This Month in Design007 Magazine: When Working Remotely, Cybersecurity Is a Necessity


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When we started planning this issue on working remotely, we knew we’d have to speak with Stephen V. Chavez, chairman of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He is a staff engineer and senior PCB designer at Collins Aerospace and a frequent contributor to Design007 Magazine. Steph’s company does a lot of ITAR work, which demands some of the tightest cybersecurity available. We recently asked Steph to discuss some of the security measures that his company employs and what his experience has been like since he began working out of his home office full-time several months ago.

Andy Shaughnessy: Welcome, Steph. You told me that your company employs a lot of cybersecurity measures. Tell us about that.

Steph Chavez: Yes, we do. For example, to log into this call, it took three different types of security measures to access it. One of them is an initial handshaking stage that takes place between my cellphone and computer to log in. Once I get past that certain coded handshake, then my regular log-in security kicks in. Next comes the final security stage. I’m now logging into a corporate VPN, which is another encryption in itself. There are so many barriers to cross just to get logged in and up and running these days. These little bits of time—two to five minutes here and there—add up; at the end of the day, you’ve spent about an hour waiting for the system to get past that encryption if you had to reboot more than once. Not only do these bits of time add up, but these security measures tend to slow down our software tools as well, due to all that is going on behind the scenes during your daily activities.

Shaughnessy: You already had this before the COVID-19. Have you had to add any new measures because of working at home?

Chavez: No. We are just more diligent. For example, we’re getting more protected emails, reminding us that we’re remote. For example, I’ve been working from home 100% of the time since May 11. I don’t have access to my personal printer at home due to the security measures in place. If I want to get access to my personal printer here at my home, I have to go to a certain install from my IT department. And if I choose to do that, the only way I can print is to be hard-wired in. It can’t be on the wireless network.

All our laptop USB drives are disabled for the most part. The USB readers are disabled. If you stick anything in there, it will reformat it. You can’t read anything. These measures were already in place before COVID-19, but it has forced us to sharpen our cybersecurity template that was always there.

Barry Matties: What about your internet connection? At home, are you on a VPN?

Chavez: That’s correct. I’m on a VPN. We’ve always had our VPN when working remotely. That was never an issue. Now, with COVID-19, everyone is working remotely all the time. For those of us on the West Coast, by the time we would log in, it would be either late morning or afternoon for the East Coast. It was difficult due to network overload. We were lucky to get in at all and on time. But the company quickly established another option for VPN. We adapted and created another VPN network, so now we have multiple options to get on. Now, it’s a non-issue.

To read this entire interview, which appears in the July 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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