A few decades ago, implementing workplace security meant installing physical security controls, deploying manned guarding and other controls and procedures as security measures. In most approaches, human intervention was required. Only a limited numbers of technological means were there to support workplaces security.
Back then, nobody imagined that workplaces would become highly vulnerable places in the future and organizations would be investing heavily to ensure their security.
In today’s intensely competitive environment, business continuity is of utmost importance and any disruption at the workplaces can affect it negatively, even bring it to complete halt. Organizations do everything in their capacity to ensure disruptions stay away. However, they are not always successful in doing that. In recent times, Covid-19, the global outbreak of coronavirus disease is such a disruption that is challenging and changing workplace dynamics.
Technology has always assisted in ensuring workplace security and biometrics is one the technologies emerging as a cutting-edge workplace security tool. This article focuses on workplace security, work at home security and use of facial biometrics for achieving both.
Why is workspace security important?
Why would someone target workplaces to cause a disruption? Today’s workplaces are more than a place to work. These facilities not only accommodate people but may also house business critical resources and infrastructure that may be serving other businesses, governments and people globally. There can be many reasons behind targeting a workplace to cause a disruption, e.g. to illegally access business critical information, terrorism, damaging brand image, gaining competitive advantage, etc.
Some facilities can be more vulnerable than others. For example, research & development facilities, data centers, etc. can be potential targets for disruptive activities so they might need even higher security.
To make sure that workplaces keep functioning and individuals, workplace resource, etc. stay protected, workplace security controls are deployed. These controls may include, but not limited to physical security controls such as barriers, guards, fences; digital security controls such as firewalls, authentication systems, etc. Identification and authentication are the important bits in any security installation before allowing access to a facility. An efficient workplace security measure should be able to protect people, facility and resources from threats caused by unauthorized access.
Facial biometrics for workplace security
Facial biometrics or face recognition biometrics is a type of biometrics that leverages geometrical uniqueness of human face to identity individuals. Facial recognition systems make use of computer imaging and pattern recognition technologies to map facial characteristics and create a unique profile aka template out of it.
With the rise of portable computing devices, mobile phones and smart security systems, facial biometrics has witnessed an exponential growth in the last couple of decades. In fact, most users have their first encounter with facial recognition tech on smartphones and personal computing devices.
This technology has been deployed in a number of applications including identification, authentication, access control, security and surveillance. Its inherent ability to recognize a subject from a distance makes it a preferred choice for surveillance and security with face recognition.
Covid-19 and workplace security
Year 2020 marked the beginning of more than a new decade. It brought along a global disease outbreak that spread across the planet at an unimaginable speed and shook the world to its core. The UN Chief has called it the worst crisis since the World War-2 and its economic impact is bigger than the global recession of 2008.
Other than infecting and killing people, it has shattered economy in the worse possible way. Experts suggest that consequences of Covid-19 will be far flung and will be experienced for the years to come. Workplaces had to shutdown to avoid the spread and people were asked to stay home.
Covid-19’s ability to spread may seem unbelievable, but it is actually the ability of human movement that has worked as a catalyst to spread the disease across the planet.
For workplaces, Covid-19 was a threat that they never prepared for and as an early response, they had to shutdown. Now as economic activities resume, workplaces are exploring ways to remain functional while avoiding the infection. Businesses are asking employees to work at home wherever possible. However, not all business types can stay functional that way and they have to open up with new workplaces security measures.
Contactless access control, time and attendance
Organizations that have been using access control, attendance, etc. systems that require physical contact to function, can contribute to spread infection. This is also true for touch-based biometric systems such as fingerprint attendance, access control, etc. This is why at the onset of coronavirus outbreak, many countries stopped using fingerprints scanners to stop its spread started looking at contactless solutions.
Facial biometrics for workplace security instantly caught attention as it does not require any kind of physical contact with the systems. The systems can be activated to start the scanning process with the use of sensors so physical contact is not required to initiate the scanning either. Once the system detects the human presence, it starts the scanning process to allow or deny the access. The entire process takes place without making any physical contact with the system.
Other than access control to ensure workplace security, employee time & attendance, shared systems to logon different users, etc. can also be achieved with facial biometrics during and after the pandemic. There are facial biometrics based access control and employee time & attendance systems that can also measure body temperature and deny access if it is beyond normal. It can be an additional measure to ensure only health individuals gets access to the workplace.
Contactless visitor management
Visitor management is another crucial aspect in ensuring workplace security, which is vital to scrutinize security threats from visitor entering the facility. People such as employees, contractors, service providers, etc. are often provided long term clearance for entering a workplace. However, there can be significant numbers of daily visitors without clearance and this is where an efficient visitor management becomes crucial.
An ideal visitor management system should be able to improve security and promote safety while enhancing visitor experience at the same time. Modern visitor management systems allow visitors to sign in using the modern tablet display. So instead of going in and signing on a piece of paper, contactless facial recognition powered tech can be deployed at the workplace reception area. It also helps the receptionist not to pull away from her job to process visitor formalities.
Facial biometrics powered visitor management software can generate and print out badges for every visitor and digitally notify the host of his/her arrival. This allows you to quickly recognize and identify any visitor getting in to your facility. It also allows you to monitor your visitors in real time. Visitor management software creates an online repository for all visitor data. And at the end of the day, you’ll receive a visitor activity report tracking all your incoming visitors with all necessary details captured during the visit.
Facial biometrics surveillance
Facial biometrics remains unrivalled in the area of security surveillance and it is used around the globe by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to handle local crimes as well as national security. Facial recognition can be introduced on already installed surveillance cameras at workplaces. Instead of recognizing faces on record, it can also be setup to alert in case there is a face that is not registered in the system. Facial biometrics powered surveillance system can help security personnel find and locate unauthorized individuals in the facility.
Contactless systems are becoming a new normal and this trend is here to stay.
Work at home security
Changing priorities due to Covid-19 are pushing organizations to redefine workplaces security around the globe. The pandemic has proved that home is the safest place in the current situation and so organizations are also urging employees to work from home. However, it brings up other work-related challenges.
Work at home may secure you from catching the disease or spreading it, but it raises additional issues such as unavailability of workplace resources, physical security issues, data security issues, remote workforce monitoring, etc.
Working from home does not mean that physical security is no more relevant. Workplaces have multi-layered professional security, which is not available at home. So, your home office should be more secure than your workplace. Keeping your work-area locked is a first good habit to start with, even if you are leaving for a while. It is best to install an automatic lock for your home office which locks the door automatically upon your entry or exit so that your pets or kids do not accidently ruin your data or devices.
Digital security in work at home
At the workplace, your workstation remains behind a corporate-grade security based on rules and procedures. However, when working at home, this security is gone and your work-computer can become exposed and vulnerable – both physically and digitally. Other than securing it physically with access control at home, you may also have to ensure its digital security from cyber-attacks, malware, unauthorized access, data security incidents, etc.
This is the issue straining the IT managers the most: ensuring cyber security in a work at home scenario. Work at home is here to stay for the industry types that can accomplish most of their work via the IT systems and the internet. In this situation, organizations have to ensure that personal / official devices accessing the corporate resources do not introduce any risk such as cyber security incidents, malware, etc. to the resources.
Many employees working from home may be accessing their organization’s network or resources via personal devices, which may not be as secure as workplace systems. In such case, a secure access has to be ensured using virtual private networks in a secure environment.
Use Virtual Private Network
When organizations allow devices out of their private network to access the corporate resources, they make sure it comes via the VPN. VPN is a great way to secure the network and resources. VPN allows to create a virtual and secure channel across a public network (such as the internet) to enable users to communicate as privately and securely as on a private network.
By using the VPN, employees working at home can exchange data, run applications and access IT resources without compromising on security and integrity. This is why organizations like VPN and makes it mandatory to use it when you access organizational resources.
Secure internet access
It may be okay for you to access public Wi-Fi to check your personal mails. However, when it comes to work, it would be wise to ignore public Wi-Fi or someone else’s unprotected open network. Avoid using your own insecure networks while working at home. It can be the high time to change the default password of your home router that you have been ignoring since ages.
If someone gets access to your router, he/she can access all other devices connected to it. Use a secure router or hotspot protected with a strong password for work. It would be wiser to setup a dedicated SSID for work. Avoid giving access to anyone unrelated to work to your work Wi-Fi.
Keep your OS, software and anti-virus up to date
Working at home might save you from biological viruses, however, computer virus can still find their way to your workstation.
We often tend to skip OS updates as they are slow, consume data and occupy bandwidth. This practice can be dangerous if you are doing it with your work computer. May 2017 cyber attacks with the WannaCry cryptoworm were able to infect 200,000 computers across 150 countries just because organizations and individuals skipped installing security updates that had been already published.
The cryptoworm encrypted data and the perpetrators demanded money to provide the decryption key. This attack could have been easily avoided if the OS had been updated regularly. Large organizations could not avoid it; however, you can avoid such attacks simply by updating your OS regularly, especially when you are working at home.
Keeping other software including anti-virus is also equally important. They can pose a security risk if attackers find a loophole in older versions.
Encrypt work data and devices
Encryption is your friend. It can save you from a lot of troubles in case of theft or loss of your work devices. Encrypt your internal and external data drives, USB thumb drives and other data storage means, so that even if you lose them, you don’t compromise your company’s data.
It becomes more important if you work for a company that comes under regulated industries, such as banks, healthcare, etc. Work data and files can be critical and you would not want anyone to have unauthorized access to them. Encryption is your friend unless it is done by a malware (such as WannaCry).
Leverage biometric security wherever possible. Modern operating systems come equipped with native support for biometric hardware and ability to processing biometric data. Biometric based sign in to your work computer and corporate resources not only enhance security, but also enhance accountability, that is why many organizations are looking at biometrics for business network security.
Monitoring remote workforce
Work at home situation can be challenging for employees as they have to manage everything on their own in the absence of workplace resource. This situation is not only challenging for the employees but also for the employers as they also have to manage and monitor remote workforce, while ensuring efficiency and productivity.
Monitoring and managing workforce remotely may seem challenging superficially, however, there are tools and applications that can help you automate the most part of it.
Time Doctor, CleverControl, Slack, Cloud Desk, etc. are some of the popular applications to monitor remote workforce. These applications can calculate time spent working and stops counting time when employees go idle. Most of these applications can monitor keystrokes, mouse usage and also take screenshots periodically, to make sure employees do only work related activities.
These tools to monitor remote workforce can also capture details such as applications used, URLs visited, etc. and prepare daily, weekly and monthly reports and charts automatically. These tools can also raise alerts if an employee is not making the good use of his/her time.
Facial biometrics to monitor remote workforce
Since work at home is here to stay, organizations are looking for ways to ensure productivity does not get affected owing to the inability of direct monitoring or supervision of employees. To address this issue, many organizations have developed solutions that make use of facial biometrics to monitor remote workforce.
For example, according to a report published in the Telegraph, PwC is set to rollout a facial biometrics powered tool that will allow its clients to track employees’ absence from their workstations.
Facial biometric solution to monitor remote workforce can ensure that the employees are present in front of their workstation. When taken other measures into consideration such as use of mouse, keyboard, software / applications used, URLs visited, etc. Facial biometrics can become a powerful tool to monitor remote workforce.
Owing to the increasing numbers of threats and risks, workplace security has never been as crucial as it is now. Workplaces are more vulnerable than ever so ensuring their security has also become a complex endeavor. Covid-19 has further complicated this situation by pushing organizations to take unprecedented measures.
Technology has always assisted workplace security and emerging approaches such as facial biometrics are set to take it to the next level. This contactless technology is helping workplaces as well as work at home scenarios to ensure safety and security.
Amid coronavirus pandemic forced work-at-home situation, a large number of employees are working remotely. It is straining organizations over the productivity goals due to lack of supervision. Thankfully, there are tools and solutions that can help managers monitor remote workforce and ensure that employees are using their time productively.