In this topic I will put the most important aspects that help red teamers and pentesters who work remotely or from home to increase their efficiency. These points are chosen based on more than six years (continuous and partial) of working from home.

TL;DR

If you are working from home or able to, these are important points to consider to improve your work experience

  1. Walkup Early
  2. Communicate Humanely
  3. Centralize the knowledge
  4. Centralize the Work Space
  5. Prepare your home office
  6. Team leader is a team member
  7. Don't Burnout

Introduction

Remote work or working from home (WFH) has become one of the most desired job requests in the last few years. It all started when people with task-driven jobs felt that they need attendance flexibility and felt somehow offended by biometric fingerprint attendance records as a measure for their productivity, efficiency or commitment. In addition, nowadays, some jobs require the employee to do extra effort from home such as studying or reading more about their tasks that they are working on at the job time which makes their life looks like they never stop working. Add to that, the daily consumed time and money on transportation while going back and forth to work is tedious and exhausting at the end of the day. Many people who are forced to physically be at work are between finding a close yet expensive apartment from work. Or to find a cheaper yet far apartment. I also can not neglect the amount of distribution in the work environment that we can not control.

On contrast, being at the office empowers the communication between individuals and teams, facilitates knowledge sharing and discussions. It also, to some people, helps to assure an equal atmosphere between coworkers such as existing of proper desks, chairs, printers, and the internet. On top of that, many jobs are naturally not suitable to work remotely such as jobs that have direct interaction with customers and clients (doctors, management, receptionists, salesmen, bank robbers and so on).

Personally, as a pentester/red teamer, I've tried both worlds and I've found pros and cons on both words however, I still prefer working from home. This topic is not by any means to persuade management to consider remote work or to show the disadvantages of office work or to show how awesome working from home is. This topic is especially for pentesters and red teamers who already are working or able to work from home and how to increase their efficiency and commitment as they are at the office. So let's get started

1. Wake up early

That's right, you aren't on vacation!.

If the office working hours are 9:00 a.m, then be on your computer on time. Yeah, you've got the privileges to jump from your bed to your computer, so don't misuse that.

Remote workers forget that the world doesn't stop when they are asleep, you can't wake up at 2:00 p.m and say I'm a task-driven person and I will just accomplish the task assigned to me. You have to consider the customers' communications including emails. Imagine that your customer sent you an email at 9:30 a.m asking you about a small yet important question or request and your first answer is at 2:00 p.m just because you were sleeping. Well image if the customer called you at 1:00 pm to follow up on you and now he/she can hear your sleepy voice, how embarrassing!

2. Communicate Humanely

Always use voice or video calls, not emails.

You as a professional, I'm sure you've heard of miscommunication issue. People keep complaining about "miscommunication" even when they are working at the office in the same room. Miscommunication happens even with people that live in the same home.

Miscommunication is everyone's fault!

The rule you should know is that "text carries meanings". It's easy to be misunderstood because of what is has been written. You can offend or misinform or even cause serious damage because of choosing the wrong syntax or word or even spelling. Besides, reading a text will never be better than a discussion. So keep emails to document your discussions and voice calls to discuss the details. Use this way with your coworkers and your clients and you will notice how fruitful your communications will become.

for this job you can use:

  • Slack
  • Cisco Webex
  • Microsoft Teams
  • TeamViewer

You can even share your desktop with your team when you talking about something you're working on and they share theirs when needed. But most importantly, keep the voice communication all the time as you all are working at the office.

Meet the team

It's always a great idea to meet with the team whenever you find the chance. Have lunch or dinner together or go once in a week to the office to work from there. This will definitely increase the bonds between the team.

Meet the customer

Although you are working remotely, you should try -if possible- to physically meet your customer. Try to make the final presentation or project debrief to be at the customer premises. I even recommend making the kick-off meeting at the customer premises. This will break the ice and makes everyone familiar in future communications.  

3. Centralize the knowledge

Team members without knowledge share are just enemies in a truce.

Everyone has his own documentation. This documentation grows up with experience. However, when a team shares knowledge it levels up everyone's knowledge.

or this job you can use:

  • Github private repository
  • Internal Github enterprise
  • Internal Gitlab
  • Gitbook

4. Centralize the WorkSpace

I see what you see

Especially in a red team gig, this part is crucial. During the engagement, all team members MUST have a centralized place to put their work results and screenshots IN REAL TIME. This will keep the team in sync and effetely working together. In another word, the output of a team member is an input for the others.

for this job you can use:

  • CodiMD (perfect for red team)
  • Github private repository
  • Internal Github enterprise
  • Internal Gitlab
  • Microsoft Note
  • Microsoft OneDrive document
  • Good docs

5. Prepare your home office

Live like a king, act like one

One of the most important aspects of productive work is a good environment setup. First, you must have control over your environment, you must make sure that the atmosphere you need to stay focus is applied.

Family: Your family must understand the working from home nature. They must understand you can't just leave the work and go for a picnic, this is not how working from home works.

Physical location: You must have the proper "tools" to help you set in a healthy and productive mood.

Things like:

  • Computer Disk (example)
  • Computer Chair (example)
  • Gaming keyboard and mouse (example)
  • Good internet
  • One or more external monitors (optional)
  • USB hub
  • Water (drink a lot of water)

Noise Control: I don't know about you, but I can't focus if there is noise around me. Make sure that you have control over the ambient noise especially when you have online meeting calls which you should have all the time as we said before.

6. A team leader is a team member

Maestro shall orchestrate!

One of the toughest internal tasks that a team leader does, is to keep the team in harmony. This task might be a bit challenging when the leader works with a remote team.

To the team members, always share ideas, issues, and challenges with your team leader. This is his/her job to listen and act accordingly. And again, don't use the email for that, give him/her a call, say hi and discuss what you think. In addition, your team lead is a human, try to help him/her to lead and do not be an extra challenge to him/her.

To the bosses, acting genuinely as a team member is the first step to break the ice to have a healthy relationship with your team.

Here is a list of things a good boss does

  • Update your boss with what are on.
  • Always be bias to your team.
  • Correct mistakes before they become habits.
  • Correct mistakes individually and talk about the "lesson learned" with the team without pointing finger.
  • Let everyone shines
  • Force your team to lead discussions, build new bosses.
  • Address misunderstanding IMMEDIATELY.

7. Don't Burnout

One of the serious concerns on WFH lifestyle is that you have all day to do your job. That would make you continue working without realizing that you don't get enough rest. None-stop work would lead to burnout and at a certain point, you will get depressed with less achievement. And, you will eventually stop enjoying your job which implicitly reflects on your attitude with your team.

Here is a list of thing you can try to do

  • Take breaks during the day.
  • Try to stop working when your shift finishes.
  • Have more time with your family not just friends .
  • When meeting friends, stop talking about work. (change the topic)
  • At work time, have sense of humor, don't be a robot.
  • Exchange gifts with your colleagues.

Finally

If you feel that the points above might be applicable to other people, not just pentester and red teamer then you are right because we are like most of other tech people.