UK and US businesses call for improvement as employee education pinpointed to be biggest cyber security weakness during lockdown

Hardware-encrypted USB drives developer Apricorn has announced the findings from a Twitter poll designed to explore the data security and business preparedness aspects around remote working during the pandemic. More than 30% of respondents singled out employee education as being the biggest area where companies need to make changes to improve cyber security.

The poll ran across six days and targeted employees in both the UK and the US. In addition to concerns about employee education, respondents also flagged updates to hardware (29%), endpoint control (21%) and enforcing encryption (19%) as areas of weakness where organisations need to make changes to strengthen their cyber security posture.

Given that almost 30% of respondents admitted to using unencrypted devices during the pandemic this raises many concerns, and particularly so at a time when we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the volume of data being downloaded along with the potential for more data on the move.

Kurt Markley, director of sales at Apricorn, commented: “Employees have a critical role to play in cyber security processes, from recognising the tools required through to understanding and enacting the policies in place to protect sensitive data. Whether it be through the delivery of awareness programmes or ongoing training, establishing a culture of security within the workforce is now absolutely essential.”

Markley added: “Endpoint security is critical. Deploying removable storage devices with built-in hardware encryption, for example, will ensure that all data can be stored or moved around safely offline. Even if a given device is lost or stolen, the information contained will be unintelligible to anyone not authorised to access it.” 

Not fully prepared

In addition, more than 40% of respondents admitted that, as an individual, they were not fully prepared to work at home securely and productively. Almost a fifth (18%) said they lacked the right technology to do so, 16% were not sure how to and just over 20% stated that they were still not able to work remotely.  

“Many businesses will now have witnessed the positive productivity and financial impact of a remote workforce, but without the right tools, processes and security in place, this can very easily backfire,” continued Markley. 

With the poll results showing that more than 60% of respondents are planning to work remotely either all or some of the time following the pandemic, the threat to corporate data is only going to burgeon. Almost 20% admitted that the experience of working from home has duly highlighted major gaps in their employer’s cyber security strategy/policies.

When questioned as to whether their company had experienced a data breach as a result of remote working during the pandemic, over 20% replied in the afformative, but a further 22% said they didn’t know if they had suffered a breach.

Scrambling to respond

Jon Fielding (managing director for the EMEA at Apricorn) commented: “IT and security teams had to scramble to respond to this crisis and, in doing so, left a lot of companies wide open to breaches. Nine months into employees working remotely, some already know that they’ve been attacked. Others think they may have been, but cannot be certain.”

Fielding concluded: “In the same way that we had to learn how to protect ourselves from illness and modify our behaviour, we also had to learn how to protect our data outside of the firewall and, more importantly, to remain vigilant about it.”

The Apricorn Twitter poll comprised six question and answer options and realised 23,537 responses.

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