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Cyber security and privacy concerns key barriers to coworking

Cyber security concerns are one of the key barriers for firms thinking of moving into coworking spaces, according to a report.

Research by JLL found that while firms are turning to coworking spaces to aid collaboration and innovative thinking, they can also pose security and privacy risks.

"Perhaps the greatest barrier to coworking is related to security," the report said. "For companies dealing with high volumes of confidential data, sharing space with external organisations or easing the rules for using personal devices can be potentially challenging.

"Cyber security is a growing strategic challenge for organisations and effective coworking solutions need to mitigate cyber security concerns."

Firms also worry about the potential loss of intellectual property, ideas and other sensitive information, the report said, especially if they share space with competitors.

However, these issues can be tackled with effective policy frameworks and procedures to help to mitigate the risk to information security.

Tom Carroll, head of EMEA corporate research at JLL, said the focus on security reflects the issue’s prominence in other areas of business.

“Those businesses looking at evolving their real estate strategies to include coworking in order take advantage of the considerable benefits that it brings, including collaboration, innovation, access to insight and best practice, now need to consider their cyber security requirements as a prerequisite,” he said.

“Companies must put in place cyber security and privacy policies that reflect the new and mobile way in which their employees are working.

“While these challenges are not necessarily brand new – we’ve seen the cyber security issues associated with executives working from airports, hotels and coffee shops – with coworking, organisations now need to scale their security framework across a wider range of locations.”

Carroll added that businesses need to design security strategies that are flexible enough to adapt to their changing needs.

“First and foremost, it is crucial to undergo a robust risk mitigation exercise in conjunction with internal advisors and external consultants to assess the challenges. Aspects of coworking like open spaces and multi-user networks create cyber security and privacy issues far greater than those encountered in a fixed office space,” he said.

“Once recommendations have been made – for example separate servers or private WiFi networks – and a policy developed, the procedural elements must then continue to evolve with the on the ground reality of coworking.

“As coworking arrangements develop, and the way the employees and company work changes, so too the cyber security arrangements must adapt.

“We also expect to see the coworking spaces themselves evolve reflect the changing cyber security needs of the market. Innovation on the cyber security and privacy front may lead to more quiet rooms and private areas becoming integrated into coworking spaces as the providers work to fulfil user requirements.”

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