The Future of Secure Remote Work: 5 Data Points that Might Surprise You

Recently, Cisco released “The Future of Secure Remote Work Report,” compiling data collected from 3,196 respondents in 21 countries across the world. The report worked to gather data from 30 different industries, spanning corporations large and small. 

The topic of this research? Remote work — how it has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic, the cybersecurity implications of so many working from home, and, as the title suggests, where the future of remote work will take us.

Our lives have changed drastically since the pandemic hit, and the increased amount of people working from home is just one of the changes. For some corporations, the switch to a distributed workforce was an easy transition — for others, it was more difficult, with large security repercussions.

While the report contains a good deal of information, these 5 data points found within might surprise you:

1. Remote Work is Here to Stay

Before COVID-19, only 19% of organizations across the globe had the majority of their employees working remotely. Once the pandemic hit, that number raised to 62%. This isn’t surprising, considering that many were asked to stay at home to help curb the spread of the virus.

What is surprising, however, is that 37% of organizations around the world intend to keep most of their workforce remote even after the pandemic is over — an increase of 18% over pre-COVID levels. This change is even larger in the Western Hemisphere, with 46% of organizations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil wanting the majority of their workforce to be working remotely even after the pandemic subsides. Only 24% of these respondents had a remote workforce prior to the pandemic, showing an increase of 22% over pre-COVID levels. Interesting to note is that these findings were found to be consistent among small, medium, or large businesses.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and while the report doesn’t detail why so many of these organizations will choose to keep workers remote, it’s possible that being forced to work with a distributed workforce has pointed out its many benefits, including low overhead costs, eliminated commute time, more flexibility for employees, and more.

2. Most Companies Had a Sharp Increase in Cyber Threats

This one might not be surprising to you, especially if you have been paying attention to cybersecurity news.  Across the world, 61% of companies saw a steep rise in cyber threats or alerts since the beginning of COVID-19 — by 25% or more. The threats seem to be higher in Asia and Australia, where 69% of companies saw a large jump in cyber threats. The Americas reported that 64% of companies saw a jump in cyber threats, with Europe reporting the least at 37%.

Cyber criminals saw the increase in remote work as an opportunity — and it really was. With so many workers forced to work from home with little to no preparation provided by the security team, many workers were unknowingly vulnerable to threats.

3. Attackers Are Focusing on New Industries

In the past, cyber criminals have focused mainly on the following industries: Financial Services, Software Development, and Healthcare. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, those industries have not been the hardest hit by cyber threats.

The Architecture and Engineering industry has been targeted the most since the pandemic, with 78% of corporations reporting an increase of 25% or more in cyber threats or alerts. In second place is Chemical Engineering and Manufacturing, with 72% of companies reporting this increase in threats. Surprisingly, the third industry hardest hit is Education, with 70% of respondents reporting an increase in cyber attacks.

The three industries that typically face cyber attacks trail the above industries — 62% of Software Development companies saw this increase in attacks, while only 58% of Financial Services corporations reported increased attacks. 54% of Healthcare companies reported an increase of 25% or more in cyber threats and alerts.

While Software Development, Financial Services, and Healthcare have certainly been hit since the pandemic, this shift for hackers to target the Engineering industries and Education is unexpected and notable.

4. Cybersecurity Improvements Are Permanent

When a large amount of the workforce had to go remote, most organizations needed to implement changes in their cybersecurity policies — 96% of the respondents noted changes in their cybersecurity policies. These changes included increasing VPN capacity, using multi-factor authentication, and updating web controls and acceptable use policies.

While these changes had to be made suddenly, most corporations plan to keep them in place long after the pandemic is over. In fact, of those that made changes to their cybersecurity policies during the pandemic, 95% indicated that at least some of the changes are permanent.

5. Cybersecurity is a Top Priority

This was a welcome surprise. Companies quickly realized that cybersecurity had to be a top priority when preparing employees to work remotely. Respondents were asked to rank their remote work priorities, and the results were encouraging. Cybersecurity Measures were a top priority, followed by Collaboration Tools at a close second. Less important to companies were Professional Services, Cloud-Based Document Sharing, and Distributed Data Protection.

Cybersecurity took a key role in helping these companies learn how to still safely function with a distributed workforce. In fact, 85% of respondents reported that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than it was before the pandemic.

Wickr: the Ideal Collaboration Tool to Keep Your Remote Workforce Secure

When prioritizing the elements of remote work, the top priorities of companies around the globe were cybersecurity measures and collaboration tools. Wickr is a fully functional and easy to use collaboration tool that was built with your cybersecurity top of mind. Wickr features voice and video calling and conferencing, screen sharing, file sharing, individual and group messaging, and so much more, all protected by military-grade end-to-end encryption. No matter where your employees need to collaborate from, they can do it safely and securely within Wickr. Get started with AWS Wickr today — for free!