The pandemic has led to many workplaces adopting a hybrid setup where a number of its employees work from home and while it has since become a norm, cybersecurity threats remain as work devices can be quite vulnerable being outside the protection of the corporate network.
One of the more vulnerable industries is business process outsourcing (BPO) which is why technology leaders HP and Intel held a webinar titled Forging a Safety (Inter) Net for the Agents to show the importance of having ample security, especially while working from home.
“The common misconception is that ‘I have an antivirus and I have a firewall, and we’re good.’ But now, especially in an era of a dispersed workforce where more and more employees are working from home, and a big proportion of BPO agents are working from home, the threats and the risks of vulnerability are much higher,” Christian Edmond Reyes, Managing Director of HP Philippines and Pakistan, said in the recently held webinar.
According to the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Cybercrime division, there has been a 200% increase in phishing attacks last year while Russian cybersecurity provider Kaspersky said the country has, for two straight years, topped the list in Southeast Asia in terms of internet-based threats.
“One of the points of vulnerability is usually the employee and that’s where education is important and primarily because sometimes you can just receive an innocuous email with a seemingly harmless link. You click it and it wreaks havoc,” Mr. Reyes said before adding, “HP wants to be able to help our partners to be more secure, prevent any disruption, prevent any cyberattacks that can cause damage to your reputation, your productivity and has financial repercussions.”
BPO security at home
Data from 2019 showed that an estimated 1.3 million Filipinos work in BPO companies, making it a significant contributor to the country’s GDP. The IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) expects that the industry will grow by 5.5% within the next two years.
With the current health and safety restrictions in place, the association figured that an average of 70% of the workforce is still working from home.
“One of the difficulties that we had to overcome was really the anxiety and discomfort of our clients when we had to move from what used to be a pretty much airtight security in the office premises to having many of the agents working from home,” Rey Untal, President and CEO of IBPAP, said in the same webinar.
He explained that they had to convince their clients that they can achieve the same level of security while functioning outside the offices though there were also situations that working from home will not work for some so they had to have skeletal workforces to be able to work for those with specific and unique security requirements.
Currently the industry has adopted tools including suites of services that provide security including virtual private networks or VPNs or getting security-hardened commercial PCs like those in HP’s Pro and Elite series.
“Hackers will actually come up with new tricks, new attacked every single day, every few minutes so it’s absolutely a must to make sure each PC or endpoint is secured,” Yuan Zhi Luo, Services GTM Manager at HP, said.
“Our HP Pro and Elite series have very hardened security features for files and OS and even installed built-in protection against ‘Peeping Toms’ or those who do shoulder-surfing,” she added.
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Among HP’s cybersecurity offerings available in Pro and Elite devices is HP SureSense that uses deep-learning and AI-based protection that helps prevent never-before-seen infections before they happen and HP SureClick protects PCs and laptops from malware that lurks in malicious websites and hides in shared attachments and files.
At the security policy level, she suggested that companies adopt a “zero-trust policy” where every untrusted source of email or documents is treated and every removable file drive is considered a potential threat. There is also a need, she said, to ensure proper endpoint protection when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots that may be unsecured or use outdated security measures.
She also acknowledged that working remotely means employees are also far from IT support and thus may not be able to address problems as they occur and that’s why HP has HP Proactive Insights that provides monitoring, reporting, and insights to help IT reduce the cost and complexity of managing device fleets while improving employee experience.
“When we talk about security it’s not just about antivirus but is also about the protection below and above OS levels,” said Wendy Butlig-Gurra, Industry Technical Specialist of Intel. She also stressed the importance of the IT team being able to render support and help proactively while employees are working remotely.
At length, Ms. Yuan suggested BPO companies should establish a streamlined modern device management lifecycle, starting from when the IT device is issued to an agent. HP recognizes modern IT challenges and pain points unfortunately amplified by the pandemic that’s why the company has put together services, innovations, and technology–long before the onset of COVID-19–in order to build the most secure commercial PCs to help their customers transform and become future-proof.
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