The Risks of Telecommuting: Is Convenience a Compromise to Security?

Posted by Devin Maguire

Boston Traffic

With telecommuting on the rise, ineffective network security poses a growing risk to businesses making confidential information available to remote employees. Companies and organizations rely on virtual private networks (VPNs) to share private information over the internet, but outdated and ineffective VPN services can endanger security.

The benefits of remote access abound. VPNs facilitate the distribution of information and mitigate commuting costs. In congested urban centers like Boston, telecommuting appeals to companies for convenience and cost. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Urban Congestion Reports, lists Boston as one of nine cities with worsening congestion conditions in all categories measured. The city also ranked 7th worst for congestion in the 2010 Urban Mobility Report with an average additional cost of $1,112.00 per auto commuter due to traffic.

On the other hand, a 2010 survey ranked Boston the best mid-to-large sized U.S. city for telecommuting. However, as convenience and costs pressure businesses to adopt VPN and the amount of private information available on the internet increases, the question arises: Is convenience a compromise to security?

Too often the answer is yes. Companies and organizations which embrace the conveniences of remote network access without adequately protecting themselves against security breaches risk hacking and information theft. Free VPN services and outdated encrypting styles often leave networks vulnerable to cyber attacks. “A lot of people know how to break these [outdated] connections,” commented Rainer Enders, CTO at NCP Engineering which provides VPN services for Harvard University and EMC Corporation, “Hackers can easily break in.”

In addition to outdated technology, network-friendly devices have broadened to include smart phones, touch pads, and other internet-friendly devices. Providing a VPN service which ensures security while managing these devices proves an intricate challenge.

There are many free VPN server options available, but Enders argues they don’t provide adequate security for the growing demands of telecommuting.  To accommodate the security needs of a broad network, companies like NCP Engineering provide flexible solutions utilizing hybrid VPN styles with centralized control. “It is more security with more convenience,” said Enders.

NCP Communications

Even with a sophisticated VPN, virtual information remains vulnerable, most often to user error. “I think it is always something that is vulnerable,” Enders said of virtual information, “Technology can only solve so much.” No matter how secure the VPN network, if an employee’s VPN authorized smart phone or laptop is stolen, then an unauthorized person can use an authorized device to get information. But Enders also said more intelligent VPN systems with centralized control can manage access to reduce the risks associated with user error.

Only with an effective VPN service can businesses and employees enjoy the benefits of telecommuting without jeopardizing their information. Convenience, cost and availability promote an increase use of VPNs. This trend necessitates better services to manage more devices. Companies and employees in cities like Boston where telecommuting is growing in appeal and application must take care to responsibly secure information. While cheap or free VPN services are alluring, they can prove a high cost to security.


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Posted by Devin Maguire on Aug 17 2011. Filed under Business, Featured - For home page featured article. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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