How U.S. Companies Can Efficiently Safeguard Hybrid Employees Online Privacy

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As companies in the U.S. and other nations continue to contemplate the future of remote and hybrid work models introduced at the onset of the pandemic back in 2020, further examination has presented a slew of online security challenges carried by virtual work affecting the information technology transformation progress. The increase in remote work has exposed the shaky foundations of companies’ cyber security protocols and the lack thereof.

Moreover, when we consider the state-by-state characteristics of online privacy and security, it becomes evident that the cyberinfrastructure is not equally shared across state borders. PIA revealed that some states have witnessed a disparity in cyber laws and security measures, leading to higher average losses due to cybercrime. It is evident that organizations play a crucial role in safeguarding the digital presence of their hybrid employees.

Roughly a quarter of online security challenges with remote and hybrid work are currently affecting the industry readiness for the future of work; with only fourteen percent of IT professionals citing cyber security as a top priority, according to a poll of IT professionals in the private and public sector.

Digital and software vulnerabilities on the back of lax cyber awareness among employees have seen ransomware attacks rise by fifty-three percent at the start of the pandemic. Even more, forty percent of organizations have experienced a cyber intrusion directed at virtual working environments.

While U.S. lawmakers are continuously battling to introduce watershed policies that protect consumer interests, the private sector is lending itself to exposed risks and further edification of cyber security challenges of remote and hybrid working offices.

The State Of Digital Consent

A review of the current state of digital consent in America indicates a troublesome outlook, as a lack of online private and digital protection often creates loopholes for cybercriminals to conduct data breaches and for third-party companies to access private consumer information.

However, it’s perhaps not the lack of cybersecurity protection websites, tools, and other software that’s making it easier for consumers to end up falling victim to data breaches or online hacks.

Instead, a lack of knowledge and undrstanding of current security systems are creating new risks for consumers and, in this case, for organizations with a remote-only workforce.

A report published by the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania showed that a robust seventy-seven percent of participants struggled to answer a series of true-and-false questions about digital devices and services that track users online.

While the study looked to better understand how much Americans already know about how companies and service providers track their online activity, the bottom line revealed that consent is broken and that consumers’ digital activity is unknowingly being used to personalize their online experience.

However, in a similar vein, consumers tend to remain concerned and conscious about their interest in their online data and how third-party service providers are using it.

Another report showed that close to three-quarters of Americans have cited that they are “very concerned” to “extremely concerned” about their online privacy, according to a survey that helped to explore Americans’ attitudes towards protecting their personal information and data online.

A growing number of consumers hae started to notice targeted ads when scrolling through social media or browsing websites based on the search results in the browser history. A further portion of online users has noticed online ads targeted at their direct location since the onset of the pandemic.

There’s perhaps no point in turning back now, or even making an attempt to return to antiquated ways of socializing, communicating, and working.

The sharp rise of digital adoption has helped lay the foundations of the future of business and pleasure. However, the worrisome outlook for IT security transformation is making it increasingly hard to avoid the digital security risks that are bubbling beneath the surface.

The lack of consumers’ ability to take action and further organizations not presenting remote employees with adequate digital security infrastructure is widening the crevices. While there’s a strong level of awareness, it hasn’t yet translated into a high level of action, and it’s these foundational elements that require individuals, employees, and organizations to take more serious steps to minimize irrational delays.

The Role Companies Can Play In Safeguarding Hybrid Employee’s Digital Presence

Following the aftermath of the pandemic, companies focused their attention on building digital-ready businesses and operational models. In the wake of lockdowns and quarantine measures, security matters and compliance took a back seat, leading to bigger challenges in the near term.

Insights by McKinsey & Company reveal that organizations globally coughed up more than $150 billion on cybersecurity infrastructure, marking a nearly thirteen-percent growth annually.

The onslaught of cyber threats around the world has created a tremendous gap in the market worth more than $2 trillion according to these insights.

However, in the U.S. policymakers have been divided over the protection of consumers’ digital presence, leaving it up to organizations to resolve the issues that followed in the years after the pandemic.

Federal legislation and the introduction of progressive bills have managed to find their way to the table of discussion. However, lax oversight on the state level is causing more headaches and creating further barriers for private institutions.

Several states, which have introduced stringent policies in recent years to protect consumers’ online activity and the capturing of personal data have seen less average loss – in monetary terms – since 2021.

Elsewhere, in places such as Alaska, the average loss of $500 or more per person due to cybercrime is once again an indication of how cyber laws and security measures are not equally distributed across the playing field.

The seemingly relaxed oversight in some states presents organizations with further headwinds and leaves them with the bill to pay for protecting their hybrid employees.

Market predictions currently estimate that some fifty-three percent of organizations will see an increase in IT spending this year, while an additional thirty percent said their spending will remain the same

The worrisome outlook shows that although organizations and top-tier executives have become increasingly aware of the growing threat of cybercrime, a remarkable eighteen percent will decrease their IT budgets for the year.

With cyber security budgets going up, in some cases, digital threats to hybrid workers and consumers remain at an all-time high.

Perhaps it’s safe to say that breaches are becoming more commonplace among organizations, both those operating with hybrid and onsite models. However, these instances will only increase the cost burden for companies, a financial headwind many are looking to sidestep against the backdrop of wider micro and macroeconomic turbulence.

The sheer volume of these attacks doesn’t necessarily raise alarm to some organizations. However, it poses the question of whether organizations are doing enough to keep employees working outside of the office secure and whether they have provided sufficient support and resources for hybrid workers to adequately identify potential cyber threats.

Ultimately, the outcomes depend largely on how much organizations are willing to cough up to help keep employees safe but also further protect consumer information.

The case might be that introducing new infrastructure and increasing IT budgets could help keep cyber threats at bay, however, the results lie on the shoulders of how well companies are equipping their employees with the right knowledge and insight to keep fraudulent activities in the dark.

While there is room for improvement, based on the federal government’s attempt to intervene, these actions are perhaps still a long way down the line and could require both sides of the political aisle to conclude on a bipartisan agreement – something which doesn’t come easily in American politics.

Concluding Thoughts

In the wake of remote and hybrid work, organizations are being forced to introduce more adequate and stringent in-house cyber security protocols that could help protect their employees, but also keep malicious players at bay.

While throwing cash at the problem won’t extinguish the fire, perhaps the agreement could be that both private and public sector needs to meet at an inflection point whereby they can present divisive arguments that could further elaborate on the possibility of improving consumer protection and safeguarding digital information.

In order to roll the ball further down the court, organizations would need to require a substantial understanding of cyber threats and the growing concerns that lead to cyber warfare.

Yet, this only brings the problem back to the starting point that sees policy and lawmakers reaching an agreement on how their actions could help fundamentally change the future of American cyber security, both within and outside the workplace.