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What you need to know about working in a co-working space

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With many companies moving to a hybrid working model, here’s you need to know about a co-working space, according to Hays’ Jane McNeill.

At a time when flexibility has never been greater, some people are moving towards co-working spaces. However, co-working isn’t for everyone, so before you make a decision, it’s important to fully understand what the advantages and disadvantages are.

There’s been a huge amount of research and commentary about the pros and cons of working in a co-working space – so let’s start with the pros.

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Interaction with people

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, the most common reasons for people seeking co-working spaces are interaction with people (84pc), random discoveries and opportunities (82pc) and knowledge sharing (77pc). It’s a similar situation as far as corporate co-workers are concerned.

If you are able to work from home, but miss in-person interactions, a co-working space could be a solution.

More flexibility

This Harvard Business Review article also explains how co-working space can give you the flexibility that you want and need. Co-working spaces are normally accessible on a true 24/7 basis, for example, so people can take their pick between putting in a long day when they have a deadline looming or need to make progress and taking an extra break in the middle of the day to attend the gym.

Increased control over your space

In the words of Harvard Business Review writers Gretchen Spreitzer, Peter Bacevice and Lyndon Garrett, users of co-working spaces can also “choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is encouraged.”

Creative freedom and the opportunity to upskill

Another great advantage of co-working is the opportunity that it gives you to fuel your creativity and upskill. A change of environment can be energising, while working with different people from inside and outside your organisation can spark creativity and innovative thinking. Sure enough, 68pc of co-workers report improvements to their existing skillset.

Innovative thinking

However, one of the biggest co-working benefits of all is improved innovation, as people in a co-working space collectively share ideas and experience greater diversity of thought due to the variety of people from multiple organisations and industries that are all working in one space. It’s a mode of working that exposes you to ideas and best practice from other industries that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter in your current role if you were siloed in your office.

Productivity

Other cited benefits of co-working include heightened productivity, as well as the fact that 84pc of individuals surveyed in a 2015 global study reported they were more engaged and motivated since joining their co-working community, with 89pc of respondents conveying a higher degree of happiness.

A sense of community

That word, ‘community’, is certainly a strong one in the world of co-working. A 2014 survey of more than 200 US co-workers conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business confirmed that belonging to a community was the most common reason for people to seek out a co-working space.

This sense of community can help to improve your problem-solving skills and the users of a co-working space are often more than happy to help fellow co-workers to tackle a challenge.

With even the likes of cafés and gyms potentially serving as amazing co-working spaces, it’s fair to say that the co-working culture has taken a strong hold across the world – bringing with it all of the aforementioned benefits.

Click here to check out more on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

Are there any cons of co-working spaces?

While co-working can clearly provide many benefits, it can also present several challenges. It’s hardly the most private way of working, for instance, which also potentially means a lot of distractions. Someone simply slurping their coffee could drive you crazy if you’re already stressed out and trying to concentrate on an assignment with a tight deadline amid all of the other noise surrounding you – but having said this, such distractions are also common in a conventional office.

Linked to this lack of privacy is a greater scope for personality clashes, a dilemma that anyone who has ever flat-shared will recognise. Any situation that places many people in close proximity to each other heightens the risk of such conflict and it’s not as if there’s a HR department to formally resolve any disputes arising between the users of a co-working space.

How to transition to a co-working space

If you are confident that you can overcome these cons and think co-working might be for you, or indeed, have just accepted a position that is based in a co-working space, these tips will help you make the transition seamlessly.

  • Make the effort to introduce yourself to your fellow co-workers – first impressions count.
  • Set a routine as quickly as you can. You will have more flexibility in a co-working space, so it’s important that you are diligent and mindful of your time – otherwise, your productivity could suffer.
  • Make the most of the opportunity to work with different people each day to build your network, upskill and make new contacts. Many co-working spaces run regular networking and office events, so head along to these wherever possible.
  • Make your desk feel like home – experiment with different areas of the shared working space and see what works best for you.
  • Get to know the office or community manager. Having a good relationship with them will make it easier to get help from them if the printer breaks or the Wi-Fi goes down.
  • Move to a quieter space if you know you are going to be on a long conference call that could be distracting for your co-workers.
  • Learn how to deal with distractions – you could purchase some headphones, for instance.
  • If you are working for a brand, keep your employer front of mind, rather than the culture of the office space you’re working in. It can be easy to feel detached, but regular communications and face-to-face meetings should help.
  • Eat away from your desk and take breaks out of the office. In many co-working spaces, everything is under one roof, so it can feel like there’s no need to get out, but the truth is that you do need to get out for your own wellbeing.
  • Prioritise face-to-face communication. Research has found that in open plan offices, which is what many co-working spaces are, the number of instant messages sent increased by 67pc, while employees also spent 72pc less time interacting in person in an open space.

If co-working is a mode of working that suits you, and you handle it in the right way, a wide range of benefits could result.

By Jane McNeill

Jane McNeill is director of Hays Australia. A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy? • The Register

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In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn’t pay a $20 million ransom. 

Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government’s computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti’s leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that “We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency.” 

Experts who spoke to the AP said they doubt actual regime change is likely, or the goal; Emsisoft analyst Brett Callow told the newswire that the threats are simply noise, and not to be taken seriously.

Callow may be right: News unfolding late this week suggests that Conti has gone offline, and may be breaking into several subsidiary groups. Its political ambitions in Costa Rica may just be a distraction, albeit one that could also turn a tidy profit. 

NSA: Trust us, no post-quantum encryption backdoors

The NSA wants to ease everyone’s concerns now: Even though it’s been involved in the US government’s post-quantum encryption research, the spy agency won’t have a backdoor.

Speaking to Bloomberg while discussing the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s post-quantum encryption competition, NSA Director of Cybersecurity (and Christmas-tree hacker) Rob Joyce said the new standards being developed are so strong that “there are no backdoors.” 

That would be a departure from previous encryption standards, which the NSA is believed to have had ready access to – until foreign spies acquired a copy of the backdoor software for their own use. The Biden administration recently announced additional funding for post-quantum encryption research, which aims to develop a form of protecting sensitive data so secure that even a quantum computer couldn’t crack it. 

The US has been actively working to develop encryption standards able to stand up to quantum computers for some time; Joyce claimed to Bloomberg that the NSA has had its own post-quantum encryption algorithms for several years, but those aren’t part of the NIST competition or available to the public. 

Despite spending tens of millions to address the security problems posed by quantum computers, the NSA also readily admits that it has no idea when, or even if, quantum computers able to crack modern public key cryptography will be realized. 

Frustrated IT admin gets seven years for deleting company databases

A former database administrator from China who wiped out his employer’s financial records has been sentenced to seven years in prison as a result.

Han Bing, who managed databases for Chinese real estate brokerage Lianjia, allegedly used his administrator access and root privileges to log in to two of Lianjia’s database servers, and two application servers, where he wiped financial data and related applications that took the company’s entire finance system offline, said Chinese news sources. 

Bing was reportedly disgruntled with his employer. He repeatedly warned them of security flaws in Lianjia’s finance system but felt ignored and undervalued, Lianjia’s ethics chief testified in court. Bing’s actions directly cost the company around $27,000 to recover data and rebuilt systems, but that doesn’t include the impact of lost business.

Bing was caught when Lianjia questioned everyone with access to the financial systems who had permissions to do what Bing did, of whom there were only five. The company claims that Bing acted suspiciously when asked to present his laptop for inspection, refusing to provide his password and claiming privacy privileges. 

The company said it suspected none of the laptops would show traces of the attack, but wanted to see how those it questioned would react. Investigators were later able to recover logs that pointed to Bing’s laptop’s IP and MAC addresses, and crosschecking logs against security footage put Bing in the right place at the right time to be the guilty party.

Apple patches a whopping 98 separate vulnerabilities

Apple has had a busy week: In a series of security updates released Monday and Wednesday, the iMaker patched 98 separate vulnerabilities out of its various software platforms.

The updates in question cover most every bit of software Apple makes: WatchOS, iOS and iPad OS, macOS Monterey, Big Sur and Catalina, Xcode, tvOS, Safari and iTunes for Windows were all included. Most of the vulnerabilities are from the past few months, but one common vulnerability and exposure (CVE) number covered by the updates dates back to 2015.

A few of the vulnerabilities covered by this week’s glut of Apple patches were rolled out previously for one system, but not others, as was the case with CVE-2022-22674 and -22675, which were patched in macOS Monterey, but not older versions, in April. Those vulnerabilities were reportedly being actively exploited at the time. 

Malicious applications executing arbitrary code with kernel privileges appears to be the most common type of hole being closed in this round of patches, though some do stand out, like Apple Watch bugs that could let apps capture the screen and bypass signature validation.

On iOS, vulnerabilities patched include websites being able to track users in Safari private browsing mode, while macOS users are being protected against apps being able to bypass Privacy preferences and access restricted portions of the filesystem.

Russian-backing Chaos ransomware variant is pure destruction

Cybersecurity firm Fortinet has discovered a variant of the Chaos ransomware that professes support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but appears to have no decryption key to rescue victims in Putin’s regime. 

The variant appears to have been compiled with Chaos’ GUI customization tool as recently as May 16, Fortinet said. The researchers said they’re unsure how the Chaos variant infects its victims, and said the variant doesn’t act any differently than typical Chaos ransomware. 

Like other forms of Chaos, it enumerates files on infected systems, and irrevocably damages any larger than around 2MB by filling it with random bytes. Anything smaller is encrypted, but recoverable with a key. Chaos also typically attacks commonly used directories like Desktop, Contacts, Downloads and Pictures, which are encrypted entirely. 

Here’s where this Chaos variant differs: It’s overtly political, and instead of offering contact info and a ransom demand, the malware simply says “Stop Ukraine War! F**k Zelensky! Dont [sic] go die for f**king clown,” along with a pair of links to sites claiming to belong to the Information Coordination Center, but offering no information otherwise. Files are also encrypted with a “f**kazov” extension, likely referring to the Ukrainian Azov Battalion.

Fortinet said that this Chaos variant appears unique in the sense it appears designed to be file-destroying malware. “This particular variant provides no such avenue as the attacker has no intent on providing a decryption tool … clearly, the motive behind this malware is destruction,” Fortinet said. 

The FortiGuard team behind the research warns that with its GUI, Chaos ransomware has become a commodity product, and it expects additional attacks of this variety to emerge. ®



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UCD-led research finds potential treatment for advanced eye cancer

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The team said their research could help improve treatment options for advanced uveal melanoma, which currently has a poor survival rate.

An international team of researchers led by University College Dublin (UCD) have uncovered a potential treatment for a type of cancer that effects the eye.

The researchers looked at uveal melanoma (UM), the most common form of eye cancer which is diagnosed in 50 to 60 people in Ireland each year. The team explained that UM begins in the middle layer of the eye, but if it spreads to the liver and other parts of the body, patients have a poor survival prognosis.

Future Human

In their study, the team aimed to uncover treatment options for the advanced stage of this eye cancer, as it becomes very difficult to treat once it has spread.

The researchers focused on a drug called ACY-1215, which is currently in clinical trials for other solid tumours and blood cancers. This drug belongs to a relatively new group of anticancer drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi).

“We wanted to understand how ACY-1215 works to prevent tumour cell growth and spread, in the context of UM,” said postdoctoral researcher Dr Husvinee Sundaramurthi.

Histones are proteins that provide structural support for DNA in cells, allowing DNA to be tightly packaged together. The researchers said these proteins act like a spool that a thread of DNA can wrap itself around.

In the study, the team used the drug ACY-1215 to interfere with the histones in advanced UM cells, to stop the processes involved in their survival and growth.

“We uncovered the particular molecules that may be involved in the anticancer effects the drug ACY-1215 has in advanced UM cells,” said study lead Prof Breandan Kennedy.

“This study will pave the way to look more closely at the benefits of using HDACi, specifically ACY-1215, as a suitable treatment option for advanced UM.”

Kennedy said that by understanding the therapeutic potential of the small molecules involved in the anticancer effects, researchers can improve UM patient care and create personalised treatment strategies.

The international research team involved groups from Spain, Sweden and Ireland. Funding was provided through grants from the Irish Research Council, in collaboration with Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCD’s TopMed10, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions CoFund Programme and Horizon 2020.

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Crypto is starting to lose its cool – just look at El Salvador | Rowan Moore

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To its evangelists, bitcoin is a frictionless, empowering form of money that liberates citizens of the world from the shackles of banks and national governments. To sceptics, the cryptocurrency is a tool of kleptocrats and gangsters, environmentally monstrous in its consumption of energy, a digitally glamorised Ponzi scheme whose eventual crash will most hurt those least able to afford a loss.

Confidence may or may not have been enhanced by the unveiling, by President Nayib Bukele, of images of a proposed bitcoin-shaped Bitcoin City in El Salvador, funded with a bitcoin bond, the currency’s logo embedded in the central plaza, a metropolis powered with geothermal energy from a nearby volcano. Bukele, the self-styled “coolest dictator in the world”, a former publicist who wears baseball caps back to front, has already made El Salvador the first country to adopt bitcoin as the official currency. “The plan is simple,” he said. “As the world falls into tyranny, we’ll create a haven for freedom.”

Leaving aside the worrisome Pompeii vibe of the city’s location, some shine has come off the president’s vision with the news that the country’s investments in cryptocurrency have lost 45% of their value, that it scores CCC with the credit rating agency Fitch, and that the perceived risk of its bonds is up there with that of war-torn Ukraine. And Bukele’s talk of freedom doesn’t sit well with Amnesty International’s claim that his recent state of emergency has created “a perfect storm of human rights violations”.

But why worry about any of this when you have shiny computer-generated images of a fantasy city to distract you?

Unsecured credit line

Boris Johnson waves his arms behind a podium with the Elizabeth line sign.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan looks on as Boris Johnson gives a speech at Paddington station on 17 May 2022. Photograph: Reuters

The use of constructional bluster by populist leaders – Trump’s wall, for example – is not in itself anything new. See also the island airport, garden bridge, Irish Sea bridge, 40 new hospitals and 300,000 homes a year promised but not delivered by Boris Johnson, and the nuclear power stations he has implausibly pledged to build at a rate of one a year.

Last week his fondness for Potemkin infrastructure took a new twist. Rather than over-promise illusory schemes and under-deliver them, he decided to take credit for something actually built, the £19bn Elizabeth line in London, formerly known as Crossrail, whose central section opens to the public on Tuesday. “We get the big things done,” he boasted to the House of Commons, choosing to ignore the fact that the line was initiated under a Labour prime minister and a Labour mayor of London. He almost makes Nayib Bukele look credible.

Behind the red wall

Characters from The House of Shades gather around a table on stage
Mounting misery: The House of Shades. Photograph: Helen Murray

If you want a light-hearted night out – a date, a birthday treat – then The House of Shades, a new play by Beth Steel, might not, unless you are an unusual person, be for you. It is a cross between Greek tragedy and what was once called kitchen sink drama, a story of ever-mounting misery set in a Nottinghamshire town from 1965 to 2019. It covers the collapse of manufacturing, the rise of Thatcherism, the promises of New Labour and the disillusionment that led to “red wall” seats voting Conservative in 2019.

It features illegal abortion, graphically portrayed, and the effects of inflation, both newly significant. All presented at the Almeida theatre in the famously metropolitan London borough of Islington, not far from the former restaurant where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did the 1994 deal that shaped some of the events in the play. There’s irony here to make this audience squirm. Which, along with several other not-comfortable emotions, is probably the desired effect.

Rowan Moore is the Observer’s architecture correspondent

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