By Mathew Newfield, Chief Information Security Officer, Unisys Corporation
COVID-19 has unexpectedly disrupted the way people engage and interact with a direct impact on the needs and expectations of our society. In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus, businesses and schools are now virtual to limit exposure.
Many have had to rapidly adopt new models of business and online learning which have resulted in an accelerated deployment of digital technologies to keep continuity. There are many examples where businesses and schools have demonstrated adaptability, agility, and resiliency in response and there is an emergence of “new” business ecosystems, based on the idea that people need to have access to work and school regardless of where they are based, that support these changes.
In some cases, digital initiatives have forced businesses and schools to achieve what once seemed impossible. A Gallup poll conducted early in the pandemic found that the share of workers reporting that their employers were offering remote or flex-time options rose from 39% to 57%, while the percentage of working Americans who said they worked from home due to the coronavirus doubled from 31% to 62% over the same period.
While the response is encouraging, digital initiatives have also expanded the cyber-attack surface, increasing risk exposure. Cyber criminals looking to use phishing, ransomware and other attacks have been able to capitalize on peoples’ fear and uncertainty. And as our reliance on technologies like home Wi-Fi has increased, so has the number of criminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in unsecured Wi-Fi networks and/or the number of devices connected to it.
This risk is further magnified by the fact that the pandemic has caused us to let our cyber guard down – the 2020 Unisys Security Index, the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, found that only 41% of people globally expressed concern about their data security while working from home, suggesting a false sense of security.
Our world is digital, therefore it is imperative that businesses and schools comprehensively understand the “new” business ecosystem. Leaders need to engage security experts early and often to identify means by which an intruder could gain access, and together build a defensible position to decrease the time to contain a breach should one occur.
The realities of our new digital world and the impact of the global pandemic requires that we all rethink how we approach security. It’s time businesses and schools understand the importance and adjust, or risk seeing workers and students fall behind.