Security challenges can happen any time there is a shift to a workforce environment, but the COVID-19 pandemic truly heightened those challenges. A “Work From Home Study” conducted in June 2020 by Morning Consult® and IBM® Security gathered that 80% of respondents rarely, if at all, worked from home pre-pandemic. Obviously this number has dramatically shifted, and may never go back to pre-COVID levels.
There are many benefits to working remotely, both for the organization and for the employee. While the company saves on overhead, many surveys have also found that working from home leads to better productivity for the workforce. For employees, there is added flexibility, and many enjoy a greater work-life balance.
This is all great, but there can also be many challenges for employees and for businesses, especially when it comes to securing company data from home-office networks.
A common security risk is phishing, a scam by which an Internet user is into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly. Remote employees are not immune to these types of scams and if one clicks on a harmful link, the scammer on the other side may have access to their personal data, along with company information.
A common misconception is that a VPN (virtual private network) is the ultimate fix for this problem as data is encrypted between the user and the corporate network. Even though data is encrypted between the two parties, a malicious user can still access the entry point from the employee’s computer to gain access to the corporate network.
Additionally, addressing serious IT issues for a dispersed workforce is particularly challenging. Most IT departments are traditionally located on-site helping employees in an office setting. Now many teams, including the IT department, are often working remotely. What happens if an employee has an issue? IT cannot realistically send someone to every employee’s home to investigate and fix the issue. Employee’s may need to ship their device to a repair facility and lose out on precious work days while they wait for it to be returned.
As remote work has become the norm in our society, companies are having to make difficult decisions and complicated changes to their outdated environments. This new norm could become a permanent situation for some companies. As noted in the Morning Consult® / IBM® Security “Work From Home Study”, more than 50% of employees surveyed do not have updated security policies that will protect them and the company from potential threats while working remotely.
But there are basic steps that companies can take to protect employees and their technology assets. A flexible, security minded approach to IT focused on enabling remote workers will make a world of difference in improving productivity for a dispersed workforce.