Study: Remote Work Leads to Increased Cybersecurity Risk

A new study find business owners are having trouble mitigating the cybersecurity risk of employees working from home.
Conor Cawley

While many employees love it, the shift to remote work has become a bit of problem for business owners, as one study found that working from home comes with some serious cybersecurity concerns.

The pandemic has made the world of business evolve pretty fast. From remote work to online infrastructure, companies around the world have been scrambling to keep up. The shift has made flexibility a priority, which employees have reveled in for the last year and a half.

Unfortunately, that flexibility has some drawbacks, as a new study discovered that the majority of small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are having trouble keeping up with the security risks that come with it.

77% of SMEs See Remote Work as a Security Risk

The study from Help Net Security surveyed 1,000 business leaders at SMEs around the country, and found that 77% of them believe remote work poses a great cybersecurity risk to their business.

“Our research has found that remote working is exposing SMEs to additional risk of compromise and some businesses are being forced to leave infrastructure unmonitored,” said Adam Bradshaw, Commercial Director at ServerChoice, in the study. “This is a big risk. It could lead to data breaches that expose sensitive data or even leave systems open to encryption and ransomware attacks.”

Even more so, the research found that 66% find it significantly harder to monitor their online infrastructure now that everyone is working from home. And worse, 25% have left their infrastructure larger unmonitored, which could lead to a serious (and expensive) security breach down the line.

Which Industries Are the Most at Risk?

With security breaches and cyber crimes on the rise, understanding who is being targeted can make a big difference. Well, according to this study, the healthcare industry is the most at risk, with 89% of health professionals stating that remote working has added extra risk for their infrastructure.

As for the least at risk, 29% manufacturing leaders stated that remote work has led to no change in the risk to their infrastructure.

Despite the increasingly common occurrence of security breaches, businesses in all industries aren't doing a lot to protect themselves. 20% of education and retail SMEs leave their infrastructure unmonitored, a highly risky behavior for any business that wants to protect their data.

How to Protect Your Business

The reality is that making an effort to actually protect your company data is the only way to actually do so. But with remote work throwing a wrench in the works, how can the average business protect themselves?

“It is imperative that SMEs treat their data and IT infrastructure like any other asset and properly secure it,” said Bradshaw. “If SMEs are unable to secure their infrastructure due to remote working or a lack of expertise, they must find a custodian who can do it on their behalf, or run the risk of having their data comprised in the future.”

The best ways to secure your data depend on your business, but VPNs, password managers, and remote access software is the best place to start, particularly for teams that are transitioning to remote work. They can help your employees access valuable company information without putting data at risk of breach.

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Conor is the Senior Writer for Tech.co. For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.

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