The new workplace’s 3 biggest security challenges and how to solve them

November 4, 2020

5 min read

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The early days of COVID-19 involved a lot of necessarily reactive business decisions, but organisations are now looking to the future with recalibrated priorities and approaches.

For many, it looks like remote working will remain a staple, even if social distancing is no longer a requirement. Before COVID-19, cyber security was already an area of heightened significance, with digitisation introducing new vulnerabilities and cyber-attacks becoming more sophisticated. Now that remote work is likely to continue, a sizable portion of work is likely to happen outside the comparable safety of corporate networks, which means there’s a large range of new, long-term security considerations.

As we prepare for this continuation of remote working, and with Australia’s federal government showing greater interest in using regulation to shore up security across sectors, security concerns are taking centre stage for IT professionals. In our white paper, COVID-19: why businesses need to revisit their corporate DNA, we explore IT teams’ biggest challenges as they enabled business continuity during the pandemic and shifts in their priorities going forward. When asked how their organisations’ priorities will be impacted by COVID-19 over the next 12 to 24 months, respondents were most likely to list "improve security, especially cyber security” first, followed closely by "enabling remote working."

 

More important

Stayed the same

Less important

1. Improve security, especially cyber

56%

41%

3%

2. Enable remote working

54%

42%

3%

3. Improve business continuity planning

53%

43%

4%

4. Improve business processes

51%

46%

3%

5. Improve employee experience

49%

47%

4%

Source: Omdia Future of work Survey, July 2020. Click through for full infographic and additional insights.


But many security concerns can’t be separated from a business’s approach to collaboration. Here are some of the biggest challenges facing newly hybrid workforces, as well as how IT leaders can tackle them through unified communications and collaboration solutions.

1. As teams disperse, endpoints and vulnerabilities increase

Businesses have relied on various digital tools and channels to protect business continuity and keep employees connected, but this means the security landscape is more complex than ever.

As employees spend more time working outside the “walled garden” of their corporate networks, there is a greater number of endpoints that must be protected. Unfortunately, malicious actors have wasted no time trying to exploit both insecure environments and fears about COVID-19.

How to address the challenge: Our white paper found that most businesses are planning to retain remote work, so these issues can’t be treated as temporary or with stopgap solutions alone. IT leaders will need to look at individual solutions for better connections and employee experiences, but they also need to be integrated into a broader security strategy with a long-term vision for collaboration.

2. Use of personal devices and shadow applications

With boundaries between work and home more blurred than ever, it’s common for employees to access work-related data and files on personal devices, which tend to have fewer controls. Likewise, work devices are often used for personal use since they’re readily available and set up at home.

Our Workplace Collaboration Report also found that while employees are enjoying a considerable number of benefits from remote work, many still struggle with seamless experiences when it comes to online meetings and collaboration. Only 38% of workers said they have a seamless and productive experience almost all the time, leaving 62% of workers reporting interrupted experiences at least some of the time.

This can increase the risk of employees adopting shadow solutions and technology, which can reduce IT visibility, exacerbate system fragmentation, compromise data security and leave users more exposed, all of which pose significant issues.

How to address the challenge: Start with an in-depth understanding of employee pain points, which tend to be the biggest drivers of shadow solutions and process deviation. By mapping out needs and how they may vary from function to function, you can start to create a collaboration roadmap that matches employees’ priority preferences and helps them collaborate remotely without sacrificing security.

Pay close attention to workflows that depend on collaboration or external connections. For instance, sales teams who have lots of meetings outside the organisation may need additional tools or support to ensure these are seamless, such Liberate, which allows them to use all the features of their desk phone on their mobile, while they’re on the go. For brainstorming or cross-functional work, features in Microsoft Teams such as Whiteboard, Together Mode, and Chat Bubbles can facilitate more productive ideation sessions, while tools like Cisco Webex Meetings from Telstra help teams communicate across all types of security firewalls. By proactively solving employees’ problems, you can reduce the likelihood that they’ll turn to less secure applications or devices.

3. Complexity from reactive solutions

It’s not just external factors or the realities of remote work that are creating extra security challenges. While many businesses were somewhat prepared for remote work before COVID-19, fewer say they were fully prepared – an understandable situation given that the pandemic was a black swan event

The urgent requirement for open-ended remote working has resulted in some organisations procuring similar or duplicate capabilities from multiple vendors, creating complexity that adds cost and increases risk.  Further, managing multiple systems and suppliers can exacerbate workloads and leave less time for proactive security planning.

How to address the challenge: As IT leaders consider the medium- and long-term implications of ongoing remote work, businesses will need to create strategies that streamline vendors and systems. This might involve opting for solutions like Telstra Calling for O365, which brings together the features of Microsoft Teams with the functionality of landline and mobile calling in one place and allows teams to speed up and simplify their daily tasks. But it also calls for broader collaboration and communications strategies that minimise the complexity and streamline any duplications resulting from early pandemic responses.

Telstra has a suite of tools and solutions that can keep your people connected while fortifying your security posture. We can also work with you to design and implement collaboration strategies that put security at the centre of everything you do.

Learn more about how Telstra can help.