Research commissioned by ZyXEL has found that 87% of IT managers are losing sleep at night over remote working because of the potential security risks to the network. Over the last few years, increasing numbers of businesses have been adopting remote and flexible working practices, largely due to the positive effect on workers’ morale, lifestyle and overall productivity. However, it is clear from the research that IT managers are very concerned about hackers using this avenue as a “back door” into the company network or to the risk of the corporate network by the use of unauthorised software and Internet access.
“With almost half of company employees working remotely, security is a significant problem which isn’t going to go away,” said James Walker, Security Product Manager at ZyXEL. “Today we have technologies which allow us to connect from home and abroad with much greater ease than was previously possible. However, if this connection isn’t secured, a hacker who manages to steal company login details via a Trojan on a home PC, for example, can wreak havoc within a corporate network without ever stepping inside the building.”
The research also revealed that 87% of remote workers use their home PCs to access company data. With the company IT department being unable to vet or install controls on these computers, IT managers can’t monitor whether home users install patches or scan email attachments for viruses, let alone what their family browse and download in their spare time, making them a clear security risk. Furthermore, 90% of these home workers admitted that they themselves are responsible for maintaining the security arrangements of their PCs.
In fact, a recent report published by the House of Lords on Personal Internet Security (August, 2007) found that only a third of respondents were able to determine whether communication with a specific webpage was using a secure connection and even those who described themselves as “advanced” Internet users and had IT-related academic qualifications and IT security experience were not all able to perform this task.
This problem is compounded by the fact that increasing numbers of employees are demanding more job flexibility from their employer. In fact, 59% of those questioned believe that working remotely simultaneously improves their productivity and allows them to maintain a better work / life balance.
Furthermore, almost half (46%) of those surveyed who admitted that they couldn’t or weren’t permitted to work from home, said that they would like to but their organisation was too inflexible. With technology such as VoIP and VPNs increasingly enabling easy remote working, this trend can only increase over the coming years. With more and more organisations looking to realise the benefits associated with remote working, IT security problems represent a large and troubling problem for UK businesses.
“The benefits of flexible working are clear,” concluded Walker. “However, companies need to ensure that home PCs aren’t a back door into the company network. In order to ensure that the network is secure, companies need to provide remote workers with work laptops so that IT managers have full control of the whole workforce. Companies that allow the use of home PCs for work purposes are like home owners who put themselves at risk by leaving their front door open. Businesses also need to ensure that any remote access products they use segment home from work traffic.”