As businesses around the world shifted to work-from-home (WFH) configurations during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a common concern was "asset gaps." An asset gap is a mismatch between a worker's job duties and the technology they need to perform those duties.
In many cases, the technology a worker used in the office could not easily be transplanted to their home; nor could substitute technology be procured, because of supply chain shortages that were common at the time (many of which persist at the time of this writing). This left businesses with little choice but to adopt “BYOD” solutions for many of their employees. With the pandemic environment expected to persist here in the US for at least Q3 of 2020 and even Q4, choices that were acceptable as temporary workarounds should be re-examined to identify unacceptable risks.
Let's look at a typical WFH asset gap:
Risk #1: Gaps filled by personal assets
Few businesses had sufficient savings to provision new endpoints for employees. Employees who did not take their endpoint home began using personal endpoints for work. These endpoints rarely meet security standards and can represent weak points in your perimeter security.
For example, an employee may have decided, back in March, not to take home a bulky desktop workstation with complex cabling and no wireless capability. Instead the employee opts to rely on their personal laptop. However, this laptop lacks full-disk encryption and is not joined to the company domain. If no inventory is conducted to match the employee with their active endpoint, these gaps may not be identified.
Risk #2: Blurring work & personal tasks
Employees working from home, even on company-issued assets, are likely to use those assets for personal tasks. This may extend to the use of company assets by other people, such as children doing remote learning, or to leaving company assets in unsecured or hazardous locations. These violations of your Acceptable Use Policy, though unintentional, can heighten the risk of data breach and other attacks on your network.
Risk #3: Gaps remain unfilled
When businesses are unable to solve asset gaps for prolonged periods – whether due to budget constraints, low priority, or continued supply disruption – employee productivity can decline. In the table above, an employee who has not had proper telephony and conferencing tools provisioned for several months may be left out of decisions being made in company meetings or have reduced effectiveness in customer service. This increases the risk that the business will fail to meet key objectives and decreases employee morale.
As businesses enter their fifth or sixth month of WFH practices, management should reach out to all employees to ensure they have the tools they need. Even if this was done in the early days of the shift, employees may have been willing to tolerate shortages at that time that are having a more serious effect now. Businesses should also reinforce their Acceptable Use Policy guidelines with employees and consider making limited accommodations for those in difficult circumstances.