FRESNO, Calif. (The Business Journal ) – Frank Lopez – Staff Writer
Never before has there been such urgency from businesses to figure out how to allow their employees to work from home.
According to the 2018 American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau, 5 million employees worked at home half-time or more.
Though no figures are yet available on how many US workers are work-ing from home during the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 100 million Americans are living under shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders this week.
Local business owners are seeking services to set up remote working systems.
Eric Rawn, owner of Xobee Networks, a computer support and technology solutions firm in Fresno, said he saw the writing on the wall early and started planning with his management team on how to work remotely while China was in the ravages of the outbreak in January and February.
“We were lucky that we were able to plan ahead,” Rawn said. “We’ve been putting in place shelter in-place working remotely for our company for nearly two months now.”
Their plan was executed two weeks ago. Around the same time, clients began calling in droves seeking re-mote-work solutions.
The solution seeing the most interest almost to the point of not being able to keep them in stock are VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones. Employees are able to take them home and continue to work off of the employer’s network as if they were in the office. Hundreds have been deployed, Rawn said.
Clients are also asking for virtual private network (VPN) connections, allowing companies to create secure, remote network connections over the Internet. This allows workers at home to connect to network servers so they can access corporate files, data and email.
Rawn said Xobee is setting up its clients to be able to work remotely indefinitely potentially an entire year.
As more businesses transition to remote work, the risk of cyber security threats increase. Online hackers, scammers and spammers are already preying on people’s fear and Internet vulnerabilities.
Early this March, the Secret Service issued a COVID-19 alert regarding phishing the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to entice individuals to reveal personal information including pass-words and credit card numbers.
Brian Horton, CEO of Breadcrumb Cybersecurity in Fresno, said he saw early on in March just how much of an effect the COVID-19 pandemic would have on a global scale, especially online where “threat groups” are eager to take advantage of global news headlines by propagating malware and sending out fraudulent email campaigns.
Breadcrumb offers its clients net-work evaluations and analytics to gauge their risk of a breach. If a security breach should occur, the company will inform the client what exactly happened, how it happened and if any information was stolen.
Horton said he had an influx of clients seeking more cyber security services about two weeks ago.
“A lot of our clients are starting to take a hit with these fraudulent email campaigns that were tied to some aspects of the Coronavirus,” Horton said, “leveraging people’s anxieties and fear and hoping that they will open up the email.”
With more companies requiring their work staff to work remotely within a distributed network, the risk of fraud increases significantly, Horton said.
Recently, during the pandemic scare, Horton said a client had a case where someone was impersonating a staff member working from home that called the company’s help-desk requesting login information.
With so many staff members working from home, it is difficult to al-ways verify who is an employee or a scammer, and it could be difficult for a company that has never had any protocols in place.
“Our advice to organizations is to really make sure that when you are implanting these remote, work-from-home solutions, to really make sure that they’re locked down, that multi-factor login requirements are turned on and that there is a really strict help desk protocol in place to validate the identity of employees,” Horton said.
Fresno’s MCubed Technologies offers IT support, cyber security and backup and disaster recovery. They have been gearing their clients to-wards cloud-based networks to allow staff to work from anywhere for the last five years. This has softened the blow for many of the company’s clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jesse Gibson, vice president of M Cubed, said he saw an influx of clients in the Fresno area start requesting the company’s services immediately before and after the governor released guidelines on which businesses could stay open or not.
The entire staff at M Cubed has been working from home since last week.
Though M Cubed hasn’t seen an influx of new clients during the cur-rent health crisis, Gibson says cur-rent clients are looking to improve their cyber security and to easily transition the workload to online.
“The ability for people to work from home will become a standard,” Gibson said. “That capability allows businesses to be more dynamic. In cases like this, when there are a lot of unknowns floating around, it doesn’t really affect their bottom line or their business. They can continue to operate as normally.
Frank Lopez | Writer can be reached at: (559) 490-3465 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org