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Remote working here to stay in A/NZ, but security must be addressed

COVID-19 has accelerated the introduction of remote working by at least five years for 60% of organisations in Australia, 54% of organisations in New Zealand, according to a new study by Barracuda Networks. 

The company says this is particularly the case in the retail, catering & leisure (80%), manufacturing & utilities (75%), IT & telecommunications (69%), education (67%) and travel & transportation (67%) industries, in Australia, and for the education (100%); human resources (100%); sales, media & marketing (87%); architecture, engineering & building (79%); healthcare (75%); and legal (75%) industries in New Zealand.

Conducted by independent research agency Censuswide and commissioned by Barracuda, the Asia Pacific study of 1,055 business decision makers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and India was conducted in July 2020 to gain insights into the current mindset of business leaders about the opportunities and challenges regarding future of work trends resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The study revealed that the mindset of business leaders in Australia and New Zealand has now shifted to optimism, with 77% in Australia and 76% in New Zealand planning to keep remote working in place for employee productivity and business continuity once the pandemic is over for a more flexible and hybrid workplace. This sentiment is shared by both SMEs (77% in Australia, (74% in NZ) and larger enterprises (73% Australia, 80% NZ).

"This is a significant shift in thinking among business leaders in Australia as they realise the positive impact a remote working model has had on overall business productivity," says Andrew Huntley, regional director of ANZ and Pacific Islands for Barracuda. 

"Many have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation and cloud adoption efforts to support this shift, which is putting them in good stead to recover from COVID-19, as well as create a new future for their business," he says.

"Despite the positive impact the shift to remote working has had on organisations in Australia, it also presents multilateral security challenges, with many not aware of the risks involved in connecting remotely.'

 
COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation and cloud adoption

According to the study, COVID-19 has been the catalyst for 58% of organisations in Australia and 61% in NZ to accelerate digital transformation plans in the next six months to ease the burdens placed on the traditional business model by remote working. This is particularly the case for larger enterprises (73% Australia, (81% NZ), with SMEs to a lesser extent (53%), although it is still a significant shift in focus.

A key component of this transformation is cloud computing, the study says.

On average, 49% in Australia and 55% in NZ have fast tracked plans to move all data to a cloud-based model, particularly in the manufacturing & utilities (77%,), IT and telecommunications (69%) and healthcare (67%) sectors within Australia, and the legal (75%); sales, media & marketing (74%); travel & transport (67%); and arts & culture (67%) sector in New Zealand. 61% in Australia and 60% in NZ believe this shift will help reduce overall IT costs to support business growth. The net result is an increase in overall business productivity for 52% of organisations in Australia and 51% since shifting to a remote workforce.

Remote working presents multilateral security challenges

The study indicated that 36% of organisations in Australia and 40% in NZ have already had at least one data breach or cyber security incident since shifting to a remote working model, with 45% in Australia and 37% reporting that employees had experienced an increase in email phishing attacks. 37% of organisations in Australia and 33% in NZ expect an incident to occur in the next month and 68% (Australia) and 51% (NZ) concerned about unknown threats that will cause business disruption in the next six months.

Alarmingly, 36% of organisations in Australia and 41% of organisations in New Zealand do not have an up-to-date cybersecurity strategy and solutions in place that cover all the vulnerabilities posed by full-time remote working. This is made more difficult by 51% (Australia) and 49% (NZ) allowing employees to use personal email addresses and personal devices to conduct company work.

"Maintaining safe security practices is essential, but a step easily overlooked in the frantic rush to get everything set up to support remote working," says Huntley. 

"More employees working from home means that more devices are connecting remotely, outside of the secured corporate network. It  is critical to understand what remote workers are doing with data that is rapidly going out of your control and rework the new normal to make it more effective and more secure."

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