COVID-19: Supermarket sweep, secure homeworking

Increased consumer demand for hygiene products and long-life items has emptied shelves in some supermarket aisles, as shoppers stockpile amid the coronavirus outbreak. To address the issue, the government is to extend the hours that deliveries can be made to food retailers to help the industry move stocks and replenish shelves more quickly.

Welcoming the move, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, Andrew Opie, said that whilst there is plenty of stock available, the challenge for retailers has been to make sure all of it reaches shelves at the earliest opportunity. “It is essential that government continues to engage on other ways to alleviate the challenges for retailers,” he said.

Environment secretary, George Eustice added: “Our retailers have well-established contingency plans in place and are taking all the necessary steps to ensure consumers have the food and supplies they need. I will continue to work closely with them over the coming days and weeks on this.”

Meanwhile, numerous businesses are urging employees to work from home. While this proactive approach to contain the virus is welcome, many are overlooking the cyber security implications of a remote workforce. Some businesses may not have fully developed or tested work from home policies before, especially with this number of employees.

Cyber security specialist at ESET, Jake Moore says the impact on company networks therefore remains uncertain. He advises these companies to first check that employees working remotely are using computers that connect to a virtual private network, or VPN.

“This should be the default on office-supplied laptops, but it is worth checking if employees have a valid subscription. If employees are using home computers, they should be encouraged to install a well-established VPN network with good reviews. This is a secure way of transporting private data across unknown networks, even via a home router. Instead of worrying about the security of individual apps on a device, a VPN connection can protect against multiple attacks. A secure VPN connection can stop your passwords and IP address from being exposed,” he said.

"If workers have to use public Wi-Fi, they must be reminded not to use it without a VPN. Better still, they should try to use a hotspot phone connection instead, which can be faster and more secure. Taking simple steps, such as avoiding public Wi-Fi wherever possible, can go a long way in mitigating risks – so employers should ensure that they are actively reminding employees to choose secure networks.”

If employees are using personal computers, he explains, they must use the latest operating system and make sure it is up-to-date. “Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 recently, so you must remember to switch to other operating models that have full supplier support. All PC peripherals used, such as USBs, must have an antivirus installed to contain any form of malware that could be transmitted into the network. Also, it's always a good idea to scan any machine for malware before it is used for work purposes.

"Using additional layers of security will help businesses to steer clear of most sophisticated threat vectors. Encrypting private data and implementing multi-factor authentication are useful measures to enhance home and workplace security.”

Finally, employers should ensure that workers are aware of where vital data is stored and encourage them to reach out to IT support workers if anything seems out of the ordinary, especially when it involves financial transactions.

In numbers: COVID-19 cases in the UK and ROW

As of 9am on 9th March, 24,960 people have been tested in the UK, of which 319 were confirmed as positive. Three patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

The total number of cases globally is now 109,577, of which 3,993 in the last 24 hours. A mere 45 of these new cases were from China, demonstrating the extent to which transmission there has slowed.

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