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It’s Isolation, Tim, but not as we Know It!


About three weeks into lockdown in the UK, I was out for my evening walk reflecting on how different the world had become in a very short space of time.  Having spent the majority of my career as a home-based employee, being forced to work remotely didn’t change how I work or indeed my daily routine, however I tried to put myself into the shoes of those who are normally office-based and think about how their world has changed, and how they would be coping without all the tools, equipment and routines they are used to and expect.

Working from home at maximum efficiency is a skilled discipline, and undoubtedly has pro’s and con’s depending on how you are motivated as an individual. Some people thrive in a home-office environment because of the peace and quiet, whilst others can flounder because they’re easily distracted and respond better to structure and guidance. Either way, the speed at which the world has changed and the immediacy for everyone to isolate themselves from non-family members has been hugely disruptive to everyday life. Overnight we’ve all had to add new skills to our armoury, particularly if we had children at school and they were being forced to home-school. 2 months ago, I could never have envisaged that I’d have had to add IT support, teacher and cook to my own daily schedule! Then I started to think about the employers, not just the employees, and the rapid turnaround they had to perform to keep their businesses running whilst their employees were attempting to work remotely where possible. This in itself has presented a multitude of problems such as issuing laptops, providing extra bandwidth, increasing VPN capacity and enforcing essential security controls outside of the corporate network. No surprise then, that many of my industry contacts have been voicing their concerns around maintaining productivity levels, and to make matters worse Menlo Security Research Teams have seen a huge spike in phishing attacks as fraudsters attempt to capitalise on the fear and uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Whilst pondering the ‘new normal’ and wondering how everyone else was coping, it got me thinking about the people who had thrived in isolation and made it a way of life. When I thought to myself, about whom we could we look to for inspiration in isolation, there were several people that immediately came to mind, but one stood out more than anyone else...and that was British Astronaut, Tim Peake. I wondered how he was getting on at home isolating with his family after having spent SIX months on the International Space Station (ISS). Several phone calls later, and we’d spoken to Tim about joining Menlo Security on a webinar to discuss his time in Space, and how that had helped him prepare for the ‘new normal’ that is Isolation at home….like everyone else on the planet.

On the 5th May 2020, I had the pleasure of hosting Menlo Security’s webinar with Major Tim Peake CMG: ‘Inspirational Isolation—Don’t just survive, learn how to thrive in isolation’. Tim and Menlo Security’s CTO, Kowsik Guruswamy, discussed Tim’s preparation for his time on the ISS, and what that meant in terms of maintaining the positive mental attitude and resilience required to cope with the uncertainty and of coming back to the ‘old normal’.

Tim opened up by chatting about the human ability for dealing with adversity, such as Ernest Shackleton’s epic rescue mission in the Antarctic, and more recently how the Thai schoolboy football team overcame all odds and were rescued after many days trapped in an underwater cave system. We got a fascinating insight into the extreme preparation levels required to become an Astronaut – from camping in caves deep underground with no means of telling the time for 7 days, to living on the ocean floor in an underwater training facility for 12 days! Having talked through the intense training, we moved on to the daily routine and coping with confinement. Here we learnt about the importance of structure and routine. The crew had a very detailed and regimented schedule to stick to which had been broken down into time units such as sleep, exercise and tasks around the spacecraft - something I felt we could all relate to now we’re attempting to fulfil our roles as home-working, home-schooling jack-of-all-trades. It’s just that in Tim’s case he had to take the roles of doctor, pilot, engineer and mechanic!

I simply can’t begin to describe how amazing the mission photos were that Tim shared with us. They told an incredible story about the human ability to adapt and provoked many thoughts about how we can thrive and not just survive during this period of isolation.

My takeaways were as follows:

  • The importance of structure and how routine has become key to daily life
  • The value of a well-being focused mental attitude
  • Communicating your emotions effectively to manage expectations
  • Maintaining teamwork and camaraderie for high performance

Whether you are orbiting the earth for six months or living in isolation at home, there are many similarities and we should be thinking about thriving, not just surviving.

We concluded the webinar by expanding on the challenges presented by enforced isolation and what that meant to the employer, not just the employee. For instance, many employees are now connecting remotely through VPN, rather than being on the corporate network, which is putting a huge strain on VPN infrastructure. How do you secure remote users connecting directly through the Internet from home? And how do you mitigate the increased risk from targeted phishing, ransomware and malware attacks?

Menlo Security has seen a significant increase in phishing attacks during this isolation period and we are aware that many companies can’t respond fast enough to support their remote workers in what has become the new normal. During this challenging time, preventing attackers from gaining a foothold in your network through a remote worker’s unsecured computer is critical for business continuity. Menlo Security’s web and email Isolation Service is trusted by eight of the ten largest banks in the world, defence agencies, and critical infrastructure organisations.

With Menlo Security companies will be able to:

  • Connect users directly to the Internet to relieve straining VPN infrastructure
  • Secure Internet access for remote workers anywhere in the world
  • Eliminate malware, phishing, and ransomware attacks
  • Leverage the cloud to secure remote endpoints

Menlo Security is offering no-cost licenses to help businesses achieve and maintain security for their employees during the Coronavirus crisis.

So, there you have it, even famous astronauts must cope with the ‘new normal’ of confinement at home, working remotely and all the challenges that presents. I’d like to thank Tim Peake for an amazing and inspirational story of overcoming the negatives of isolation and how the new way of working impacts us on many levels. And Kowsik Guruswamy for asking the questions we were all longing to ask ourselves!  And finally, thank you to all our attendees who joined the webinar.

Be sure to take a look at our offer of free Cloud Proxy and Phishing protection for 90 days!

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