The way we work and the spaces we work in have evolved considerably in the last fifty years. Corporate culture is nothing like what it used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s. Cabins and cubicles have given way to open offices. Many in the work-force today prefer to work remotely and maintain flexible hours. As such, hot-desking is common in many multi-national companies including those who have large office spaces. As the start-up culture evolved, there was a need for multiple small offices. This growing breed of self-employed professionals and start-up owners need other resources that are commonly required in the office environment like printers, shredders, Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, video-conferencing abilities etc . They also need a common place to meet people, network and exchange ideas because working solo could be monotonous at some time. Co-working has provided an all-in-one solution for the needs of such individuals and small groups of people by providing a common space where equipment and utilities could be shared between businesses who rent the space. Co-working spaces have thus become very popular across the world and especially in cities where real-estate is very expensive. According to statistics the number of co-working spaces has increase by 205% between 2014 and 2018
In any business however, security is paramount. Corporate espionage is very much a reality for small businesses that are very often the breeding ground for great ideas and innovations. Co-working spaces provide a melting pot for all kinds of unrelated people some of who cannot really be trusted. Thus it is necessary that when sharing space, equipment and utilities, users do not unknowingly end up sharing information and trade secrets. Ensuring data privacy and cyber security in a shared office can be very difficult but may be achieved by laying down the ground rules and ensuring that everyone follows it. Following are some of the security best practices for a co-working space.
- Ensuring network Security: While shared Wi-Fi access is probably one of the most popular and over utilized services provided by a co-working space, it is also the most vulnerable from a cyber security perspective. Following are some of the practices that would ensure secure access of Wi-Fi networks for all users.
- Having a dedicated administrator who would ensure that networks are set up correctly and securely. This person can also liaise with users to ensure that they are following the guidelines
- Setting up strong passwords for every network and ensuring that all passwords are changed frequently. This would also prevent old or previous members from accessing the network.
- Setting up individual networks and access pages for every business that is using the space including a separate network for guests.
- Securing smart devices: IoT has enabled intelligence in every device like TV, refrigerators, coffee machines and printers. A co-working space may be home to many such devices which are connected to the network. Tampering with any of these devices can allow people to access the Wi-Fi network or vice-versa. Therefore it is necessary to secure these devices by ensuring that their hardware is tamperproof and firmware is continuously updated. All devices that can connect to the network including laptops and phones should be password protected and should not be left around unlocked and/or unattended.
- Blocking websites: It is best to block potentially malicious websites which are not likely to do anyone any good. Corporate offices have always taken this step to prevent unwanted traffic and ensure network and data security. There is no reason why co-working spaces cannot offer this as a service.
- Vetting users: Co-working spaces may do a minimum background check on users to ensure that they fit-in with the business culture of the space and would not disrupt the normal functioning of the users in any way.
- Physical monitoring: Physical monitoring using cameras can ensure that users do not try to steal any data or equipment that does not belong to them. Providing physical access cards, logging in and out time of users and installing cameras can contribute to the overall security system of the space.
While these guidelines are general they should be useful to both the co-working space operators and users and would provide an idea on what to look out for and how to secure their private data and intellectual property.