By Rene Paap, Pulse Secure senior product marketing manager
Even as COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions ease up, working from home is still set to become a permanent fixture in the US —the manufacturing sector included, according to our recent study “2020 Remote Work-From-Home Cybersecurity Report.”
While many employees may cheer the thought of getting out of the house and back to the office or factory floor after sheltering at home for several months, 84% of businesses reported plans for broader and more permanent work-from-home (WFH) adoption beyond the pandemic.
What does this mean for manufacturing?
As manufacturing work resumes, there are many employees that will keep operating from home offices, especially those in administration, sales and engineering. Thanks to recent advances in technology, the ability to conduct projects remotely has enabled this change of events. For instance, manufacturing-service technicians can now remotely access IoT devices to solve outages and other technical concerns.
Working from home can boost productivity
Beyond the essential workers who have no choice but to work onsite, COVID-19 has offered organizations a glimpse of what the future will hold—fueling both resiliency as well as challenges. For instance, despite the seemingly difficult transition period in mid-March 2020, when millions of employees were ushered into their home “offices,” this phase was not difficult very long. Just a couple of months later, 38% of businesses reported higher productivity while employees were remote. In addition, while a third of respondents in our study cited their business being “ill prepared or not prepared” for remote working, 75% of businesses were able to transition to remote working within 15 days.
The most difficult challenge that most organizations had to overcome when COVID-19 first hit was a general awareness of how to operate a large remote workforce securely and limit the threat of security breaches. As such, the study found that nearly 60% of IT decision makers were uncertain of the right way to plan for a mass WFH force, with the majority of respondents expressing low user-awareness training. Not surprisingly, 56% reported that insecure and home and public WiFi were the biggest challenges, followed by the fear of sensitive data being breached or accessed by unknown users.
These growing pains also meant a period of security breaches, as most respondents reported an increase in attack vectors—72% for malware, 62% for phishing, and 60% for unauthorized user device access. One of the major reasons for these attacks, was that many employees were using personal devices, which caused a large increase in phishing attacks. Many IT teams sought the advice of their security vendors to better understand how to create a safer home-bound workforce and move employees to more resilient security technologies.
What worked: Higher level security tools
Despite some initial problems in the first few weeks of shelter-in-place orders, organizations were able to harness their IT teams to get their remote employees in shape with increased usage of anti-virus and malware protection, firewalls and multifactor authentication. Many of these organizations were rightly nervous about security at home and utilized “always on” VPNs to ensure that at-home employees were as secure as possible. But the study found that within weeks, most organizations were able to, relatively securely, conduct business from home.
The fact is, we are living in an incredibly challenging and dynamic time and it is during such times when technology truly must come into its own. As such, the mass adoption of WFH technologies has highlighted the need for organizations to embrace more holistic secure access strategies that support flexible working environments and hybrid IT.
The most effective IT-management solutions are platforms that enable organizations to adopt the exact feature set they require to meet business needs. However, solutions must also be fully integrated to yield desired management efficiencies, as well as security efficacy.