- Security TWENTY
- Women in Security
A return to the office is drawing nearer as the vaccine rollout continues. In response to the new world of work, many businesses will be working within flexible spaces as they adopt hybrid business models. A hybrid office model is an effective way to accommodate the preferences of a multi-generational and distributed workforce, but this can only be possible if such models are built on a platform of effective physical and digital security, says James Shannon, chief product and technology officer at essensys, a workspace tech company.
The world’s biggest companies are buying into flexible working spaces, and security protocols and defences are a major concern for them. According to IBM, the global average cost of a security breach in 2020 was $3.8M USD. While the cost varies per industry, the biggest hit is to lost business and brand reputation, not to mention the time and operational resources to correct the damage.
Therefore, if effective security measures can’t be proven or demonstrated by the flexible space provider, and/or landlord, they simply won’t occupy a space. As more companies look to flex as a long-term real estate strategy, having the right tools and partners in place can foster trust with your tenants and safeguard your proposition. So, what are the core considerations and components required to create a secure tech operating layer that reassures the integrity of your space, operation and infrastructure? But not only that, a secure system that provides the platform for delivering an enhanced customer experience.
Despite the increasing number of digital threats to businesses, physical security is the foundation for any security policy. How are you securing and managing access to the outermost perimeter of your space or building? Door access control is more than giving occupiers a means to unlock a door or access a space. It can enable user tracking and visitor management – two increasingly important elements to your operation as re-occupancy becomes a priority focus.
Of course, access control has also evolved, which will become increasingly apparent as we return to the office. Traditional office attendance meant that patterns of people entering and leaving a building was far more predictable, and even where people worked. But now, with working becoming far more flexible, the access control systems have had to become more advanced. Now they have to account for different people entering different buildings, working in different spaces and entering and leaving the building at ever varying days and times. For the digital experience to be a success, access systems must be secure and able to provide a seamless experience, regardless of which office within the system’s network one is entering.
The importance of access control and personnel identity
The two concepts are at the very heart of flex systems, and will play an ever more crucial role in the return to the office when it comes to security and safety. It is vital for landlords to understand who the occupiers are, the physical spaces they frequent and who they interact with. This covers all spaces within an office, including parking lots, work spaces, desks and amenities to name but a few. Not only does having an holistic view of a building allow for tighter security, but it also enables offices to be a safer space for people to return to amid the pandemic.
Knowing how often spaces have been occupied, by how many people and how often staff are interacting with physical objects provides greater insights for the occupier to know what cleaning and sanitising protocols should be put in place. Of course, safety measures such as this in the post-Covid world are going to be high on the agenda for every office worker, landlord and flexible workspace provider.
When it comes to network security, processes and solutions should be in place to protect the platform from any attacks, and also ensure that all the systems work together seamlessly in one place. This includes having visibility and control over the range of devices connected to your network, and managing and monitoring wired, wireless and guest network logins around the clock. Secure Wi-Fi networks encrypt and authorise access based on specific and individual usernames and passwords rather than issuing a shared password common for WPA networks. Traffic must be appropriately encrypted and segregated by tenant, with dedicated VLANs and blocked inter-VLAN traffic. Firewalls are also essential to protect the infrastructure.
Traditionally, to achieve such stringent security measures a landlord would have to work with up to 10 different vendors. There would be a system for CCTV operations, a network for access control, for desk booking, control systems and many more. This makes maintaining the security and operations complex, and has been a real challenge for landlords traditionally. But flexible working platforms can carry out these operations in one place, equating to a more secure and fluid network.
Are you prioritising this critical, yet often left behind component of technology infrastructure? From malware and payment processing to compliance and phishing attacks, cybersecurity is a moving target if you don’t have a framework in place to manage the invisible threats in today’s increasingly digital world. Start by understanding which components and systems in your operation are vulnerable to attacks. Take steps to protect and monitor any possible weaknesses. Best practices include keeping cable patching and switch port configurations up to date to prevent risks to connected devices, firewalling and VLAN segregation to prevent targeted cyber-attacks on tenants on the same infrastructure, and real time protocol monitoring to contain and identify compromised devices.
The end-user experience
Making space and service access simple and frictionless for customers is essential. Anything from printing and adding devices to door access and logging onto Wi-Fi can make or break productivity and a seamless experience. Occupiers will have to interact with the space and at some point, touch the security boundary – think adding devices like a printer, Alexa or a Sonos speaker. The fewer systems and touchpoints in the process, the simpler it is to bring new devices onto the network with minimal friction. In a post-pandemic office market, there’s a renewed focus on making the space a safe place that supports good health and wellbeing. Technology can help to monitor re-occupancy and track user behaviour throughout your portfolio. Tools such as smart access control systems and remote desk-booking minimise touch points throughout an office, making it a more comfortable experience for employees.
And when speaking about experience there are two layers to it; the experience of the landlord, and that of the occupier. Occupiers will want to use spaces in a different way to landlords, and have offices that are customisable to their needs and desires, and those of the occupier’s employees too. Ultimately, the need for greater user experience will be higher than ever when we return to the office. It will need to be consistent and reliant throughout the business and its many offices. Our relationship with offices will be more nuanced like never before, and the modern workspace has to adapt to these new intricacies of the modern workers’ demands, and the demands enforced by the pandemic.
Secure digital infrastructure
Ensuring the physical and digital security of the technology infrastructure is critical, as is being able to meet the different requirements for each tenant. Failing to do so can have serious implications. The role of a space provider is to build and deliver workspace and services to occupiers, not to get bogged down with dealing with the minute details of technology management and compliance. By adopting a software and technology solution that can effectively incorporate a full tech stack, landlords can remove the core responsibility off their shoulders while also staying aligned with industry standards and compliance requirements, and satisfying tenants’ ever-evolving needs. Can your building afford not to keep up?