Another group of Aurora's telecommuters, teleradiologists, may be called upon at home to examine medical images stored in Aurora's multigigabyte storage-area networks and server-based repositories.
With remote access a critical part of Aurora's daily operation, Aurora installed Lancope's StealthWatch intrusion-prevention system to repel denial-of-service attacks or break-in attempts.
Despite the industry buzz about automated procedures for checking a user's anti-virus and patch updates before granting network access, Lukas says Aurora officials, who recently tested Cisco's Network Admission Control products, believe that for the moment it's not a mature technology and is too expensive. "It would cost us US$50 per seat," he says.
Telecommuting is growing in acceptance, with IDC predicting there will be 9.9 million telecommuters by 2009. A wide variety of organizations are offering telecommuter support. The Defense Information Systems Agency, which supports the military through technical services, is considering letting its 5,000 employees, many of whom live in Northern Virginia, telecommute at least a few days per week.
The financial-services industry is stepping gingerly into telecommuting, with IT managers aware that government regulators and auditors will want to know about security controls on home-based computers.
At Pennsylvania State Employee Credit Union in Harrisburg, Pa., a few dozen of its 650 employees, primarily the managers, are allowed to work from home, says Rob Ballard, IT support manager at PSECU.
These telecommuters receive a standard-issue workstation from PSECU for home-based work, identical to what they are given in the office. In February, the credit union added Centennial Software's DeviceWall to its PCs to prevent USB mass-storage devices or iPods from gobbling data from any PC.
DeviceWall also lets machines work in read-only mode and can limit Wi-Fi connections and use of CDs. "We are audited frequently by internal and external auditors, and as a financial institution, we are held to a high standard," says Ballard, noting PSECU wants telecommuting to mirror its office IT security practices.
Consultant Tom Walsh recommends that organizations adopting telecommuting equip at-home employees with dedicated PCs to be used for work only.
"Don't allow shared computers," says Walsh, noting that it's poor practice to mix business and a family's home-computer use. "Kids are too smart. They know how to get things like keyloggers, and it's happened."