Cybersecurity has always been tremendously important to organizations. But in the current environment, adequate security measures are harder than ever to implement. Many organizations now manage thousands of laptops, mobile devices, and apps. Moreover, these devices and platforms are being used by employees across a variety of settings, including in their homes, in offices, and even while traveling.
In addition, since the onset of the pandemic, health and safety concerns have been paramount for companies. Many businesses have begun to integrate touchless technologies and wellness resources at their facilities. While these features are great for promoting employee health and safety, they can make cybersecurity even more challenging.
Numerous drastic (and rapid) changes to workspaces have left many IT professionals and departments feeling woefully unprepared to meet evolving IT security threats. Many individuals in these positions feel as if they are struggling simply to catch up with the current rate of office transformation. And with employees working from more settings than ever before, cybersecurity measures face greater vulnerabilities.
To meet the current challenges in the marketplace, companies are now rolling out new technologies that support remote connections, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), web conferencing platforms, and intranet portals that allow employees to work behind a firewall from anywhere, thus protecting sensitive data. While a few companies were ahead of the curve and had already implemented some of these solutions, many were caught having to shift and retool quickly in early 2020.
Now, with many organizations facing an imminent return to the office—either in full or in part—the workplace is going through yet another dramatic transformation. Nearly all companies are beginning to adopt the latest health and wellness technologies to protect employees and clients who have already begun or will soon begin returning to physical locations.
Technologies such as contactless temperature screening and wellness kiosks, heat mapping and crowd detection sensors, and advanced air purification and filtration systems are growing in popularity. Other technologies that support hybrid and remote work are also seeing massive adoption rates currently. With all of these changes impacting the workspace, it’s no wonder IT departments and cybersecurity teams are finding the need to increase staff and implement new data protection protocols so they won’t be drowned by the security implications of having so many forms of new technology.
In particular, IT departments face a host of fresh challenges in this “new” office space. Even tasks that were relatively simple in an office environment in the past can now look far more complex. Whether managing employee laptops, maintaining company portals, or rolling out new software solutions, IT professionals have far more on their hands than ever before.
The challenges are significantly greater when you consider the cybersecurity gaps that still exist for many companies under the newest working conditions. For numerous businesses, the threat to security is real and greater than ever before. Following are some of the biggest areas of challenge that IT departments are tasked with handling right now:
- Unknown and Unexpected Threats: The trend of Zoom bombing became infamous in mid-2020. As companies across the world started using the platform in large numbers, hackers began to target the platform. Unfortunately, hackers are continually becoming more sophisticated, and in a hybrid or remote environment, there are even more points for them to target. Staying on top of the latest security patches and updates alone can seem nearly impossible—and predicting the next big threat is even more difficult.
- IoT Devices: Most new wellness technologies operate as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). This includes many wellness features and touchless technologies. As these devices find greater popularity, there are more opportunities for hackers to find a vulnerability somewhere across the network. Securing and continuously monitoring these devices is incredibly challenging for IT staff.
- Employee Risks: Employees have always been one of the biggest security risks—and this risk increases as employees conduct business across more settings. When employees are working from home or traveling, they may have a tendency to let their guard down when it comes to security. Increasing education and ensuring proper procedures can help prevent employees from leaving “open doors” available for attackers—but doing this right requires an abundance of IT time and resources.
In a climate where workplace environments are constantly evolving, it may seem incredibly difficult to get a handle on security and ensure that company data is safe. But your IT team can better stay on top of security gaps and mitigate threats by incorporating four key steps into your standard protocol:
- Conduct Regular Risk Assessments: New and evolving risks are constantly emerging. The only way to stay informed about the looming security risks is by conducting regular risk assessments. These assessments provide a means by which to identify and mitigate the top risks at your organization. Risk management is the best way to keep your company and your data safe.
- Perform Network Audits: In light of the recent changes in most workplaces, regular audits can prove valuable as a tool for ensuring that your infrastructure and security measures are working as they should and that your employees are following proper procedures. Similar to risk assessments, conducting audits can help you identify weaknesses in your network.
- Enact Log-In Rules: Two-factor authentication during log-in is a great way to increase security within your business. This extra step can significantly reduce your security risks. It’s also a good idea to have a strong sign-off policy in place. At the very least, set up an auto-logout feature so that devices will automatically log an employee out when their device has been inactive for a certain period of time. And, if necessary, employees should return electronic devices to your premises when not in use.
- Stay Ahead of the Curve: As always, IT and cybersecurity evolve far more rapidly than most other industries. Additionally, we’re all facing the unprecedented transformation of our workplaces and processes—meaning we are all learning new work patterns. To say that the learning curve is steep would be a tremendous understatement. Consequently, remaining diligent about conducting research and learning how to identify and mitigate new threats is essential in the current reality of our ever-changing work environments.
The bottom line is that change in IT is relentless right now. While cybersecurity threats have always been a significant risk, the current scale of that risk is unprecedented, which is why we’re now seeing data security overload on a grand scale. However, as always, being diligent and persistent is the best way to stay on top of security measures and ensure that your company remains safe in the midst of any recent workplace changes and adoption of new technologies.