More than half (57 per cent) of UK IT decision makers still believe that remote workers will expose their organisation to the risk of a data breach, according to an annual survey – conducted between 25 and 27 March 2020 – commissioned by Apricorn. This figure has inclined steadily from 44 per cent in 2018 and 50 per cent in 2019. The rise could reflect a corresponding increase in the number of people working remotely, or an enhanced awareness of the risks of doing so as the UK’s workforce began to follow government guidelines to work from home.

In 2019 almost half of respondents (47 per cent) admitted that their remote workers had already knowingly put corporate data at risk of a breach in the last year; this has now dropped slightly to 44 per cent. Apathy continues to be a major problem, with just over a third (34 per cent) of IT leaders saying their remote workers simply do not care about security – exactly the same percentage as last year – which suggests organisations are struggling to get employees to buy into the security strategy.

“This year, the need for organisations to facilitate effective and secure remote working has been cast into the spotlight to an extent no-one could have anticipated,” Jon Fielding, managing director EMEA, Apricorn, said. “Our survey shows that while progress has been made in some key areas since 2019, some of the same risks – such as employee apathy or error – remain a problem. In these currently challenging times, when UK workers are being urged to work from home, it’s all the more important that security is a priority for everyone.”

Recognising integrity

Organisations have increasingly recognised the importance of endpoint control as remote working has become more prevalent. Nearly all (96 per cent) mitigate the risks of BYOD (bring your own device) with a security strategy that covers employees’ use of their own IT equipment out of the office. Of those, 42 per cent only allow the use of devices that have been provisioned or approved by IT and enforce this with strict security measures. This is a significant rise on 2019, when just over one in ten (11 per cent) did so.

“Strengthening endpoint controls allows organisations to trust in the integrity of their data and systems wherever the employee is accessing them, and whatever device they’re using,” Fielding added. “The fact that businesses are recognising and enforcing this is a positive step.”

This change is crucial given that lost or misplaced devices is now the second biggest cause of a data breach – cited by almost a quarter of respondents (24 per cent), up from 17 per cent a year ago. Employees unintentionally putting data at risk remains the leading cause (33 per cent), with third parties mishandling corporate information cited as one of the main causes by 23 per cent.

Implementing a cybersecurity plan

Despite this, the majority (87 per cent) of UK IT decision makers agree that their organisations’ remote workers are aware of cybersecurity risks and practices and follow required policies at all times.

“Remote working is not a new concept, but with so many employees now having had a taste for home working, it might be hard for businesses to put that particular lid back on – so they need to figure out where their vulnerabilities lie now, and address them,” Fielding concluded.

When it comes to the challenges of implementing a cybersecurity plan for remote working, almost a fifth of IT decision makers (19 per cent) say managing all the technology employees need is the biggest problem, a drop from 30 percent in 2019, which suggests that organisations are getting a handle on the complexity involved in the technology aspect. In addition, fewer IT leaders believe that difficulties with GDPR compliance is the biggest problem with mobile working: 16 per cent agreed, compared with 20 per cent in 2019, suggesting that this aspect may have been less of a challenge than they originally anticipated.