Study: Remote Work Leads to Avoidable Cybersecurity Mistakes

Conor Cawley

Everyone's favorite employment perk could have a seriously negative effect on security, as one study has found the increasingly popular trend could lead to increased data breaches across the tech industry.

Remote work is certainly having its moment in the sun right now. With the global pandemic forcing employees to stay home, companies around the world have adopted work from home policies. It has allowed parents to better manage out-of-school children, employees to facilitate safer work environments, and everyone to experiment with wearing pajamas during meetings.

Unfortunately, one study has found that remote work could seriously open the floodgates of security breaches given the distracting nature of working from home.

The Cybersecurity Risks of Working From Home

The study from Tessian, titled The Psychology of Human Error, showed that distraction plays a huge roll in succumbing to cybersecurity threats, particularly when it comes to phishing emails. In fact, according to their study, 45% of respondents who fell victim to phishing attacks cite being “distracted” as the main reason, making it the most common problem when it comes to cybersecurity.

Remote Work Graph

Source: Tessian

Additionally, 57% of respondents noted that they are more distracted while working from home, which is a combination that could make for some serious problems down the road.

“Working in unusual environments can be stressful and distracting,” said Jeff Hancock, a communication professor at Stanford University. “Prior to the pandemic, people were used to operating in distinct spaces – home, work, social – and we had different ways of understanding the world in each space. The events of 2020 mean these spaces have blurred, and we’ve had to quickly learn new ways of operating and this has its challenges.”

The Effects on the Remote Work Boom

The security risks associated with working from home in 2020 wouldn't be such a pressing issue if it weren't 2020. Unfortunately, this year has seen a massive increase in remote channels among US employees, with 63% of employees now working from home.

To make matters worse, Google has announced that they don't plan on bringing workers back into an office setting until at least the summer of 2021, which means the remote work boom could stick around for the foreseeable future.

“I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months,” wrote Sundar Picar in a memo to employees.

Flexibility is all well and good, and is undeniably the right call amidst a global pandemic. However, the security implications of widespread remote work, particularly without the proper protective measures in place, could lead to a disastrous increase in cybersecurity threats.

How to Protect Yourself Online

In 2020, it's hard to deny that being online inherently makes you vulnerable to cyber attacks. After all, major security breaches make headlines on what feel like a daily basis, and our connected lives don't leave a lot of room for privacy, particularly with all of us working from home.

Fortunately, working from home doesn't have to be the security nightmare you think it is. With plenty of resources on the market designed to keep you safe, you can protect yourself online, even if you're working from home. A few examples include:

  • Password managers – With a good password manager, you can ensure that your accounts are secure at all times. These platforms provide you with a single key that can unlock all your accounts, securely keeping everything safe in one location. Plus, you won't be burdened with having to remember all your passwords, so that's definitely a plus.
  • VPN – While they can't necessarily protect you from phishing scams, a good VPN can help protect your online activity from other nefarious forces online, particularly when using public WiFi connections. Plus, you can access Netflix from other countries, which can unlock new and unseen content.
  • Antivirus software – There's nothing worse than getting a virus online, which is where antivirus software can come in handy. A good provider will allow you to search, clean, and protect your computer or other device from viruses, so that you won't lose personal information or have to buy a new one.

The reality is that the best way to stay safe online is to be vigilant. Phishing scams in particular are pretty easy to spot if you're paying attention, so try not to be one of the 45% of employees that get distracted while working from home. It could be the difference between a normal day at work and a serious security threat.

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Conor is the Senior Writer for Tech.co. For the last four years, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His extensive background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host tech-centric events like Startup Night at SXSW and the Timmy Awards for Tech in Motion. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.

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