All you need is love

It’s official, there are a lot of lonely people in the world. In offices around the globe last week men and women eagerly opened an email simply because it said “I love you”, little realising that the virus attached would replicate within their computer, wiping data and sending itself automatically to other machines.

Many firms are eagerly embracing intranets, extranets and the internet as ways of increasing productivity and marketing. Virtual dealing rooms, online client care systems and transparent billing systems are popping up all over.

Clients are assured that the systems are safe and secure, and that powerful firewalls surround them. But as any network expert will tell you in private, no system is completely secure. A hacker can get in anywhere at any given time.

But the “I love you” episode shows another side to the story. Its success was due in part to the way that email works within an office culture as a hybrid of work, administration and personal communications (unless you are at Denton Wilde Spate which famously tried to ban personal email).

Admitting that any system – computer, human or computer-human – is fallible does not mean that we should reject the idea of working virtually, it merely means that we should create security systems that work. That not only includes firewalls and virus checkers but a workplace culture where employees understand the systems, know how to use and safeguard them, and why it is in their as well as their company’s interests to do so. Clients expect service staff at firms to be au fait with issues of confidentiality and security. They should have confidence that those serving in the virtual office have the same awareness.