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Securing the Home: Essential Strategies for Media Teams in Today's Work Environment

Patrick Sumby
Jul 1, 2021
5 min read

By Patrick Sumby, VP Engineering, Sohonet

The demand for content is unwavering and whilst the M&E industry continues to adapt to new working environments the expectations of creating captivating content continue. We look at how to navigate this new “normal” and keep your home workplace secure 

In an industry specialising in drama, suspense and excitement we’ve had our share of dramatic events that have shaped the way our industry works; 

Writers’ guild strike - 07/08

Fukushima LTO tape disaster forcing a shift to digital - 2011

Sony Hack - 2014

Meltdown / Spectre - 2018

None of these were quite so dramatic as the rapid departure from studios and offices in March 2020 due to COVID-19. It sent shockwaves throughout all industries, not just our own. Each industry has its own unique challenges with remote working. Video conference platforms set up, Slack and Teams deployed, VPNs for remote access and hopefully 2FA if it wasn’t already deployed.

People left their desks, at the time expecting a few weeks of remote work. Some people loaded Ubers and cars with editing systems and control panels and monitors. Others went home on a Friday like the end of any normal week and didn’t return on Monday.

More than three months later, most companies have settled into the groove and are back to some level of normal productivity and in some cases are more productive. There are lots of unknowns in what a return to work might look like, but what appears certain is that we face a slow drawn out return to the office. It’s highly likely that we will continue under a hybrid environment, with some people never returning to the office, some returning only for critical review sessions while others will go back to “normal”.

The bastions of security; studios and facilities lay mostly dormant with firewalls the price of sports cars, security gates, cameras, RFID badges and air-gapped networks; it may be a long time until they return to normal capacity. Meanwhile, the demand for content is unwavering with families at home consuming more hours under lockdown.

While our industry continues to adapt to new working environments (home school, makeshift offices and poor connectivity) the requirements to create captivating content continues. Tools are required to securely work on, share and collaborate on content.

Most general office systems have been available to remote and roaming workers for many years now (Google G Suite, Office 365, Slack, Salesforce etc). Pre-COVID less than 5% of staff worked remotely on a regular basis, which meant that the majority of access to these systems was from computers connected to a secure network. Now that the majority of people are working from home, the concept of a secure network needs to be re-thought. More focus needs to be placed on using secure applications, endpoint security and Zero Trust networking.

IT and security professionals have worked hard over many years to successfully secure the office landscape. The home environment however presents a unique set of challenges:

- Family members / friends / neighbours with questionable browsing habits on personal devices offering hackers a route into your home network.

- How hardened is that cable router? Did you change the router password, wifi password, etc from the default on that sticker on the back?

- You might have UTM / NextGen fire-walling in the office but it’s the Wild West at home.

- Corporate IT certainly wouldn’t allow robot vacuum cleaners, home assistants, security cameras, TVs and light switches on the same network as blockbuster content.

- Well-meaning family members on social media - “Stuck at home but look at the new baby alien that Mom is working on"...

Home networks need to be treated like “guest wifi” in a production facility. You don’t allow visitors to your facility on your secure production network, the same applies at home.

If you wouldn’t let your users do something on a coffee shop’s wifi then you need to add additional security to either the applications being used in homes or the home environment itself.

Obviously fully replicating the office environment at home isn’t practical, we can’t stop your family posting pictures of you working but at Sohonet we can deploy a number of solutions that can help protect your users and your content.

We previously discussed the five simple steps to assess your working from home (WFH) security profile.  Whether its admin and finance teams, tech teams, editors, VFX artists or colourists Sohonet has solutions scaled to fit each of your use cases, security challenges and scale:

At the same time it might be worth heading to the local hardware store to handle some of the more physical aspects of security; paying for locks on home office doors, making sure blinds/curtains are drawn to prevent prying eyes from nosey neighbours. Also, the often overlooked but all-important security awareness training for users.

Whilst there is no panacea to solve the new security challenges we face, there are a lot of things you can do today to secure the WFH environment for all users. There is hope on the horizon as apps become inherently more secure, however policies and security controls will need to be adapted in order to accommodate new ways of working. Daunting perhaps but I’m sure people will remember the days when those same policies prevented transferring content over the open internet, even if it was encrypted! 

Just as in the dramas we’ve faced in the past, we will reach the final scene of this current industry challenge. Whether you say normality or normalcy, remember, we will return to some semblance of it. (Even if it’s not quite the same as it was before).

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