WatchGuard Blog

The risks of coworking and how MSPs can help eliminate them

A coworking space, or communal workspace, enables professionals from different companies and industries to share the same office environment. These spaces first became popular among freelance workers, then became the preferred workplace for start-ups, but now, since the hybrid work model has become part of everyday life, companies planning to downsize or close offices see these places as their new workspace. 

The future of this business looks very promising as this view taken by businesses is expected to continue growing. In fact, according to Statista data, there are currently 23,500 coworking spaces worldwide, and it is projected that by 2024 this trend will increase to 41,900. Despite the advantages, the popularization of coworking driven by the rise of hybrid work models in which flexibility takes precedence has radically blurred perimeter protection. As a result, vulnerabilities and entry points for cybercriminals have multiplied. This is exemplified by the documents exposed via WeWork's public Wi-Fi network that came to light in 2019. 

Coworking and connection risks 

For these spaces to work, they must provide data privacy and protected connections for tenants. One of the critical requirements in terms of cybersecurity in these shared workspaces is to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited and devices that are connected to the collaborative network from being compromised through one of the following common attacks: 

  • Man-in-the-Middle: where an unauthorized person intercepts communication between two devices (hosts) connected to a network. 

  • Evil Twin: where the attacker creates a fake access point to obtain a Wi-Fi password quickly and gain access to devices on that network.  

  • Packet Sniffing: the use of a legitimate monitoring program for malicious purposes where the hacker collects the data transmitted on the network.   

  • Sidejacking: an attacker steals or hijacks session cookies when users are browsing to impersonate them and login using their username. 

  • Shoulder-Surfing: looking over the victim's shoulder to obtain a password or other confidential data. 

The strategy experts recommend the most to companies is not to trust any user or device accessing their systems, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the organization. 

Wi-Fi security: the guarantee you need to work in a coworking environment 

For MSPs, managing their customers' networks should be as easy as possible, which also applies to security. MSPs need to adapt their proposition to the needs of a booming market such as coworking, which is forecast to grow to $30.36 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 17.0%. Including secure Wi-Fi and network monitoring solutions can drive business growth for MSPs by capturing new customers in this area and generating cost savings.  

The ideal solution to offer coworking spaces to mitigate risks in their wireless connections should incorporate the following features:  

  • Multi-level and multi-tenant capabilities that reduce the complexity of managing multiple services to deploy, configure and report Wi-Fi connectivity and performance for all users on a single platform. 

  • Reporting and visibility to provide an overview of device and system health at all times. 

  • Secure Wi-Fi experience with Wi-Fi 6 technology and WPA 3 encryption in a single wireless access point. As well as protecting against threats introduced by wireless networks by blocking suspicious malware, it should prevent intrusions and filter harmful content to minimize attack opportunities. 

  • Ease of monitoring Wi-Fi networks in the Cloud to diagnose, monitor, and report on the performance of the ecosystem of devices connected to the corporate network in real time through a portal that provides a unified viewing experience. 

Coworking spaces worldwide are investing in improving their cybersecurity by further securing Wi-Fi networks, installing more robust firewalls, and creating virtual private networks to enable secure communication when working remotely. MSPs must now choose the right technology partner to support the needs arising from the hybrid working model through a comprehensive portfolio of solutions covering everything from the network to the endpoint, such as WatchGuard’s offering to partners. 

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