The office of the past, present and future – Part VII

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The desk has a very particular place in the psyche of the workplace. For decades, used as status symbols for those in positions of power: giant mahogany monoliths aimed at projecting a position of importance upon whoever sat before them.

However, this mindset may be shifting. As increased mobility becomes a vital part of the modern professional, from junior staff right up to the board, the desk may not hold its coveted position for too much longer. Many workplaces have dispensed entirely with the idea of individually-allocated seats and embraced the concept of hot desking. More still, like Dell, are encouraging employees to work more from home, thereby reducing the need for costly office space and giving employees more time to work by cutting out their commute.

Thanks to technology such as smart phones and VPN (virtual private network) it is now possible to work from almost anywhere one chooses: from the comfort of your own bed to the local Starbucks. But what are the security implications of doing this?

Only this week we learned Barack Obama and other senior figures within American government and intelligence are not allowed to carry iPhones because of perceived security flaws, meaning that the President is stuck with his trusty BlackBerry for the foreseeable future. The BlackBerry is seen to be a more secure device because of the level of encryption it uses, and it is encryption which lies at the heart of securing much mobile working. Corporate VPN systems often work by encrypting data sent across the network to protect it from being intercepted.

However, relatively few of us have access to such sensitive information that surveillance is a real concern. A far greater (and simpler) security risk is that of loss or theft of your devices. How can you ensure that, should your smart phone be stolen or your laptop left on a train, your data remains secure?

The answer is authentication. Relying on a password or PIN code alone will offer little protection should your device fall into the hands of the wrong people. There have even been reported cases of criminals being able to access stolen smart phones by guessing PIN codes from the fingerprints left on the screen. However, a second factor of authentication, such as a token or mobile-based authentication system, will make accessing your data a far more tricky prospect.

As you can see from the sliding graphic below, the workplace of today is vastly different to the one of only a few decades ago. Technology has revolutionised the way we work, but it has also made us vulnerable. Yet, by taking the appropriate measures, businesses can ensure their information is infinitely more secure than when it was stored in locked filing cabinets.

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The desktop of the past and near future, imagined by Gemalto in 2013.

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