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73% of IT execs concerned over remote working security risks

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73% of security and IT executives are concerned about new vulnerabilities and risks introduced by the distributed workforce, highlighting an ‘alarming’ disconnect between confidence in security posture and increased cyberattacks during the global pandemic.

The data from Skybox Research Lab comes after enterprises rapidly shifted to make work from home possible and maintain business productivity. Forced to accelerate digital transformation initiative, this created the perfect storm, the research says.

Skybox Research Lab discovered that 2020 will be a record-breaking year for new vulnerabilities with a 34% increase year-over-year – a leading indicator for the growth of future attacks.

As a result, security teams now have more to protect than ever before. Surveying 295 global executives, the Skybox 2020 “Cybersecurity in the new normal” report found that organizations are overconfident in their security posture, and new strategies are needed to secure a long-term distributed workforce.

Key findings:

  • Deprioritized security tasks increase risk: Over 30% of security executives said software updates and BYOD policies were deprioritized. Further, 42% noted reporting was deprioritized since the onset of the pandemic.
  • Enterprises can’t keep up with the pace: 32% had difficulties validating if network and security configurations undermined security posture. 55% admitted that it was at least moderately difficult for them to validate network and security configurations did not increase risk.
  • Security teams are overconfident in security posture: Only 11% confirmed they could confidently maintain a holistic view of their organizations’ attack surfaces. Shockingly, 93% of security executives were still confident that changes were correctly validated.
  • The distributed workforce is here to stay: 70% of respondents projected that at least one-third of their employees will remain remote 18 months from now.

“Traditional detect-and-respond approaches are no longer enough. A radical new approach is needed – one that is rooted in the development of preventative and prescriptive vulnerability and threat management practices,” said Gidi Cohen, co-founder and CEO, Skybox Security. “To advance change, it is integral that everything, including data and talent, is working towards enriching the security program as a whole.”

To download the full report, visit: https://www.skyboxsecurity.com/security-transformation/

Cyber security habits getting lax during lockdown

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Britons have developed lax cyber security habits, using their work equipment to shop online, check their social media or forgetting to log themselves out of applications once they’ve stopped using them.

That’s according to research from Mimecast, which says businesses should capitalise on the phased return to the office to implement stringent training and improve cybersecurity awareness among their workforce.

The results of the survey, it says, are damning:

  • 63% of Britons use their personal devices to access the corporate network
  • As the lines between their personal and professional lives blur, almost 60% forward personal emails to their professional ones
  • Almost half open attachments from unknown sources (49.4%) or click on links in emails from unknown sources (47.1%)

Mimecast says these bad practices result in more cybersecurity incidents across businesses, with three in four IT leaders witnessing cybersecurity issues once a month or more – more worryingly, 20% of them admit occurrences happen more than once a day. 

Email remains the first source of cybersecurity issues: 42% of IT leaders acknowledge most cybersecurity incidents start with an employee clicking on a malicious link in an email. As hackers become more sophisticated, 30% admit that these emails mimic an internal source, increasing the challenge to identify whether a source is legitimate or not for employees who may not have seen their colleagues since March. 

Cyberhygiene varies widely between divisions

To add to this constant headache for IT leaders, the level of cybersecurity awareness within the organisation varies widely between divisions – with the main culprits for poor cybersecurity hygiene often being the ones who manage the highest volume of emails. 

IT leaders rank risk and compliance as the most trustworthy division when it comes to cybersecurity, closely followed by the finance department. The latter has long been a hacker’s favourite target as one small mistake can provide access to the company’s financial information and result in a dip in revenue. 

While the guarantors of the company’s financial health are among the most vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity, those responsible for its reputation could use a refresher: IT leaders see marketing and communications as the worst offenders when it comes to bad cybersecurity practices, followed by design and HR & training. 

Many organisations had to implement large-scale remote working policies in a hurry to respond to the lockdown. Yet, IT leaders are confident this has helped their workforce to become more mindful of cybersecurity: eight out of ten believe their company will be better prepared to cope with disruption, and that employees within their organisation will have better cyber hygiene moving forward. 

Francis Gaffney, Director of Threat Analysis at Mimecast, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on businesses across the country, making it difficult for many to function as they usually would. With offices forced to close overnight, many workforces were working remotely for the first time. This obviously had major implications for cybersecurity, as IT had limited visibility into employee habits. This research is particularly worrying because it shows that UK employees are failing to follow basic cybersecurity best practises, which can have huge repercussions for businesses both financially and from a reputation perspective.  Now is the time to prioritise cyber hygiene awareness training to ensure employees returning to the office will be proficient in keeping the business secure.”

Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay 

Giving resellers the key to unlocking end user continuity, productivity and flexibility

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By Dave Manning, Operations Director, Giacom

Until recently, the transition to working from home was unfolding at a gradual pace for many businesses. Although there is much research to back up the benefits of flexible and remote working, many business leaders remained sceptical, believing that office working remained the setup that would be most productive and beneficial from a cultural perspective. 

But the current crisis delivered an ultimatum for many businesses – cease operations or deploy technology to enable employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. There are, of course, several industries where working from home is not an option, but for the majority, there are ways to simply facilitate it – demonstrated by the fact that more than 39% of adults in employment are now working from home, compared to around 12% last year. 

Many employees are thriving working from home. And the hours they have gained back while working from home are not going to be something they will want to give up easily –  two-thirds (63%) of workers said they are open to full time remote working and never going back to the physical office once the crisis is over. It’s becoming clear that the future will not be a permanent office-based workforce, but will shift to a hybrid model combining both remote and office working, allowing for a larger degree of flexibility. This approach of working fuelled by the pandemic is clearly favoured, as 77% of UK employees believe a mix of office-based and remote working is the best way forward post Covid-19. 

For those companies set up to work from home, it’s clear that if business continuity and productivity are maintained – or even improved – during a crisis, they will long term as well. But companies that aren’t properly set up to support remote working are missing out on significant business value gains. To facilitate hybrid working long term, employees must be equipped not only to survive, but to thrive. So how can resellers support end user organisations in transitioning to this new way of operating in the future?

A cloudy future

The lockdown enforcement saw the need for businesses to adapt to this new way of working almost overnight, resulting in a huge surge of enquiries to resellers to get employees working remotely as quickly as possible. Even with cloud-based solutions gaining popularity over the years, a lot of business infrastructure remain on-premises. Businesses need to be moving to a cloud-based infrastructure where the technology they deploy allows for the flexibility to work remotely and on-premises if required. For IT companies supporting SMBs who want to future-proof their businesses and replace outdated on site servers, the cloud offers a fixed cost server solution to IT companies supporting SMBs, while delivering secure storage and easy provisioning as well as scalability – ensuring a futureproof solution for end users. 

Productivity tools

Collaboration tools have come of age and the race is on to both develop and implement smoother integrated IT communications, video, voice strategies so that business can perform at an even higher level whilst working from home. Similar to the transition from letter writing to email, businesses are realising they can actually get more achieved in the same time with cloud-based tools and people not having to travel miles around the country on public transport, in cars or internationally by plane.

And as virtual collaboration tools develop even further to deliver advanced capabilities, employee productivity will only increase. Resellers will be the crucial advisors to companies in order to facilitate their needs, backed up with support from CSPs to help navigate through the most relevant and valuable cloud solutions for their end users. 

Secure setup

Resellers have undoubtedly already experienced the surge of businesses looking to get staff up and running with remote collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams etc.. But in the rush to get everyone online and maintain business continuity, security considerations likely slipped much further down the list. Given the continued increase in frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks, especially those capitalising on the current crisis through phishing scams, ‘Zoom-bombing’ incidents and the like, it’s never been more important to prioritise cyber security. 

This is especially true for those organisations that are new to the concept of remote working. While they may have had a solution in place for keeping the corporate network secure within the physical office, a virtual business requires different tools and techniques. This is where resellers can play a crucial role as key consultants to end-users on how they can keep their data secure and deploy reliable, cloud-based backup solutions to safeguard their sensitive information even further. 

A hybrid and flexible infrastructure

While we are all looking forward to this crisis being over, given the nature of the pandemic it’s unlikely that there will be a hard stop to lockdown. Even with the government now lifting some of the restrictions, we can expect a combination of working from home and office working with social distancing and other measures still in place for some time to come. And research has found that 74% of business leaders intend to shift some employees to remote working permanently. No one knows exactly what that journey will look like, so businesses require the toolkit and technology to enable a hybrid working infrastructure now and into the future. 

Moreover, lockdown measures may be starting to ease gradually, but if the UK is faced with a second wave of the virus, or we experience another crisis in the future, additional lockdown measures may have to be put back in place, as was the case in Singapore that struggled to contain a second wave. Flexibility is therefore crucial to safeguard business continuity and enable organisations to maintain optimum productivity levels even in the midst of another unprecedented event. 

The key will be for resellers to support end users in deploying tools that support this new way of working. From unified communications and collaboration software, to cloud-based backup and security tools that keep the corporate network safe no matter where the user is based, resellers hold the key to unlocking end user organisations’ continuity, productivity and flexibility. 

Unmanaged personal devices at home threatening corporate security

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

More than half of UK employees working remotely during lockdown use unmanaged personal devices to access corporate systems.

That’s according to a study published today by CyberArk, which found that UK employees’ work-from-home habits – including password re-use and letting family members use corporate devices – are putting critical business systems and sensitive data at risk.

The survey, which aimed to gauge the current state of security in today’s expanded remote work environment, found that:

  • 60% of remote employees are using unmanaged, insecure “BYOD” devices to access corporate systems. 
  • 57% of employees have adopted communication and collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which have been the focus of highly publicised security flaws

Working Parents Compound the Risk

The study found that the risks to corporate security become even higher when it comes to working parents. As this group had to quickly and simultaneously transform into full-time teachers, caregivers and playmates, it’s no surprise that convenience would outweigh good cybersecurity practices when it comes to working from home. 

  • 57% insecurely save passwords in browsers on their corporate devices
  • 89% reuse passwords across applications and devices
  • 21% admitted that they allow other members of their household to use their corporate devices for activities like schoolwork, gaming and shopping. 

Are Current Work-from-Home Security Policies Enough?

While 91% of IT Teams are confident in their ability to secure the new remote workforce, more than half (57%) have not increased their security protocols despite the significant change in the way employees connect to corporate systems and the addition of new productivity applications.

CyberArk says the rush to onboard new applications and services that enable remote work combined with insecure connections and dangerous security practices of employees has significantly widened the attack surface and security strategies need to be updated to match this new dynamic threat landscape. This is especially true when it comes to securing privileged credentials of remote workers, which, if compromised, could open the door to an organisation’s most critical systems and resources.

“Major socio-economic events have always led to a sharp uptake in cyber incidents. The WHO has warned of an exponential increase in attacks due to the global and unprecedented nature of the ongoing health crisis, and its transformative impact on the way we work. With the accelerated use of collaboration tools and home networks for professional purposes, best-practice security is struggling to keep pace with the need for convenience which, in turn, is leaving businesses vulnerable”, said Rich Turner, SVP EMEA, CyberArk.

“Responsibility for security needs to be split between employees and employers. As more UK organisations extend remote work for the longer term, employees must be vigilant. This means constantly updating and never re-using passwords, verifying that the operating system and application software they use are up to date, and ensuring all work and communication is conducted only on approved devices, applications and collaboration tools. Simultaneously, businesses must constantly review their security policies to ensure employees only have access to the critical data and systems they need to do their work, and no more. Decreasing exposure is critical in the context of an expanded attack surface.”

Transitioning to Secure Remote Working During and Beyond COVID-19

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By Steve Law, CTO, Giacom and Sébastien Gest, VadeSecure

Organisations of all sizes that typically work in office environments have been thrown into the deep end due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Social distancing measures and restricting unnecessary travel has meant that a majority of companies had to unexpectedly revert to remote working. Many of these businesses quickly realised that they weren’t ready for this digital transformation, with recent research suggesting that UK firms are among the world’s least prepared for home-working.

With 25% of businesses having no crisis plan in place and 55% of employees having little to no experience of working from home, organisations have had to revise their working practices to be able to conduct their work digitally and remain effective. Technology plays a key role in enabling remote work, but many organisations did not have this planned in advance, and subsequently, are at a disadvantage due to their current inadequate technology solutions and infrastructure in place. This can lead to significantly increased security risks and concerns, as Steve Law, CTO, Giacom and Sébastien Gest, VadeSecure, explain.

Workplace Challenges

Workforces may not have access to the necessary devices from their homes such as work laptops, the correct video conference solutions or collaboration tools in place to perform their role. As a result, employees who are working from home will have to do so from their own devices. This ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) phenomenon creates a security concern as not all personal electronic devices will have the correct level of security installed on them – the software may not be up to date, they may have an older version of Windows installed or no antivirus software available.

This creates an issue for both the consumer and the professional, as the same credentials are often used across multiple accounts at the same time. Hackers’ creativity is limitless and is becoming more sophisticated over time. Vade Secure has seen a shift in cyber criminals’ strategies, changing from attacking individuals with ransomware to instead using these individuals as a backdoor to gain access to corporate networks, and there is no better opportunity to do this than via individuals using their personal devices from home. However, by implementing the correct software and security solutions across all employees’ devices, these risks can be mitigated. 

Evolving threats 

The number of cyberattacks has continued to increase over time, with up to 88% of UK companies being targets of breaches in the last 12 months. However, hackers are taking advantage of the current coronavirus situation by sending phishing emails purporting to be PPE suppliers or medication. Recent statistics have found that since January 2020, there have been over 4,000 coronavirus-related domains registered globally, with 3% found to be malicious and 5% suspicious. These results heighten the importance of ensuring your workforce are securely remote working.

Over the last three months, as the coronavirus outbreak has unfolded, Vade Secure has seen a surge in spear-phishing and malware activities. Examples of this which have been found include capitalising on psychological aspects of the victims, including Covid-19 charity campaigns, fake mask and sanitiser suppliers, as well as stock and medications for purchases which don’t exist.

With 91% of cyber attacks using emails as their first vector, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your employees have a secure email network in place. No organisation is immune to the threat and companies which don’t have the right security software in place need to act now before it’s too late. By adding these security elements, companies can benefit from detecting and blocking features and using Artificial Intelligence to secure their networks and become notified when a non-legitimate email appears.

Securing the weakest link  

Often, the weakest link of an organisation is the employee, as 88% of UK data breaches are caused by human error. Employees are not security experts and can fall foul to phishing scams if they don’t have the right level of education or awareness. When working from home, your workforce is under more pressure to work both faster and harder, which can lead to mistakes being made. Staff members don’t have the time to check every email before they open them, but this one click can make all the difference.

Instead, by educating employees and making them more vigilant, they will be able to spot scams and cyber attacks before the damage is done. Combined with the right security software that uses techniques such as alert ‘pop-ups’ to prompt users to check emails before clicking on links, for example, the workforce will become more aware of the signs to look out for. By enabling users to make an informed decision about the nature and legitimacy of their email before acting on it, organisations can now mitigate against this high-risk area.

Conclusion

In order for organisations to limit the number of insider data and security breaches,  particularly when working remotely, it’s crucial for employees to understand the role they play in keeping the company’s information secure. By preparing in advance and having a secure contingency plan in place which provides employees with the necessary devices and security, companies will be in a stronger position to defend their systems against hackers. In addition to this, supporting employees with training will allow workforces to understand the evolving risks they face, and how to keep their information and systems secure. 

WEBINAR REWIND: How to Tackle Working From Home Security Threats

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Last week ZIVVER hosted a webinar during which participants learned the secrets to securing an organization’s communications while safeguarding against costly data leaks with a remote workforce – if you missed this essential session you can re-watch it again now.

The lively 30 minute discussion includes expert insight and opinion from:

  • Quentyn Taylor is Head of Security for one of the largest enterprises in London. He is regarded as a key security commentator and is regularly quoted and published in industry publications and mainstream media.
  • Becky Pinkard is a renowned practitioner and commentator on the information security sector who has been working in information technology and security since 1996.
  • Rick Goud is the co-founder and CEO of Zivver, one of the top secure communication platform companies in Europe.

Tops covered off include:

  • Behind the stats: the top causes of data breaches in the UK
  • Data leak blunders and how to prevent them 
  • Evolving security threats with a remote workforce 
  • Modern solutions to secure outbound communications 

Watch again by clicking here

Securing outbound email is vital to help safeguard sensitive information and prevent data leaks. The good news is that this can be done easily and affordably with ZIVVER’s secure communication platform.

Getting started is easy

Setting up a ZIVVER account for up to 50 users can be conveniently done from any device in just a few clicks, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Simply choose the desired plan, select the number of users, and pay with a credit card to immediately begin sending communications securely.

Use the code WFH30UK to get 30% off for the first 3 months of your subscription – Click here to get started.