Millions of people around the world have been told to work from home in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19. Companies such as Apple and Google have actively encouraged employees to feel free to work remotely – if the job allows it.
Fortunately there are now many tools and services available to help employees perform their roles effectively from home. Communication is crucial, which is why remote meeting services are in high demand. Videoconferencing services, such as Webex and Rival Zoom, have upgraded their free service in response to the surge in demand. Some now include a longer free-day trial, while the maximum number of users has also been increased.
Those new to working from home will be presenting great opportunities for hackers to steal sensitive information or commit online fraud. To keep information secure most companies will use a virtual private network (VPN) to create an encrypted connection from the user’s computer to their company IT system. However, even businesses with a quality VPN may need to buy more user licenses or improve the server capacity for everyone to use it at once. Some prefer to control work computers from home using remote desktop software. You might even want to use both bits of tech, which would provide a secure way to access your work computer.
It is important that you check that you have a secure and reliable internet connection. If not, you may need to upgrade, or invest in a mobile hotspot or router.
Anyone who collaborates with colleagues in different locations has probably used documents shared over the internet. Slack, for example, is a secure instant messaging platform that offers file sharing and video calls and wants “to replace email”. It has around ten million users, and is said to be a great way of keeping in touch with everyone when you are working remotely. (Other options include Microsoft’s Teams platform)
But what if you find working at home distracting? Making snacks, playing with pets and even household chores might be more appealing than your paid work. Is so, then Focusmate will provide an “accountability partner”. That’s another home worker who keeps an eye on you while you are at your desk.
You connect the video cameras on your computers together at the start of the session, and get to work. There’s no sanction if you go and watch TV halfway through, except the mild disapproval of a relative stranger – but the company claims that its customers report reduced procrastination. Social pressure, it argues, it one of the most powerful ways to motivate yourself.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (10th March)
If you need any advice or guidance on what may help you get the best out of working safely and effectively from home, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 024 7699 5930 here at ADECS-Maple.
Twitter has told its employees to work from home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It is mandatory for staff in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea to work remotely, but they said they were ‘strongly encouraging’ all of its 5,000 employees world wide to not come into work. This comes a day after the company banned all non-essential business travel and events for its workers.
The post also highlighted that Twitter has been developing ways to work from home for some time: “While this is a big change for us, we have already been moving towards a more distributed workforce that’s increasingly remote. We’re a global service and we’re committed to enabling anyone, anywhere to work at Twitter.” Twitter’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has long-supported remote working and in November announced plans to live in Africa for up to six months of this year.
The move is similar to measures put in place by many companies in Asia as the virus sweeps the region, but goes further than most big American businesses as they respond to the outbreak.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (3rd March)
Security chiefs have warned that smart cameras and baby monitors can be watched by criminals over the internet by default. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is advising people to change the settings after buying them. Easy-to-guess default passwords might let a hacker secretly observe a home through connected devices, it said. There are many examples of devices being accessed without permission.
The new guidance for owners of smart cameras suggests the following steps – changing the default password, keeping the camera’s software, sometimes called firmware, updated, and switching off features that let you check the cameras remotely, if you don’t need or use it.
As connected devices move into people’s homes and everyday lives, cyber-security risks are becoming very personal, with challenges in protecting people’s data and privacy. Companies making these devices often try to make them cheap and fast to capture the new market – and not much though is given to security. The problem is leading towards not just more warnings such as this one, but also new mandate security standards.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (3rd March)
Apple has warned that the disruption in Chine due to the coronavirus will mean that worldwide supplies of the iPhone will be affected. Apple are the first major US company to say that the epidemic will hit its finances. With most stores in China either closed or operating at reduced hours, sales of Apple products would be lower, the company said. Apple said that while the iPhone manufacturing partner sites were located outside the Hubei province – and while all of these facilities have reopened – they were ramping up more slowly than had been anticipated.
Analysts have estimated that the virus may slash demand for smartphones by half in the first quarter in China, which is the world’s biggest market for the devices.
“While we have discussed a negative iPhone impact from the coronavirus over the past few weeks, the magnitude of this impact to miss its revenue guidance midway through February is clearly worse than feared,” said Daniel Ives, Wedbush analyst.
But despite hopes that factories and shops are slowing getting back to normal, Apple’s warning will underline that China’s economy will be seriously affected by the coronavirus.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has said there could be a cut of about 0.1-0.2 percentage points to global growth, but stressed there was much uncertainty about the virus’s economic impact.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (18th February)
At a recent conference, head teachers of private schools announced how ‘sadfishing’ is a growing behavioural trend where people make exaggerated claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy. It means that those with genuine problems are often overlooked or even bullied.
The term was coined after a number of celebrities, such as Kendall Jenner, were accused of teasing details about personal issues on their social media site to drum up publicity and attract more likes and shares. The charity Digital Awareness UK (DAUK), says that vulnerable children who face genuine distress, are turning to the internet to find support, where they may be bullied as a result. For those who fail to receive the support they were looking for, emotional and mental health problems are made worse.
There also fears that groomers could be preying on vulnerable children by providing sympathy to gain their trust.
Earlier this year, a study (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) of 250,000 teachers in 48 countries, suggested schools in England had the highest incidence of problems with online behaviour. It indicated that 27% of head teachers in England had to deal with problems related to online bullying every week – compared with an international average of 3%.
Chris Jeffery, head teacher of Bootham School, in north Yorkshire, who chairs the HMC’s wellbeing working group, said social media and mobile technology were now an “inescapable aspect of the landscape of the lives of young people”.
“Given the nature of that technology, trends are fast-moving and it is crucial that educators and parents have regular insights into how young people are using their devices,” he said.
www.bbc.technews (1st October)
A charity has found that sex offenders are grooming children on Instagram more than on any other platform.
Police in England and Wales recorded 1,944 cases of sexual communication with children within six months. Instagram was used in 32% of the 1,317 cases where a method was recorded, Facebook in 23% and Snapchat in 14%.
Instagram and Facebook said they “aggressively” fought grooming, while Snapchat said it was “unacceptable”.
Following pressure from campaigners, sexual communication with a child became an offence in April 2017. In the 18 months that followed, more than 5,000 online grooming offences were recorded by police, according to the data gathered by the NSPCC. The charity said the figures did not “fully reflect the scale of the issue”, as many crimes went undetected or unreported.
Where the police logged age and gender, seven out of 10 victims were girls aged 12 to 15. One in five was aged 11 or under. The youngest victim was five years old.
www.bbc.co.uk/technews (1st March 2019)