The Security Risks Arising from the Increase in Flexible Work

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The number of people who work from home has increased by 140% in the last 15 years. Enabled by the technological advancements of the 21st century, companies all over the world are providing their employees with the opportunity to work remotely. The developed world has enjoyed widespread dissemination of home broadband access in recent years, and combined with the development of videoconferencing and collaboration software, this has dramatically reduced the barriers to creating flexible work arrangements. Many companies are now in a position to allow any worker the opportunity to work outside the traditional work environment.

The modern technological capability to facilitate remote working has coincided with a change in attitudes towards the composition of a productive work environment. The era of convenience has begun to displace traditional concerns from employers who had been keen to keep their team on-site as they believed this to be the best method to keep track of activities, goals, and productivity.

Evolving nature of work culture

A constantly evolving business culture is causing even the most entrenched businesses to buy into remote working policies and reshape the way that they operate. This change in outlook has largely been caused by an increasing recognition of the positive impacts that flexible work policies can have on productivity, health, and stress of workers. Indeed, 97% of 3000 respondents in a 2018 survey said that a flexible job would have a “huge improvement or positive impact on their overall quality of life” (Remote Year, 2018).

A study into workforce engagement conducted by the management consulting group Gallup has revealed that the “optimal engagement boost” occurs when workers spend 60-80% of their workweek offsite. It was discovered that this level of flexibility allows employees to strike the perfect balance between achieving high productivity without distractions and enjoying a healthy level of interaction and facetime with managers and coworkers. Simultaneously, a growing proportion of the white-collar workforce are deciding to detach themselves from organisational structures altogether, and instead, are opting to join the burgeoning gig economy.

US companies have increased their use of freelancers by 168% in the last 10 years. “Now, if a small business or a major corporation needs to rely on a select expert, they turn to the web and start searching for an independent freelancer who can get them the information they need at an affordable price” (Fast Company).

The number of coworking spaces is expected to almost double in the next 5 years and this has been fuelled by the modern capability for workers to be able to access any necessary resources for work by simply picking up and laptop or smartphone.

Rise of flexible work increases security risks

As with many cultural and technological developments over the years, these changes carry several teething issues. Perhaps most eminently, a dispersed workforce gives rise to a range of new cybersecurity issues. As Justin Harvey, an IT security expert at Accenture describes, remote working simply increases the volume of potential threats “It makes cybersecurity a lot harder when your attack surface — the culmination of all the networks and systems you use for work — is sizeable.” This challenge is intensified when it is considered that offsite workers often “let their guard down” whilst working at home.

A false sense of comfort creates the illusion that adhering to security policies is somewhat less applicable or necessary when outside the office. Only 18% of workers are concerned about the security implications of remote work. There are countless unnerving statistics that highlight just how dangerous exposed networks can be, however, once businesses recognize the potential risks they are vulnerable to, measures can be put in place to prevent them.

Workplace productivity and network security software specialist CurrentWare has produced an infographic which exhibits the rise in flexible work, highlights the security risks causes, and summarises possible ways to handle these risks.

About the Author:

Neel Lukka is the Managing Director of CurrentWare Inc, a global provider of employee productivity and data loss prevention software headquartered in Toronto, Canada.


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