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With the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, millions of employees were sent home to work remotely, helping to “flatten the curve” and minimize the burden of disease on the healthcare system and the community at large.
In the process of responding to a global emergency, many businesses and employees found an unexpected opportunity to learn how working remotely can also provide everyday benefits in normal times. For example, we all know how important it is to stay home to avoid spreading colds and flu, but how many of us go to work sick anyway? We’ve been counseled to strive for a healthy work/life balance, but how can there be any balance while stuck in traffic?
We’ve worried about productivity, but how many of us have considered the evidence of significantly higher performance, lower turnover and increased profitability when employees are allowed to work at home at least part of the time?
Whether working from home is just a temporary measure, such as an emergency response, or whether it’s an official policy, companies need to ensure the security of their applications and data while making access simple and safe for their employees.
Logical Security: Employee Credentials and Single Sign-On (SSO)
Our best advice for addressing these issues is to move to a single sign-on solution for simplified security.
Traditional username/password combinations are difficult to manage and remember, leading to many unsafe behaviors. Users may choose the same, simple password for multiple applications. They may not change passwords at the recommended intervals, or may just swap passwords back and forth. They often write logins down, type them in full view of others, or even share them outright. And, as documented in countless news reports, usernames and passwords are far too easy to steal or hack.
With an SSO provider, workers can use their existing employee credentials to log in to authorized applications, databases, websites, secure printers and more. Security is greatly improved by using a single credential that’s typically carried on the user’s person, eliminating the need to manage and remember multiple username/password combinations.
The provider’s SSO solution follows employees wherever they go, whether in the office or a remote location, and whatever system they need to use, whether they’re taking a laptop home, using their own computer, or accessing a secure device virtually anywhere. It also simplifies management of user access and permissions by linking users to the enterprise’s existing Active Directory, allowing administrators to set permissions and grant access on a per-person or per-group basis.
For example, a nursing group for a particular hospital ward might have access to everything needed to provide care on that floor—patient records, secure printer, medication cart and more—but not to the same items on another ward, the hospital’s financial records, the pharmacy system and so on. The same sign-on would also provide access to care-plan software, whether accessed at the patient’s bedside or from another wing of the hospital.
Physical Safety: Contactless Credential Readers
Username/password logins are more than a security problem. They’re a safety problem. In workplaces where keyboards are shared, they can spread infectious germs.
To minimize cross-contamination, a contactless credential reader can be attached to or integrated into the device being accessed. Typically, the credential is the employee’s badge or ID card, which is simply waved over the reader to instantly authenticate via the SSO solution. However, to support users who work from home, organizations may wish to consider the advantages of mobile credentials.
Mobile credentials take advantage of the Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) function on the user’s smart phone to enable contactless authentication to a BLE reader—for example, our WAVE ID® Mobile Readers for the Orange Business Services Pack ID or the Safetrust Wallet mobile credentials.
As with an employee badge, the user simply holds the phone near the reader for instant, secure authentication to the device and any authorized applications, data and services. For remote users, the advantages of using a mobile credential are twofold. First, users are likely to have their phone at hand wherever they are—for example, while visiting a trade conference—while they tend to wear their badge only at work.
Second, and more crucially, mobile credentials can be managed remotely. If an employee loses a badge, or if it needs to be reconfigured, the card must be physically handled by an IT administrator. But mobile credentials can be issued and configured over the network—with no need for employees to come to the office or to trust in postal delivery.
Ask rf IDEAS
We have several partners who provide SSO services tailored to any need. As of this writing, our partners Imprivata, Identity Automation and Micro Focus are even offering no-charge licensing to their remote SSO solutions during the critical months when the novel coronavirus is keeping so many workers at home. Visit here to find the right SSO solution for your needs.
For contactless authentication anywhere, rf IDEAS offers the industry’s most trusted credential readers, including the new WAVE ID® Mobile Readers that are freeing users to authenticate simply using their smartphones.
We’re eager to help your employees work more safely and productively—whether at home, on the road or in the office. Keep your people healthy while maintaining trust in your network, your information systems and the customers you serve—today and no matter what the future brings. To discuss your unique authentication needs, contact your rf IDEAS representative at firstname.lastname@example.org.