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Cisco report: Remote working is here to stay, making cybersecurity a top priority

Companies in the Asia Pacific region are seeing the highest jump in cyber threat alerts globally during mass remote working, making security an increasingly important priority.

This is according to a new report from Cisco titled Future of Secure Remote Work. The study finds that 69% of organisations in the region have experienced a 25% or more jump in either cyber threats or alerts since the start of COVID-19, making it the region with the largest proportion of organisations to experience this increase globally.

Furthermore, 6% of organisations did not know if their cyber threats or alerts have increased or decreased, highlighting the scale of challenges that organisations are facing due to the abrupt and massive shift to remote working.

The report revealed many Asia Pacific organisations were unprepared to make the accelerated transition to a remote workforce at the outset of COVID-19, with 54% of organisations only somewhat prepared and 7% not prepared to support the transition.

With users connecting from outside the corporate walls, secure access defined as the ability to verify identity and establish trust no matter how, where, or when users log in, is the top cybersecurity challenge faced by the largest proportion of Asia Pacific organisations (63%) when supporting remote workers, the report states.

Other concerns raised by organisations include data privacy (59%) and maintaining control and enforcing policies (53%).

Endpoints are a growing challenge for organisations to protect, as users connect from their home Wi-Fi or use their personal devices to connect to corporate applications.

More than one in two respondents stated that office laptops/desktops (58%) and personal devices (57%) posed a challenge to protect in a remote environment, followed by cloud applications at 52%.

According to the research, one trend emerged in recent months is that a hybrid workplace where employees move between working remotely and in the office is the future.

The findings of this study further underlined that. One-third (34%) of organisations in Asia Pacific said they expect more than half of their workforce to continue working remotely post-pandemic.

This compares to an average of just 19% of organisations, with more than half of their workforce working remotely before the pandemic.

Arguably, the good news is that as businesses prepare for this hybrid workplace, cybersecurity now tops corporate priorities, with 85% of organisations in Asia Pacific saying that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than before the pandemic, Cisco states.

This is also being translated this into concrete action. The study highlights that 70% of organisations in the region plan to increase their future investment in cybersecurity due to COVID-19. This is the highest number globally, compared to 68% in the Americas and 52% in Europe.

There are still challenges, however, that need to be addressed. While almost all (97%) organisations have made changes to their cybersecurity policies to support remote working, further education and culture change is needed, the report shows.

According to the study, 61% of Asia Pacific organisations said that a lack of employee education and awareness was the biggest challenge faced in reinforcing cybersecurity protocols for remote working, followed by having too many tools/solutions to manage (53%).

Cisco managing director cybersecurity in Asia Pacific, Kerry Singleton, says, “The challenges of 2020 have shifted the goalposts around cybersecurity. As organisations transition to become cloud-first and remote-first, and employees expect to work from anywhere on any device, security needs to be the foundation behind the success of any digitalisation effort.

"This means having visibility of the users, devices, and the corporate applications and data they are accessing, and a flexible yet holistic cybersecurity posture to protect users and businesses from the network, to the endpoint, to the cloud.”

Kerry says, “Cybersecurity has historically been overly complex. A key aspect of building a stronger foundation for cybersecurity is doing a better job educating and building employee awareness. This will ensure that the future of remote work is smooth, seamless and secure.

"In addition, a simple, integrated approach to cybersecurity will help businesses address some of the challenges highlighted in the report such as managing the jump in cyber threats or alerts and streamlining the management of cybersecurity tools and solutions to one platform.”

Cisco SVP and GM security and applications business, Jeetu Patel, says, “Security and privacy are among the most significant social and economic issues of our lifetime.

"With this new way of working here to stay and organisations looking to increase their investment in cybersecurity, there’s a unique opportunity to transform the way we approach security as an industry to better meet the needs of our customers and end-users.”

Cisco's Future of Secure Remote Work Report is based on a survey of more than 3,000 IT decision makers globally, including more than 1,900 respondents across 13 Asia Pacific markets.