By: Austin O'Neill
We know managers, you were uncomfortable with the idea of teleworking even before all those security breaches rattled the federal government. But now you're really against it aren't you? You might not actually have to be so worried.
"Some people like to say 'isn't security a barrier to the use of telework?' We do not believe that's the case," says Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance. And he says the recent data breaches will not help, either. He thinks they will be used as an excuse to put off or delay teleworking.
We would argue that there are several technologies available today that can help people telework securely. There are means today to, for example, fingerprint that laptop so you know that it's an individual's laptop and not someone else using a different laptop in order to tap into a database.
FederalNewsRadio took a tour of one of the General Services Administration's 14 teleworking sites with center director Joyce Larrick. On the tour of the facility at Bowie State University in Maryland, Larrick pointed to a work station used by the Department of Defense. There are of course, ways to authenticate the user themselves, the individual behind the computer, to make sure that's the individual (who) ought to be accessing the system. There are also ways to access data without having to have 26.5 million names on a laptop.
You could actually access a database that would be held in a separate location. There are a variety of ways you can securely do teleworking to bolster a distributed workforce.
"This person has a high security position. You see his computer? His monitor? You'll see an encryption box. All of that is owned by DOD." Larrick says the agencies work with the technical team at the University and set up a work station that is secure. "This gives them a comfort level and they pretty much handle their own upgrades," she says.
Despite existing technology to ensure security, and making the teleworking process easier overall, managers are still resisting telework. Kurtz says GSA has given agencies, managers and employees the proper guidance to set it all up. "The federal government can pay for broadband installation and monthly access fees, provide new or excess equipment including computers, provide help desk and technical support, also there's guidance under Federal Preparedness Circular #65 that focuses on the need for telework," he says.
Kurtz says you managers are a major roadblock, preventing feds from working closer to home. "What we're finding is a resistance among mid-level managers to take this issue on. In other words, they want to have their employees in sight rather than out of sight," he says.
Larrick invites any manager to come to her site in Bowie and telework for a day. "I really love talking to managers. We want to see how we can best use the center to work for that particular office in that agency." After all, teleworking is not just about saving money on gas or a better quality of life anymore. There are threats of pandemics, terrorist attacks, natural disasters. And Kurtz says, even on a more basic level, the 100-plus-degree, Code Red days here in Washington D.C. are good reasons for telecommuting. "We could all save on energy and reduce smog."