CEO's Corner

Acceleration of Remote Working Increases Cyber Threats for Organizations

Anurag Lal Anurag Lal, President and CEO of Infinite Convergence.

The terrible reality that is the COVID-19 health crisis has left an indelible and far reaching impact on society affecting everything from how we live to how we socialize to how we work. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread worldwide, public health and safety concerns are shifting workplace dynamics to remote working.

As this crisis unfolds, organizations have gone into high gear to first protect the health and safety of employees and next to develop business continuity strategies that will ensure operations run smoothly in an unprecedented, fluid and challenging environment. As part of business continuity planning, IT and HR leaders are evaluating how well their organization’s technology infrastructure, including collaboration platforms, can support a remote workforce. The success of business continuity strategies, in many cases, will largely depend on technology solutions that can securely connect a virtual workforce and help sustain productivity and collaboration over the long-term.

Long term, sustainable communication and collaboration platforms are key to business continuity in a business as usual environment but are especially critical as remote working becomes the new norm and as distributed workforces continue to evolve post-crisis.

There is no question that remote working, which has been trending upward in the last decade, is being significantly accelerated by the current crisis. A 2019 International Workplace Group survey found that globally 50% of employees work outside of their main office headquarters for at least 2.5 days a week. These numbers likely look a lot different today. A March 2020 Gartner survey of 800 global HR executives found that 88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home.

As organizations strive to quickly adapt to new and more widespread remote working norms, some lack the infrastructure to effectively support a distributed workforce. According to an IDC survey on remote working, 50% of employee respondents said they had difficulty communicating with and/or collaborating with internal colleagues, and 43% said that this difficulty extended to external stakeholders.

As more employees find themselves working from home, they will look for digital tools that facilitate remote collaboration. This could escalate the already disturbing trend of employees using consumer-grade messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for business communication. Without access to a company-authorized, secure enterprise mobile messaging platform, employees will turn to these consumer-grade messaging apps for collaboration. The disturbing aspect of this trend for organizations is that these apps lack central management capabilities and don’t contain critical encryption and security protocols needed to lock down communication. The security loopholes and threats these apps bring with them, making enterprises vulnerable to data breaches and compliance issues, should be a major cause for concern.

These risks are illustrated by the widely publicized security issues associated with WhatsApp. A recent Business Insider article noted that “WhatsApp disclosed 12 security vulnerabilities last year, according to the U.S. National Vulnerabilities Database, including seven that were classed as critical.” One of these was a cybersecurity breach discovered last May that left WhatsApp users vulnerable to malicious spyware installed on their smartphones. WhatsApp’s security issues were also recently put under a microscope when a JP Morgan senior trader was put on leave for communicating with colleagues via the app, bringing to light concerns about traders’ private messaging and the risk of fraud and insider trading.

The accelerated shift to remote working and increasing employee use of consumer-grade messaging apps for business communication, points to a growing need for purpose-built enterprise mobile messaging apps that ensure a secure employee collaboration environment.

As organizations and individuals navigate the coronavirus crisis, they are having to adapt to new ways of living, socializing and working. This includes a new remote working reality for many businesses and employees. Enterprise mobile messaging solutions can help organizations and their employees overcome the unique communication and collaboration challenges of remote working by securely and reliably connecting them wherever they are.