Remote work shift saw organisations struggle with network security

1 Sep 2021

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A Palo Alto survey found that 61pc of companies struggled to provide the necessary security supports for employees working remotely.

A survey conducted on behalf of Californian multinational cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks, has found that many companies struggled with security challenges presented by remote and hybrid working since the pandemic began.

Researchers from management consultancy body ONR surveyed more than 3,000 IT security workers from the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific region in a bid to ascertain how the transition to remote working had affected network security infrastructure.

According to the research, 61pc of organisations struggled to provide the necessary security supports for employees working from home.

Furthermore, organisations which prioritised access at the expense of security are facing problems, according to the report, The State of Hybrid Workforce Security 2021, based on ONR’s research.

Many leaders surveyed said they feared the shortcuts taken by their organisations at the beginning of the pandemic put their organisations in a higher risk position where network security was concerned. More than half (53pc) of respondents from organisations which prioritised remote access over remote network security are now exposed to significant security risks from unchecked acceptable use policy violations and unsanctioned application usage.

Almost half (48pc) of organisations said they compromised on security or increased their security risk through lack of enforcement of security policies and allowing remote working employees more leeway than was normally acceptable.

More than one third said their employees had purposely disabled the remote security measures they had implemented. This is despite the fact that many of those who took part in the survey were actively optimising their workforces for long-term hybrid working. Around 62pc said they were going through the process, while 94pc said they were considering some sort of hybrid working model over the next year.

As to how security concerns would be factored into these changing methods of work, most (71pc) said they expected to have their security mostly or completely in the cloud over the next two years.

Before the pandemic, many organisations had begun migrating to the cloud, but the pandemic either rushed this process or caused them to abandon it in favour of a focus on remote network access. However, 67pc of those surveyed did take action during the peak of the pandemic to improve the security of their remote workers.

The report also highlighted the importance of preventing security-damaging behaviours in employees, such as using personal devices to conduct company business and connecting to external networks while working remotely.

Overall, the majority of respondents said they planned to increase their investment in remote access security over the next year, with 54pc saying they expected to spend more than $5m on remote security, up from 31pc the previous year.

Recently, Silicon Republic’s Infosec Week saw us look at some of the challenges faced by companies adapting to the cybersecurity landscape post-pandemic, and what organisations can do to to prevent security breaches.

Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic