It almost sounds like a ’50s SciFi movie.

For a couple of months into the Covid pandemic, my inbox collected a steady stream of press releases about what this or that company was doing to either fight the coronavirus or prepare workplaces and workforces for the return to the office. That mighty river has turned into a stream at the end of summer.

The CTO of a Siemens company on NPR’s Tech Nation with Moira Gunn (good podcast, by the way) and I have interviewed Siemens about its combining of technologies to provide for safer workplaces in light of infectious viruses.

Then I received this note from Marty Edwards, VP of OT Security, Tenable, whom I’ve known for years as a reputable security specialist. “Prediction: Workers who return to the office may well bring new vulnerabilities with them.”

“While many critical infrastructure workers who operate, manage and secure the OT that underpins our economy can’t bring their work home, some of their colleagues certainly can. It’s likely that functions such as sales, marketing, HR, finance and legal of many essential services –food and beverage, manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies — have shifted to a remote-work model. When stay-at-home orders are eventually lifted, many of these folks will return to their offices with equipment that will be re-connected to corporate networks. With this comes the added risk of new vulnerabilities and threats being introduced to either the IT or OT side of mission- and safety-critical operations. During this transition, it’s imperative security teams have visibility into where the organization is exposed and to what extent, enabling them to effectively manage risk on a day-to-day basis. Put simply, the security challenges aren’t gone once everyone is back in the office.”

I have not worked in an office for years, unless you call a coffee house an office. But, many people will be returning to offices in the next few months. They will expect safe workspaces. As will all the factory workers (think about the morons running meat processing plants).

It took a while for cybersecurity to catch up with the sudden working-from-home IT challenge. Now, we’ll have millions returning to the corporate intranet bringing who knows what (computer) viruses with them. Another type of security to deal with.

One way or another, engineers will be busy dealing with this crisis for many months. Probably along with all their other work.

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