Working from home? Maybe your kids should sign an NDA.

Articles about maintaining cybersecurity while working from home are a dime-a-dozen on social media now, and some of the more justifiably-paranoid pieces even advise employees to turn off their “smart speakers” while they are working: heaven forbid the powers-that-be behind those popular digital assistants are eavesdropping when we’re discussing sensitive business stuff on a conference call.  

It’s actually good advice.

But what about your kids?  They’re cute. But can you trust them?

Security-conscious employees know that their company policies and annual security training modules urge them not to discuss sensitive information in public places.  Don’t talk about that secret merger deal on a crowded subway train, the policy says, and don’t tell your neighbor you’re going to Seattle next week to sell your company to Microsoft, the training reminds us. 

But now that so many of us are suddenly working from home, we find ourselves talking about all sorts of sensitive and proprietary company information while our kids wander in and out of our makeshift home offices.  The kids are bored and stressed out, so you don’t want to gruffly shoo them away like a mean old workaholic grump. And many of the more progressive companies are welcoming and celebrating the presence of pajama-clad kids, cute dogs and clingy cats on Zoom calls.  We’re all in this together, right? We are all adapting to this new reality, and life and work go on, often at the same time in the same small room.

But can you trust your kid not to kick off a wave of insider trading because they wanted a cookie and a hug while you were on the phone with the project team discussing some serious stuff?

It sounds like a silly scenario, but think about: You’re a Human Resources Compliance Specialist, hunched over your little desk in the dining room at home.  Your phone is on speaker because the earbuds hurt after six back-to-back calls, and the batteries are dying, to boot. You’re discussing your company’s plans to lay off 60 percent of its employees due to COVID-19.  Your company is a fairly large employer in the region, or it’s a well-known global brand. Yikes.

Then, your bored 13 year-old, who is lurking nearby in the kitchen, overhears this juicy bit of news and mentions it to an equally-bored classmate via text message.  The other kid tells his dad, who shares the news with his bowling buddies via their group chat. One of the bowling buddy’s wife posts the rumor on social media, and another bowling buddy’s wife is a reporter for the local newspaper, and she can’t believe she has the scoop.  

You can, I hope, see where this is going.  

No, your kids aren’t malicious actors.  But they might be an insider threat.

Depending on their age, you may want to sit your kids down and talk to them about the nature of proprietary information, and about the need to respect it.  You might even have them sign an unofficial, family-friendly Non Disclosure Agreement, just to reinforce the seriousness of the potential downside of loose lips.  Sort of like the contract they signed to always walk the dog when you first got the puppy.  

For a young teen, this might even be a good life lesson.  

For the younger kids — I don’t know – it’s been too many years since my kids were that age to remember how to distract them.  Is “Rugrats” still on Nickelodeon?

In any case, turn off your smart speakers when you’re working from home, and be more aware of what you’re talking about in front of the kids, or your loving life-partner, for that matter.  

You can speak as freely and openly as you want when the dogs are around.  But I wouldn’t trust the cats, if I were you.  Or those talking pet birds that repeat everything they hear.

Be safe, healthy and secure.

As a reminder, the views and opinions expressed here are my own and are not necessarily the views or opinions of my employer.

2 thoughts on “Working from home? Maybe your kids should sign an NDA.

  1. Thank you for this – this is funny. And serious. Not sure about the kind or degree of the problem elsewhere but I am sure my kids are malicious actors. Kind’a sad, really. 🙂


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