Since the Great Re-opening of our economy, utilisation of shared office spaces has never been so popular. Shared office space allows business operators to have all the benefits of an office without the huge fixed overhead. Such spaces also allow large businesses the opportunity to open branch offices or hubs with speed, flexibility and minimum fuss.
However, such offices do come with their drawbacks. Last week for example, we were dealing with a rather unfortunate case of a shared office space in West Dublin which had been subject to a rather pernicious ransomware attack on their network. A user opened a malware-laden email attachment which contained ransomware. The ransomware not only infected the user’s computer, but also spread across the network infecting other users. Several of these had laptops which became locked with crypto-ransomware and this resulted in irreversible data loss.
The roots of the problem
This particular shared office space had one unsegregated WLAN (wireless local area network). All the users connected to this network wirelessly using a Virgin Media modem-router. The connection speed was great. And it was reliable. It was even encrypted with WPA2 encryption. But it was not secure. If any of these users had “shared” folders on their devices, these could potentially be visible to anyone. And, if network got infected with malware, all the devices connected to the network could get infected. And that is exactly what happened.
We installed a new wireless network for them using an 802.1Q managed data switch as a backbone. Such a device separates networks at the data-link layer of the network stack (OSI level 2) using VLANs (Virtual LANs). A VLAN gives a systems administrator the opportunity to create a private network whilst using the same data switch. These VLANS can then be used (using what is known as VLAN tagging or port-based VLAN) to connect a wireless access point (WAP) to so that each user gets their very own private network. If one user clicks on malware, it will only affect them. A VLAN-based wireless network also means that other users in a shared office space cannot view your potentially confidential files. So, while our economy might be coming out of lockdown, a properly secured wireless network means your computers don’t go back into their own state of lockdown.