A recent Gartner publication discusses the ‘Top 10 Emerging Risks to Businesses’. Risk and audit executives were asked to give their thoughts on possible threats that they see arriving in the not-too-distant future. Unsurprisingly, their thoughts cover a number of areas impacted by the change in working practices due to COVID, the move to partial or full, remote working. Let’s discuss a few of the points raised.
Taking control over cybersecurity
The concern here is that adjustments made to policies to support remote work, don’t really support long-term security practices and safeguard company data. Perhaps this is due to not knowing (and therefore not wanting to commit monies to) exactly how the working environment is going to pan out for everybody? Big tech companies, early champions of the ‘everyone can work from home forever’ movement, seem to be now getting cold feet. It is clear though that we won’t be going back 100 percent to the old ways of working so where can technology support and secure this increasingly remote workforce?
Well, employees are increasingly working on mobile devices, so organizations must safeguard sensitive enterprise data from cyber threats that exploit mobile users, apps and devices. Organizations have the tendency to deploy mobile device management (MDM) and mobile app management (MAM) solutions to support mobile users thinking that these management tools alone will be sufficient to protect them from cyber threats. But MDM and MAM lack the ability to dynamically react to mobile cybersecurity threats and provide continuous visibility of device health and trust. Only a mobile threat defense (MTD) can detect and block mobile cybersecurity threats from harming your business.
Also, Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) are a security application that helps organizations manage and protect the data stored in the cloud. CASB systems are part filter, proxy, and firewall between the users and cloud systems. They have capabilities to detect unsanctioned cloud applications, as well as sensitive data in transit. Organizations can use CASB to address specific use cases with their cloud providers.
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New working models
What happens when organizations struggle to return to the traditional work environment due to social distancing requirements, augmented work schedules and workspace transformations? It is difficult to plan for tomorrow as the goalposts can change very quickly. In the UK at the moment, things are poised for complete reopening in June - but will that last forever? Could a new variant cause a new lockdown? A best-guess scenario for many businesses is to use a hybrid model of working, encouraging some return to the office mixed with WFH.
Again, we must look to technology to afford us the flexibility and ability to work anywhere - in the office, at home or on the road. With most workers effectively not now tethered to a desk/desktop, businesses require security platforms that support the new normal with solutions that provide remote workers with security whilst actively improving the employee experience. Organizations need to ensure that employees are able to work on any device, which makes tools like multi-factor authentication and a Zero Trust approach to security absolutely crucial.
And with so much going on in the cloud as businesses strive to provide increased levels of remote access, there is the potential for data leakage in the cloud. Using CASB gives organizations the power to maintain visibility over data that has gone beyond the reach of on-premises tools. Detailed logs on all cloud transactions (logins, uploads, or downloads) are always recorded and app-specific behaviors are also logged, helping organizations know the whereabouts of data if it is shared.
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The risk to businesses outlined by Gartner’s findings on this point, foretells of employee burnout setting in due to the inability to escape work in a fully remote model. Is this due to bosses expecting you to always be available because you’re ‘not in the office’? Certainly, applicable for the old school way of not wishing to lose control - your boss isn’t with you in the office, but they want to be able to keep tabs on you. Perhaps less relevant for younger generations. Some complained that WFH during the pandemic was more stressful because so many escape mechanisms were unavailable - gyms, pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops; if you’re working hard at home but then can’t escape home because everything is shut then that can have a negative impact on morale.
But the world is opening up again so what now? Well, one survey of people WFH due to the pandemic revealed that 73 percent of respondents said that WFH improved their work-life balance - allowing them to spend more time with their family or pets. We believe that getting the technology right for remote workers enhances the overall work-life balance which in turn, boosts productivity. Working remotely can allow for a healthier work/life balance but only if the right technology is embraced. By getting as close to the ‘office-working’ experience as possible, organizations of all shapes and sizes can look forward to a productive mindset in the workforce. Getting the technology right allows for a win-win scenario for everybody.
Remote working, or hybrid models thereof, will define how most of us work for the foreseeable future. But this is not a bad thing. Whilst cybersecurity threats to mobile and smart devices are on the rise and evolving, the correct technology solutions are available to ensure productivity, security and flexibility. The user experience can be tailored so that we can get the best of both worlds - a positive work/life balance for workers and peace of mind for businesses as they look to mitigate risk against an ever-changing backdrop.
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Steve Whiter, Director, Appurity