Returning to Work? What about PPE for your PC? (or, as we say, PCPPE!)

As we begin the slow return to work and provide our people with PPE (personal protective equipment), instructions on social distancing, and hygiene measures, this blog asks: are we taking the same approach to safeguarding returning devices that may now be contaminated or compromised?

Without testing or seeing obvious symptoms, a whole bunch of computer viruses, malware and other malicious content could have infected laptops and devices connected to home networks. Same can be said about those personal applications work-from-home users have all been using to pass the time during lockdown.

Being Blind Spot Aware

We rightly concentrate on people protection, but many companies, large and small, may overlook the safety and wellbeing of their IT networks and enterprise systems, further ignoring the threat posed by returning employees and their devices, both personal and company provided.

The security posture of a home network varies greatly, as not everyone is tech savvy and unquestionable trust is often placed in a router’s default configurations, as well as other devices running on outdated firmware. To compound matters even further, home networks are often ‘dirty’ due to the pervasive nature of malicious software on inadequately protected systems. This creates a major security concern as people begin returning to work; a potential blind spot that might be overlooked.

Bad Actors Have Been Busy

Personal devices, laptops and PCs, isolated in the home network, may (on their own) not provide such a huge threat but, once attached to the company network, it could be a different story. Recent data and threat reports have highlighted the huge explosion in this threat vector by the fast move to working-from-home and how the bad actors have exploited this to maximum effect. These malicious intruders have likely planted all sorts of dormant and sinister bots and trojans, biding their time and waiting for the right moment to execute the intended mission – possibly months or even over a year later.

What to Look Out For

The list below is not exhaustive; it is a roundup of the tasks and actions we must consider in preparing for the health and wellbeing of our business-owned device data, digital assets, applications, services and software.

  1. Rogue Devices

Scan your networks for unknown devices, because you never know – habits are hard to break, and users may accidently bring in devices they’ve comfortably used at home and assume it’s OK to use them at work. Maybe prepare by issuing a note to everyone and ban non-approved devices from connecting to the company network!

  1. External Drives

While away, users may have used unprotected external drives and devices for storage. The best action to take is to re-enforce that these storage devices are forbidden and deploy a device policy to block them.

  1. Outdated OS and Software 

Out-of-date operating systems and software could have vulnerabilities ready to be exploited. Similarly, devices left on-premises while everyone is away may have been shut down and could also be out of scope; in other words, auto-update settings were turned off! As soon as you are able – make sure everything is patched. Now is the time to check that all endpoint protection is enabled and up to date.

  1. Non-Approved Software and Apps

Many users probably installed new programs and apps on their devices– Zoom being one of the obvious ones – that have not been approved by IT. Check what risks these apps and other software present to the company by using an application risk service.

  1. Password Reset

Now is a good time to refresh and reset passwords. Existing passwords may have been shared with loved ones or used on new sites and services deemed unreliable. Enforcement of this could be strenuous, but it is necessary and worthwhile.

  1. Take Stock

In a rushed reaction to the impending lockdown, users may have quickly disconnected devices and peripherals and taken them home. Users need to be reminded that these borrowed items were to be used “temporarily offsite” not “permanently offsite”. Employ asset tracking and conduct an inventory stock! Similarly – you may have purchased additional licences like MS Teams, and quickly deployed them to allow users to be productive at home. Do they still need access to this? And if you’ve used a monthly subscription platform, why not cancel these subs and save some money?

What of the Future – the Next Normal?

In the rush to provide immediate solutions to their users, many companies went for quick fixes and contingencies in order to stay in business. Also, an employee’s time away from the office and exposure to non-corporate controlled environments will need to be addressed. That said, what does the ‘Next Normal’ look like? Everything points to a hybrid work-life balanced future, so consider what that looks like from a provisioning and protection perspective, and perhaps we can rethink what is needed.


– By Andy Travers, EVP Sales & Marketing, Exclusive Networks