Despite security issues and concerns resulting from the massive and sudden increase in work-from-home (WFH) initiatives caused by the global COVID-19 healthcare crisis, one-third (38%) of U.S. companies observed productivity gains during remote work and a staggering 84% anticipate broader and more permanent WFH adoption beyond the pandemic, according to new data released by Pulse Secure, the provider of software-defined Secure Access solutions.
Anticipate positions moving to permanent remote work
The 2020 Remote Work-From-Home Cybersecurity Report, sponsored by Pulse Secure and produced by Cybersecurity Insiders, offers an in-depth perspective on WFH challenges, concerns, strategies and anticipated outcomes. The survey, conducted in May of 2020, polled over 400 IT security decision practitioners across a broad representation of industries and companies between 500 and over 5,000 employees. The survey found that 33% of U.S. companies anticipate some positions moving to permanent remote work and over half (55%) plan to increase their budget for secure remote work in the near-term.
“This new research provides organisations comparative insight into how enterprises are addressing immediate work-from-home requirements and cyber threat challenges to ensure business continuity and employee well-being,” said Scott Gordon, chief marketing officer at Pulse Secure. “Beyond offering a wake-up call for emergency preparedness, the findings indicate a strong likelihood of organisations permanently extending work-from-home flexibility and advancing secure access capabilities.”
WFH adoption accelerated cloud app growth
The research indicates that three-quarters of businesses now have more than 76% of their employees working from home compared to just under 25% at the close of 2019. While a third of respondents cited their business being “ill prepared or not prepared” for remote working, 75% of businesses were able to transition to remote working within 15 days.
Surprisingly, less than a third expressed cost or budget problems, demonstrating the urgency to support their business. Additionally, more than half (54%) expressed that COVID-19 has accelerated migration of users’ workflows and applications to the cloud.
In terms of security risks, two-thirds (69%) are concerned with WFH security risks with the majority expressing low user awareness training, insecure home/public Wi-Fi networks, use of at-risk personal devices and sensitive data leakage as prime threat contributors.
WFH adds security and compliance challenges
In terms of application exposure, respondents feel anxious over file sharing (68%), web apps (47%), and video conferencing (45%) risks. Two-thirds of IT security professionals anticipate malware, phishing, unauthorised user and device accessWhile 78% expressed enforcing the same level of security controls and data management for on premise and remote users, a further 65% allowed access from personal, unmanaged devices. Two-thirds of IT security professionals anticipate malware, phishing, unauthorised user and device access, and unpatched/at risk systems to be the most exploitable WFH attack vectors.
In addition, 63% expressed that remote work could impact compliance mandates that apply to their organisation; especially GDRP, PCI-DSS, HIPAA and those with data breach notification.
Survey respondents employed various tools to secure remote work / home office scenarios with the top four controls being endpoint security, Firewalls, virtual private networks (SSL-VPN) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). According to separate research by Enterprise Management Associates, 57% of organisations regard the consolidation of access management solutions into a single platform to be a high or extreme priority for their business this year.
Wider trends toward security tools consolidation
Adoption of WFH has highlighted the need for organisations to embrace more holistic secure access strategy"
“The mass adoption of WFH has highlighted the need for organisations to embrace more holistic secure access strategy that supports both flexible working and the growing shift towards hybrid IT. The most effective IT management solutions are platforms that are both modular and integrated,” noted Steve Brasen, research director with Enterprise Management Associates. “Modular solutions allow organisations to adopt the exact feature set they require to meet business needs. However, solutions must also be fully integrated to yield desired management efficiencies. Solutions, such as Pulse Secure Access Suite, address broad secure access needs while yielding operational and economic benefits.”
The WFH and tool consolidation trends coincide with a recent update to Pulse Access Suite, a secure access solution set that provides easy access for mobile workforces and a single-pane-of-glass to streamline provisioning, management and scalability. The Suite integrates adaptive identity and device authentication, protected connectivity, extensive visibility and analytics, and threat response for hybrid IT. Organisations can centrally orchestrate Zero Trust policy to ensure compliant access to applications, resources and services across mobile, network and multi-cloud environments.