You don’t need me to tell you that things have changed. The world has been on an accelerated pace of digitalization that has affected everything from how we buy our groceries, to the way we work and how businesses ensure productivity and business continuity. Along with this comes a stronger need to ensure that all our information and activity in the digital-first world are secure. The question is: can we use these imperatives to drive or accelerate positive transformation and emerge stronger than before?
The global pandemic has driven a rapid shift for most organizations to remote and flexible working arrangements, whereby employees were taken out of the controlled environments of their offices and required to work across multiple devices from home. Almost overnight, we went from business continuity planning to business continuity execution, and the speed and scale of the transition has found organizations in different states of readiness and preparedness.
To better understand how organizations have responded and adapted to this fundamental shift from a cybersecurity standpoint, Cisco commissioned a survey of more than 3,000 IT leaders from small to large organizations across 21 markets in the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe during June to September this year. The findings are captured in a report titled Future of Secure Remote Work.
IT Departments Take the Strain
The report foremostly highlights the magnitude of the changes that IT departments worldwide have faced. In Asia Pacific (APAC), only 19% of organizations had more than half of their employees working remotely prior to COVID-19. This figure has nearly tripled to 56% during the pandemic.
Fifty-four percent of APAC organizations reported that their organizations were somewhat prepared and 7% were not prepared to support remote working at the pandemic’s outset – creating a situation that sent many cybersecurity and IT workers into overdrive to adapt.
With users connecting from outside the corporate walls, secure access is the top cybersecurity challenge faced by the largest proportion of APAC organizations (63%) when supporting remote workers. In addition, over one in two respondents found endpoints to be a challenge to protect as users connect from their home Wi-Fi or use their personal devices to connect to corporate applications.
APAC organizations also cited an increase in cyber threats or alerts since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 7 in 10 organizations experiencing a jump of 25% or more. This is likely due to malicious actors trying to take advantage of potential security gaps with users accessing corporate networks and cloud applications remotely.
A Transformation Opportunity
With the forced acceleration to a remote work environment calling our attention to the need for seamless and integrated cybersecurity, could the challenges of 2020 be a jolt that the industry needed to transform its approach?
I believe it could be and the conditions are certainly right for doing so. Our survey reveals that cybersecurity has been catapulted up corporate agendas. In APAC, 85% of organizations said cybersecurity is now extremely important or more important than before the pandemic for their organization. Seventy percent plan to increase cybersecurity investment, the highest across all the regions surveyed.
With 34% of APAC organizations expecting more than half of their employees to stay on remote working arrangements beyond the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to fundamentally change our approach to cybersecurity to more effectively meet the needs of users and customers. This means simplifying systems, placing a strong focus on better and not just more cybersecurity, and working with organizations, industry partners and government bodies to help educate employees and raise cybersecurity awareness.
I encourage you to read the Future of Secure Remote Work Report to explore the insights across different markets and reflect on how your organization can be better prepared for this new hybrid future of work.
We also dive deeper into the key takeaways and recommendations in the blog, Security at the heart of the ‘new normal’ workforce.