor authentication

Some systems allow two-factor identification (where you get a security code by a second channel, e.g. via text message). If you have any systems with this capability where it is not enabled, enable it now. This is more hassle for users, but also more secure, and hackers are out in force. Your IT function can tell you if you have such latent capabilities.

Establish remote support

If you don’t already have a remote support solution, you need to establish it. People will be working with unfamiliar software in unfamiliar ways. I use Copilot (https://www.copilot.com/) to support my family. That service just requires an internet connection and has its own security.

Enable video meetings

If you don’t have a video meeting capability, you need to establish it. I use Zoom (https://zoom.us/), but others are available. Since most people don’t do video calls regularly, preferably get everybody together in small groups and have them practice video calling while still in the office. In that way, people can help each other get everything set up.

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