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IT security concerns

HARDWARE, software and security needs are three of the most important elements in the creation of a home office.

After determining the number of computers, printers, PDAs, cabling and associated technologies required, most people working from home will need to access their employer’s net-work, and should consider security issues at the time of set-up.

According to Millennium  (Australasia) operations manager Justin Lowe, those wanting to work from home should first consider the type of resources they require from their company, and then acquire the technology to utilise those resources.

“If you are an accountant you might need to run the accounting software packages on your home PC and access the office network. To do that you could run a VPN (virtual private net-work),” Mr Lowe said.

A VPN works by using shared public infrastructure but maintaining privacy through security procedures. This process is typically configured to encrypt data at the sending end and decrypt information at the receiving end. The information is sent through a ‘tunnel’ that is created between the sender and the destination network.

“Another way to gain remote access is to download software such as PC Anywhere, and remotely control the office PC,” Mr Lowe said.

“You connect from home but it brings up the screen identical to the one at work. You set the work machine up as a host and your home machine as the client. You can control it from home and can transfer files and so forth. A larger company may operate Microsoft VPN server and terminal services or Citrix.”

Working from home also presents its own security concerns, from crayon wielding children to hackers.

While backing up your work is critical to ensuring valuable data is not destroyed in the event of a technical failure, there are other precautions that should be taken to ensure your systems are safe.

According to Mr Lowe, home office users need to employ firewall technology to prevent hackers accessing or destroying their system.

“There is a temptation to connect a high-speed modem to a PC but you need to consider security. There are lots of hackers that scan and strobe for vulnerabilities,” Mr Lowe said.

“I liken it to a physical building. If I was going to break in I would case it for a while, walk around the sides, rattle a few windows, see if there were any locks that I could pick and those types of things.

“Strobing and scanning check those sorts of vulnerabilities in your network. Firewalls act as barriers, they batten down the hatches and in some cases give the impression that you are not even there.”

Mr Lowe said there were two distinct types of considerations – software or a physical device known as a firewall router.

According to IBM desktop brand manager Kevin Yap, the company has designed several tools that cost-effectively assist in recovering systems that have crashed or cannot be accessed.

“For example, your kids go and surf the Internet and when you return the PC is dead and you can’t tell what they’ve done,” Mr Yap said.

“In the past, if you totally locked up your system and ruined your software, you could not get the computer operating.

“We have designed a load recovery CD. It contains the base operating systems and it can get you operational. You will lose all your files and bookmarks and settings but within a few hours you can log on and use the system.

“We have the rapid restore PC. It solves the problem whereby you can quickly and effectively get the PC back up and running to its last workable state.

“It comes with IBM PCs and it’s a unique system.”

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