How the channel is preparing for the hybrid working era

By Mark Benson, CTO at Logicalis UK.

At the start of the pandemic, organisations were forced to improvise, adapt and overcome as they grappled to accelerate their digital transformation in order to facilitate a secure and efficient remote working environment. These same organisations are now preparing for the post-pandemic workplace. Welcome to the hybrid era. Indeed, a Gartner survey found that 47% of organisations will give employees the choice of working remotely full-time once the pandemic is over, and 82% said employees can work from home at least one day a week.

Despite its many benefits, such as the positive impact on employee’s mental health and better work-life balance, a hybrid workforce comes with a myriad of hazards. These include employees relying on personal networks and devices to complete work-related tasks. And it doesn’t stop there. What happens if employees face challenges with technology? Unfortunately, not everyone has technical expertise and there’s only so much an IT team can do to help when working remotely, especially with regards to private, domestic routers and devices that they may not be familiar with. A recent Velocity Smart Technology Market Research Report 2021 found that 70% of remote workers said they had experienced IT problems during the pandemic, and 54% had to wait up to three hours for the issue to be resolved.

Perhaps the biggest cyber scam faced by everyone over the 18 months was the rise of phishing attacks. A recent report found that there was a 600% increase in reported phishing emails since the end of February 2021 alone, with many cyber criminals taking advantage of people's vulnerability and the general uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. These attacks are only getting more frequent and sophisticated. The dangers of phishing have been perilous during the coronavirus crisis, and it should remain a top concern for all IT leaders as we emerge from the upheaval of 2020.

Gearing up for the office of tomorrow.

The pandemic has also served as a stark reminder that remote working is highly desired and is here to stay. A Gartner survey revealed that 82% of businesses plan to provide a remote work option at least “some of the time”.

Hybrid working is likely to remain a permanent fixture as we recover from the impact of the pandemic. However, the question remains; Are business leaders ready for the hybrid office of tomorrow? Now is the right time for all leaders to assess and respond to the cybersecurity concerns flexible and hybrid work arrangement.

Whether employees decide to work in the office, at home, in shared working spaces or anywhere else, cybersecurity risks should remain central to business strategy. The reality is cybersecurity remains an afterthought for far too many employees. However, to secure a hybrid infrastructure, IT leaders will need to take the initiative and actively prepare and train all company employees to operate securely in this new environment.

Priority number one – Phishing/smishing scams. These have increased considerably in the past year. Employees are more likely to engage these malicious messages when working from home, making ongoing awareness training a central priority for hybrid teams. Hybrid workers are more likely to mix personal and company devices, which puts sensitive company data at risk and exposing businesses networks to potential privacy or regulatory compliance violations. However, even the most well-trained employees are prone to make mistakes, with 52% of employees self-report that stress increases the likelihood of a mistake, and more than 40% are negatively impacted by fatigue and distraction. Simply put, mistakes will happen. But companies would be wise to do everything they can to mitigate risks and implement the correct recovery procedure. IT leaders need to enforce high-security standards for hybrid employees, carefully monitoring for threats and maintain efficient networks and systems to uphold the same cybersecurity priorities as those enjoyed by on-site teams.

Turn technology to your advantage in the new hybrid workplace

The pandemic brought an unforeseen demand for stricter cybersecurity standards, sending cybersecurity teams into overdrive. As cyber actors upped their game, so did many companies’ IT leaders. The difference is, cybercriminals only need to be successful once to inflict incredible financial, operational and reputational harm on a company, but cybersecurity teams must be successful every time. As a result, three-quarters of cybersecurity sector employees reported feeling burned out in 2020/2021 with 65% considering quitting their jobs or leaving the profession altogether. Seventy percent of cybersecurity professionals say the volume of alerts has more than doubled in the past year, reaching 1,000 a day in 2021. More needs to be done to support IT teams all over the world. IT leaders can empower their cybersecurity teams by utilising the latest AI and automation technology.

AI automation offers the best solution, reducing alert volumes without compromising security. It supports cybersecurity teams by:

· Providing always-on monitoring capabilities that assess for accidental or malicious data sharing or exposure.

· Reducing the number of cyber threats targeting employees, IT infrastructure, and/or critical data.

· Preventing data exfiltration before a data breach occurs.

· Notifying IT personnel of serious risks that demand immediate attention.

Hybrid infrastructures are set to become the de-facto work arrangement. IT leaders will need to turn to automation to empower cybersecurity personnel to thrive in this environment and avoid employee burnout and consequently mitigate the risk of major cyber breaches.

A Challenging Year for MSPs

In the wake of the pandemic, the role of MSPs in the business landscape continues to become more essential as technology continues to develop and companies adapt to hybrid working. To thrive in the new hybrid working world, MSPs must focus on how to make deliberate decisions about the services they offer to be able to standardise, secure and scale their business. The biggest change in cybersecurity management now is how large the digital footprint has become for each organisation. MSPs now need to think about every remote employee as an individual office within its network, which introduces several complications in terms of new processes and threat management. This will be the greatest challenge, and to survive, businesses will need to overcome it.

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