COVID-19: Cybersecurity in The Remote Workforce

One Year Later

As we’ve been reminded, on March 11th, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. A few days later, we were in lockdown. It was wild and a little scary, and I remember thinking how chaotic everything looked. News reports were saying the quarantine could last as long as June. I was horrified; rejecting the idea quarantine could last any longer than two weeks or even a month.

It’s funny to think of how long I thought March to June was compared to recognizing our year anniversary. A lot has changed. But what have we learned from all those changes? 

Learning Habits

PC Matic decided to see how both workers and their companies are handling cybersecurity. Last year, we surveyed approximately 6,000 people. This year, we sent out the same survey to see how results changed (or didn’t) for those who are still working from home. Let’s look below at some of the comparative results.

A lot of America’s workforce had to adjust to working from home. When we polled you last year, of the respondents who said they were working from home, 61% said their employer didn’t issue a separate device for them. A year later, that number hasn’t changed. 61% still do not have an employer issued device.

This is significant because ransomware attacks have increased. More than half of American workers are using their personal devices for work. 

But surely these devices are secured, right? Our 2020 survey results had a whopping 93% of respondents saying they weren’t provided with any type of security software. And in 2021? 91% of remote workers reported still not being provided with security software by their employers.

We also asked if employers were providing IT services to remote workers. 51% of respondents in 2020 said yes. In 2021, 53% of respondents reported that they were provided IT services. The increase is small, and leaving almost half of American remote workers without company provided IT services.

Rampant Ransomware

With the increase in ransomware attacks (an estimated 358% increase in 2020), it’s surprising that cybersecurity isn’t considered more of a priority. While cybersecurity may sound pricey and overwhelming, there are measures you can take at home to improve your security. Changing your WiFi password is a relatively painless measure you can do in less than 5 minutes. More than 58% of overall respondents reported in 2021 they haven’t changed their WiFi password since the pandemic started. It’s time to make that change.

We are pleased to report that 88% of respondents felt comfortable installing security software while over 90% were confident in their ability to schedule regular scans. But less than 40% of those same people knew how to update the security settings for their video conferencing tools. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Take a look at this Tech Talk post from last year for a guide on how to make sure your privacy settings are up to date.

Looking Ahead

A year into the pandemic, and what do we know? Most American remote workers are still working from home on poorly secured personal devices, connecting via WiFi networks lacking basic security, with little or no IT support from employers. Data shows ransomware attacks having a negative effect on jobs and, in some cases, it can close a business altogether. That’s a pretty hefty consequence.

How will employers support their remote workforces? Will employees be expected to find their own solutions? Managed Service Providers can make up much of that gap while keeping things consistent across the company. It’s a question, however, of if businesses will use these resources available to them. Perhaps, by next year, we’ll see an increase in security measures reflected in these survey numbers.

We want to thank those of you who took the time to complete this survey. And we invite other remote workers to engage on our social pages or in the comments below. How are you keeping your security top notch while working remotely? We’d love to hear from you.

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