Remote working is here to stay in Australia, but security must be addressed

COVID-19 has accelerated the introduction of remote working by at least five years for 60% of organisations in Australia, according to a new study by Barracuda Networks. This is particularly the case in the retail, catering & leisure (80%), manufacturing & utilities (75%), IT & telecommunications (69%), education (67%) and travel & transportation (67%) industries. 

Conducted by independent research agency Censuswide and commissioned by Barracuda, the Asia Pacific study of 1,055 business decision makers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and India was conducted in July 2020 to gain insights into the current mindset of business leaders about the opportunities and challenges regarding future of work trends resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 202 respondents are from Australia.

The study revealed that the mindset of business leaders in Australia has now shifted to optimism, with 77% planning to keep remote working in place for employee productivity and business continuity once the pandemic is over for a more flexible and hybrid workplace. This sentiment is shared by both SMEs (74%) and larger enterprises (80%).

“This is a significant shift in thinking among business leaders in Australia as they realise the positive impact a remote working model has had on overall business productivity,” said Andrew Huntley, regional director of ANZ and Pacific Islands for Barracuda. “Many have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation and cloud adoption efforts to support this shift, which is putting them in good stead to recover from COVID-19, as well as create a new future for their business.”

Despite the positive impact the shift to remote working has had on organisations in Australia, it also presents multilateral security challenges, with many not aware of the risks involved in connecting remotely.

COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation and cloud adoption 
According to the study, COVID-19 has been the catalyst for 58% of organisations in Australia to accelerate digital transformation plans in the next six months to ease the burdens placed on the traditional business model by remote working. This is particularly the case for larger enterprises (73%), with SMEs to a lesser extent (53%), although it’s still a significant shift in focus.

A key component of this transformation is cloud computing. On average, 49% have fast tracked plans to move all data to a cloud-based model, particularly in the manufacturing & utilities (77%), IT and telecommunications (69%) and healthcare (67%) sectors within Australia. 61% believe this shift will help reduce overall IT costs to support business growth. The net result is an increase in overall business productivity for 52% of organisations in Australia since shifting to a remote workforce.

Remote working presents multilateral security challenges
The study indicated that 36% of organisations in Australia have already had at least one data breach or cyber security incident since shifting to a remote working model, with 45% reporting that employees had experienced an increase in email phishing attacks. 37% of organisations expect an incident to occur in the next month and 68% concerned about unknown threats that will cause business disruption in the next six months.

Alarmingly, 36% of organisations in Australia do not have an up-to-date cybersecurity strategy and solutions in place that cover all the vulnerabilities posed by full-time remote working. This is made more difficult by 51% allowing employees to use personal email addresses and personal devices to conduct company work.

“Maintaining safe security practices is essential, but a step easily overlooked in the frantic rush to get everything set up to support remote working,” said Huntley. “More employees working from home means that more devices are connecting remotely, outside of the secured corporate network. It’s critical to understand what remote workers are doing with data that is rapidly going out of your control and rework the ‘new normal’ to make it more effective and more secure.”

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