Across Canada, innovation spaces are becoming increasingly popular.  The range of services offered vary, but they all have what is essential for a business:  space for a computer and internet access.  Startups and businesses across the country are working in shared spaces developing new technology that will change the world.  But what are they doing to protect their money, hard work and intellectual property?  When you work in a shared office space in most cases you’re given the wifi access code or just plug in to the nearest network jack and you get started on your work.  But what are you doing to secure your business? 

In a traditional business where you own the office space or building that only hosts your employees, it is much easier to implement network security.  But in a shared space, things get a little more complicated.  First of all, you are sharing the network with others that is designed to be easy to use, which in most cases means minimal security.  Sure, there may be a wifi password…. and chances are it’s posted on the walls throughout the space.   There are several attacks that your business could fall victim to if you work in shared office space.  I won’t get in the details of these attacks in this post, I may highlight them in a future one.  So what can you do to protect your business?  Follow along and I’ll show you. 

  • The first thing you should do is get in to the habit of locking your system when you get up from your desk.  You may trust the person sitting next to you, but do you trust the guy who is in the space for the afternoon for a workshop and is wandering around while on a break? 
  • If you work alone, you need to turn off any network discovery or network sharing capabilities.  There’s no need for you to share files with colleagues when you don’t have any!  If you do have colleagues in the space with you and you do need to share files, install your own switch and configure a separate network, a VLAN would be even better.  Some spaces may offer this capability for a fee.    
  • Anyone working in a shared space should subscribe to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. Using a VPN essentially creates your own private network space and creates an encrypted wall around you.  This one will protect you from pretty much any of the attacks that you will see in a shared network scenario.   

These three will go a long way in protecting your business and your data.  If you are considering joining moving in to an innovation centre or coworking space ask if they require tenants to abide by security policies.  If you do have employees, consider creating your own security policies.    

As your company grows you may need to have your own private network, this will introduce another level of cyber security concerns.  We will publishing a series of posts on how to grow your cyber security program as your company grows, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, use these tips and you will reduce your risk in a shared network space.