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Cyber security company C3IA Solutions explains why garden offices are vulnerable to security risks

By Karolina Skinner
21 May 2021

The move to home working in garden offices is creating major security risks, according to a leading cyber-security company.

Matt Horan (on the right) from C3IA Solutions, with bug-sweeping experts Michaela Cotty and Ash Williams

C3IA Solutions, which is headquartered in Poole, Dorset, said business rivals can more easily insert listening devices into these remote spaces.

While conducting sweeps in clients’ homes, they became aware that outside garden offices had not been captured in the scope of work. Initially during lockdowns, the major cyber threat was because company computers had been taken from offices and their security not necessarily reconfigured for homeworking, leaving them open to hackers. Now, with many companies abandoning offices and moving permanently to remote working, new risks are presenting themselves.

A survey by Moneypenny has shown that around 4% of home workers do so from garden offices, which is tens of thousands of people. This figure is only growing, with shed providers reporting a huge increase in orders as people prepare to work from home full time.

Matt Horan, co-founder of C3IA Solutions, said: “Sometimes people are more relaxed about security at home than they are in the office because they are always there. But garden offices do present increased risks. Firstly, the physical security can be weak. They are often made of wood and can be broken into easily. They can be located in the garden away from the householders and often not covered by the home’s security systems or CCTV. Conversations inside them can be easily overheard, and it is simple to plant listening devices. The surveillance devices are extremely cheap, small and powerful and you’d be surprised how easy it is to plant them.

“Usually we carry out technical surveillance counter measures in large office blocks and on superyachts – and we work all over the world. Many of our staff are ex-military and have high levels of security clearance so we work in some sensitive locations. But this type of bug-sweeping work is becoming more common in business and the move to home offices is seeing us push to get these outbuildings captured in our scope of work to mitigate the risks to our clients.

“We are able to survey the entire security and advise on how to reduce threats – and a surveillance sweep takes a short time in a single-room environment. Those who have called us in suspect that private conversations or information has leaked and want to make sure it never happens again.

“Planting listening devices sounds a bit like something from a film, but it is very now tempting in business as a way to gain extremely valuable information for little cost and risk.”

About C3IA

C3IA (a military term) was set up in 2006 by Matt Horan and Keith Parsons. It has 115 personnel on contract of which 43 are employees and 72 are associates, and it is headquartered in Ling Road, Poole, Dorset.

It works in the defence and security sectors, for government departments and within industry – serving both SMEs and multi-national firms. C3IA is a leading provider of secure ICT, technical programme management and information security services and solutions.

C3IA takes its corporate social responsibilities seriously, supporting serving and past members of the Armed Services. It sponsors those engaged in personal and team development through arduous sporting and other challenges.