Our world has changed so much since COVID-19 first emerged a year ago, that it’s often difficult to remember life pre-pandemic. This is especially true if you are one of the four million UK knowledge workers who now works from home. Many are convinced that remote working has advantages for both employer and employee alike, my dog loves to join me on video meetings; but there is a dark downside to remote working that is often overlooked – employee cyber safety.
I’m Mark, co-founder of Botprobe, where we provide a robust fully-managed cyber protection service for home workers. We’ve created a “black-box”, little bigger than a pack of playing cards, which plugs into a home router, and monitors a home network for unusual cyber activity. We send you an alert if our probe spots something, or someone, that has intruded onto your home network unbeknownst to yourself, or if data destined to go to your work has been re-directed to a suspicious third-party first. In IT parlance this is known as “Intrusion Detection”, and has long been a fundamental element to business cyber security, but has, up until now, been overlooked in the home worker environment.
The fact that cyberattacks on home networks has jumped by over 300% during the pandemic suggests that the current approach of providing a company laptop with anti-virus software and VPN is not providing business-level protection. Every day homeworkers are accessing business critical data such as client details, customer information or company IP. The repercussions of this being stolen could be huge. The challenge in protecting home workers stems from the fact that they share a network not only with other family members but with many internet connected devices (webcams, personal assistants, smart home heating systems, gaming consoles, the list goes on). Attackers know that IT departments find it difficult to protect devices that the company does not own, so they look for weaknesses in these devices that will let them get onto a home network to steal data, or to make the relatively small jump onto the corporate network. Today, business are advised not to prepare for “if” they have a cyberattack, but to prepare for dealing with “when” they are attacked.
For the team at Botprobe it’s been a journey of right place, right time. In 2017, as part of my PhD, I developed a method of reducing the masses and masses of data that IT security devices have to analyse every second of the day. Dealing with this huge volume of data that we generate everyday through our business activities is a big issue in cyber security. Many security providers have developed expensive AI solutions to try to deal with it. At Botprobe we’ve tackled this challenge from a new angle – we simply siphon out the data that the detection analyser does not need to look at. This means our software algorithms have less work to do so they can run on much cheaper hardware, lowering our cost to market. When we formed Botprobe, we had great technology, but were still searching for the killer application where our technology gives us a real edge. We applied to Accelerate Cambridge, just a month or so before the pandemic struck. It was through the knowledge and guidance from the programme coaches and the people they introduced us to, that we realised that we had the perfect technology to secure home workers. Through Cambridge Judge Business School we have been fortunate enough to receive grant-funding from the Santander Universities programme. Without this kind of support, we would not have been able to react as quickly as we needed to in order to turn our software algorithms into a working solution.
Looking ahead, I really hope we might finally be seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. People can start to get their lives back together again. Does this mean the end of Botprobe? No, I don’t think so, as the way people work for a company has changed for ever. Many analysts are predicting the end of the traditional office-based worker. Many notable businesses are starting the journey towards a “remote-first” future. We ran a survey that suggests 60% of knowledge based workers should expect to work from home in some way in the future. Great news for my zoom-bombing dog. We feel humbled to be able to provide a technology that not only provides a safer digital work environment, but also empowers employees around the world to have the freedom to work from where best suits them.
We want to work closely with the Cambridgeshire business eco-system, so if you have staff who handle business confidential data at home, I would like to extend to you an offer of a no-commitment trial of our solution. Or, if you just want a chat about some of the cyber risks to be aware of around staff working from home, I’m always happy to indulge in my passion for cyber security. To find out more, visit our website.