A look at the future of office work

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Wednesday June 10th. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cybersecurity for ITWorldCanada.com.

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What is the future of office work? More people than ever are temporarily working from home due to the pandemic. So when the crisis ends will most people go back to work in offices? Can they work at home safely?

There’s conflicting evidence. A cybersecurity company called Tessian recently released a survey saying 91 per cent of IT leaders questioned trust their employees will follow security best practices when out of the office. By comparison 48 per cent of employees surveyed admitted they would be less likely to follow safe security practices when working from home. They gave a variety of reasons, including they wouldn’t be using an office computer, they wouldn’t feel like they were being watched by their company’s IT team as they are in the office, they would be distracted at home and because they would be under pressure at home to get work done quickly.

Separately, a security firm called CyberArk also released a study suggesting employees working from home may be doing unsafe things. Seventy-seven per cent of employees working from home said they use unmanaged home computers to access corporate systems. Of those who work from home and have corporately-provided computers, 29 per cent admitted they allow other family members to use those computers for non-work related things like schoolwork, gaming and shopping.

That might suggest IT departments ought to be glad to get employees back in the office, where they can better control what’s going on online. Not necessarily. During a webcast I tuned into last week the chief information security officers of three Canadian organizations said they expect their firms will continue to urge people to work from home even when the pandemic ends. CISOs are the people who head the cybersecurity teams. The CISO at a hospital said non-medical staff working from home means fewer people risking their health. The CISO of a bank said working from home should be less stressful for staff because they can take a break from work during the day and be with family, or take a jog. A company that rents and sells heavy equipment said a work-from-home policy will allow her to employ skilled people from around the world she hire couldn’t before because they had to be in a city where her firm had an office.

So the increase in people working from home seems to be permanent. However, it will mean two things: First, organizations will have to toughen their cybersecurity policies to deal with the increased risks of employees using their own computers. There is management software that allows the IT department to control what applications are on computers that connect to the enterprise and ensure everything has the latest patches. And IT will have to make sure all the applications allowing remote access to the organization are locked down. For their part, employees will have to be smarter and safer using computers from home. Just as bad as an outbreak of an infectious disease is an outbreak of data breaches.

That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Links to details about these stories can be found in the text version of each podcast at ITWorldCanada.com. That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at businesses and cybersecurity professionals. Cyber Security Today can be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker. Thanks for listening. I’m Howard Solomon

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