Security Efforts Don’t Keep Up With Workplace Mobility, Report Says

Working From Home

The movement toward more flexible working practices continues to pose a security risk to small businesses, according to a report from digital security firm Avast. Among other reasons, the company found that just 18 percent of SMB employees consider security when they work remotely.

That means SMBs “face the challenge of keeping their business secure, all the while adhering to the needs and expectations of the modern workforce,” Avast said. The number to focus on isn’t the 21 percent who are so productive working at Starbucks or their local diner, but the 18 percent who don’t think much about security while they do. Put that 18 percent in the context of other findings and it becomes more worrisome: Fifty-two percent of employees said they’d take a pay cut in order to work outside the office, and 12 percent would choose working from home over a pay raise.

Only 18 percent of small business employees consider security when they work remotely. How does that impact your collaboration plans? Click To Tweet

Take Security More Seriously

Although companies are becoming more creative in offering options for remote work, most don’t emphasize security as much as they should. Thirty-right percent of employees said they don’t receive enough technical support when they’re working remotely. Avast believes that makes security an increasingly worrisome issue for businesses offering flexible work arrangements.

“There are very real security issues that need to be addressed,” said Kevin Chapman, Avast Business’s senior vice president and general manager. Businesses offering flexibility need to do so “in a secure way,” he observed. (At the same time, he noted that many employees prefer to work in a traditional office environment. “A balance must be struck to enable all employees to work in a way that is most beneficial to them,” Chapman said.)

Remote working attracts candidates for a variety of reasons, Avast found. When it asked SMB employees asked about the benefits of working remotely, over a third (34 percent) said it made them happier while 30 percent said it made them more productive. Overall, 59 percent said they were more productive outside the office.

“If the mobile workforce is here to stay—and our report suggests that it is—then it’s essential for you to protect your hardware and digital assets,” the report said. (Our 2 cents: The differences between many of their results is relatively small, which hints that flexible work may not have picked up the momentum many claim it has.)

Whatever the case, the push to allow flexible work hasn’t been matched by efforts, or investment, in security. Staff accessing data or logging into business accounts through unsecured WiFi networks—like those found at most public places—make their business more vulnerable to an attack. And data breaches are an obvious danger if a devices is stolen, especially if their access is “protected” by an inadequate password—which they’re probably not.

Avast suggests SMBs set up virtual private networks and anti-malware software for all employees using their own devices for work, not only those using company equipment. In addition, employees need to be educated about both the role they play in business security and on using the security tools installed by the company.

“It won’t matter if you have a VPN in place if your employee doesn’t know what it is or why it’s important,” the report noted. Thirty percent of respondents said they weren’t getting the technological support they need when they work remotely. To Avast, this indicates that employees don’t see it as being one their company’s top concerns. That could be dangerous. “Leading by example when it comes to cybersecurity and taking the time to get buy-in from your staff can save you time and money in the long run,” the company said.

You can see the report here.

Sign up for our newsletter here.

Image: 123RF