Early 2020 saw the beginning of worldwide lockdown measures that forced many businesses worldwide to work remotely in response to COVID-19, and a new report, the ‘2020 Work-from-Home IT Impact Study’, has examined the impacts of these steps. Commissioned by Sectigo and conducted by independent research firm Wakefield Research, the study is based on a survey of 500 IT professionals at companies with at least 1,000 employees in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, France, and Ireland.
Transforming to a fully remote work environment required quick updates to technology, processes, and procedures, resulting in repercussions to revenue and cyber security. The survey revealed that despite the need to adapt to a rapidly changing work environment, many IT professionals report that their organizations saw performance improvements. In fact, almost half of UK respondents (49 percent) report that employee productivity at their company has increased as a result of work from home (WFH) measures.
Not surprisingly, with productivity sustaining or increasing, 65 percent of UK respondents think that the number of remote workers at their company will increase somewhat (49 percent) or increase significantly (16 percent), compared to the pre-COVID-19 level, indicating a lasting impact from the pandemic.
While increased productivity may be one positive outcome, it certainly isn’t an immediate reality for many, as survey responses indicate that enabling remote workers came at the expense of more than just effort and time. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said that their organizations had to delay revenue-generating initiatives for a month or more to prioritize the setup and success of remote work and ensure their businesses were fully operational with little-to-no downtime.
While investing in WFH infrastructure was critical for business continuity, project delays have a potential long-term impact across the enterprise. Many IT professionals indicate that establishing WFH infrastructure compromised other important work in their departments. 45 percent of UK respondents said that they had to postpone cyber security initiatives for one month or longer as they focused on remote work setup.
A mix of remote access solutions leaves companies at risk
While Zoom-bombing might have made headlines, only 33 percent of UK respondents expressed concern about that risk, while many more UK IT professionals worry about traditional cyber security threats. Phishing or other malicious emails (47 percent) and insecure Wi-Fi (48 percent) pose a higher perceived risk to remote work environments, outweighing concerns around Zoom-bombing, as well as unknown personal computers and BYOD devices (27 percent).
When it comes to securing networks, applications, and other systems from unauthorized access, UK respondents use various measures, including several with known vulnerabilities. An unfortunate fact is that strong and proven authentication technologies, such as user identity certificates (58 percent) and biometrics (26 percent), frequently take a back seat to methods with widely known weaknesses, including traditional username and password (74 percent) and hardware-token multi-factor authentication (68 percent).
False sense of security?
Although security breaches doubled in 2019 and the broad use of traditional security measures have proven to be vulnerable, two-thirds of UK respondents believe that their companies are investing ‘the right amount’ on cyber security right now. However, 95 percent of UK respondents are likely to undertake additional measures to improve security and business continuity in the next 12 months due to widespread remote work — with 52 percent indicating that they would increase security for data and applications, compared to the pre-COVID-19 level, once offices are reopened.