Working from home, alternatively remote work, is a subject that has really taken hold since the effective closure of the world. This closure took place around the time of spring in 2020, where as everyone knows, unprecedented and historical changes took the world by storm. As far as work is concerned, people have become physically distanced from each other, offices are closed and business travel has become very difficult, if not impossible for most. Due to what has occurred, remote work is now a reality for most of the world’s organizations and businesses that do not require one to be exclusively on-site. According to research, In 2017 around 4 million people worked from home and over 80% of U.S. based employees reported that working remotely was more productive for them. Not only does remote working increase efficiency with time saved from commuting, the latest research shows that it also helps the environment due to less greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere.
Remote working really took off in the 2010s, because research has shown that between 2007 and 2017 the remote sector has grown by over 90%. Remote working also offers a flexible schedule, and the end result is less stress and the ability to be alone, which most people seem to prefer. Several studies have confirmed the increase in productivity (over 10%), such as Cisco, PwC and even academic institutions such as Stanford. Online hiring platforms like JobRack and UpWork, among many others, are thriving and there is an enormous surge from people searching for remote jobs.
In 2021, the statistics have significantly been boosted. They show that a 50% increase in the use of video call software for meetings has taken place and that over 70% of full-time employees are now ‘working from home’. Even more interesting is the fact that, again, most people are now in the mindset that they do not want to return to the office, after more than a year of habituating to remote work. Since the ability to remote work is now an essential part of business life, the need to educate and inform everyone on how to stay safe online while remote working is there, and in great demand. So, remote work, working from home (or WFH as it is called) clearly has great benefits across the board, however, what about the cybersecurity issue related with this?
As we have seen above, remote work is clearly an improved way of working, and several studies, research and statistics conducted by all kinds of institutions and research centers have shown this to be the case. Remote working has shown the industry that work can be more efficient, less stressful and even helpful to the environment, even still remote workers are financially less stressed. However, there is a very large elephant in the room that is overlooked by a large portion of the industry. This problem is the safety factor of remote work. Research revealed that over 50% of the industry has found full remote work to be a great security risk, as opposed to classic computer-at-the-office working models.
The issue is that, when the employees of a company are off-site working on their devices (whether that be accessing the company network or their personal devices), issues over control and security infrastructure arise. This is especially true with the amount of cybercrime we are seeing. This can make both employees and both IT systems vulnerable to; data leaks, malware, phishing, ransomware and a host of other cybersecurity problems. A majority of the problems arise from user error, and some from the fact that, for instance, cloud-based systems used by businesses are being heavily relied on and are at risk of attacks and misconfigurations. Secondly, the issue is that there is so much more communication of sensitive data happening online, which also leaves an easy target for cybercriminals looking to steal or disrupt data. The use of personal devices for work also leaves the corporate system open to attack as the level of safety is usually not satisfactory. Furthermore, unsecured networks in the employees homes, which are now heavily used for work, are also open to attacks. Over 80% of firms employing remote workers have experienced incidents related to the hacking of Wi-Fi security, for example. One more aspect of this is the lack of employee cybersecurity training, which causes data breaches due to the negligence of remote workers.
Most of us reading this may well be working from home, probably already for a significant amount of time. It is important to take steps to avoid security problems when remote working, or WFH. Here are some tried-and-tested suggestions to greatly improve remote working cybersecurity;
All of this seems very daunting, and it is a lot of work. Good cybersecurity will put a dent in any company’s budget, but it is the best investment a business can make in times where the internet is simply, quite dangerous. Remote working is putting company infrastructures and security measures to the test, while cybercrime is constantly evolving with a growing attack surface. Therefore, taking proactive steps towards proper company and employee cybersecurity will mitigate negligence and digital dangers while allowing a business to keep working without accruing any faults, as well as avoiding catastrophic failures.