Most IT leaders believe remote workers are a security risk

57 percent of UK IT decision makers still believe that remote workers are a security risk, and that they will expose their organization to the threat of a data breach, according to a survey by Apricorn.

remote workers security risk

This figure has inclined steadily from 44 percent in 2018 and 50 percent in 2019. The rise could reflect a corresponding increase in the number of remote workers, or an enhanced awareness of the risks of doing so as the UK’s workforce began to follow government guidelines to work from home.

In 2019, 47 percent admitted that their remote workers had already knowingly put corporate data at risk of a breach in the last year; this has now dropped slightly to 44 percent.

Remote workers security risk: Apathy still a major problem

Apathy continues to be a major problem, with 34 percent of IT leaders saying their remote workers simply don’t care about security – exactly the same percentage as last year – which suggests organizations are struggling to get employees to buy into the security strategy.

“This year, the need for organizations to facilitate effective and secure remote working has been cast into the spotlight to an extent no-one could have anticipated,” said Jon Fielding, Managing Director EMEA, Apricorn.

“Our survey shows that while progress has been made in some key areas since 2019, some of the same risks – such as employee apathy or error – remain a problem. In these currently challenging times, when UK workers are being urged to work from home, it’s all the more important that security is a priority for everyone.”

The importance of endpoint control

Organizations have increasingly recognized the importance of endpoint control as remote working has become more prevalent. Nearly all (96 percent) mitigate the risks of BYOD (bring your own device) with a security strategy that covers employees’ use of their own IT equipment out of the office. Of those, 42 percent only allow the use of devices that have been provisioned or approved by IT, and enforce this with strict security measures. This is a significant rise on 2019, when just over 1 in 10 (11 percent) did so.

“Strengthening endpoint controls allows organizations to trust in the integrity of their data and systems wherever the employee is accessing them, and whatever device they’re using. The fact that businesses are recognizing and enforcing this is a positive step,” comments Fielding.

This change is crucial given that lost or misplaced devices is now the second biggest cause of a data breach – cited by almost a quarter of respondents (24 percent), up from 17 percent a year ago. Employees unintentionally putting data at risk remains the leading cause (33 percent), with third parties mishandling corporate information cited as one of the main causes by 23 percent.

Mobile working and GDPR compliance

Despite this, 87 percent of UK IT decision makers agree that their organizations’ remote workers are aware of cybersecurity risks and practices, and follow required policies at all times.

Remote working is not a new concept, but with so many employees now having had a taste for home working, it might be hard for businesses to put that particular lid back on – so they need to figure out where their vulnerabilities lie now, and address them,” adds Fielding.

When it comes to the challenges of implementing a cybersecurity plan for remote working, almost a fifth of IT decision makers (19 per cent) say managing all the technology employees need is the biggest problem, a drop from 30 percent in 2019, which suggests that organizations are getting a handle on the complexity involved in the technology aspect.

In addition, fewer IT leaders believe that difficulties with GDPR compliance is the biggest problem with mobile working: 16 percent agreed, compared with 20 percent in 2019, suggesting that this aspect may have been less of a challenge than they originally anticipated.

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Most IT leaders believe remote workers are a security risk