Digital technology has brought enormous benefits to socio-communication, including people’s economic and social life. This was evident during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a transition from office work to working from home.
Interestingly, the research found that workers no longer want a return to the traditional five-day-a-week work routine, but the flexibility of remote working.
A survey conducted by KnowBe4 on remote working in Africa, 2021, revealed that 57% of organizations in South Africa, 29% in Kenya and 32% in Nigeria would continue to work remotely flexibly.
This data aligns with PricewaterhouseCoopers’ November and December 2020 findings that 83% of employers saw success in organizations and their employers’ productivity when working remotely.
However, since remote work requires complete reliance on technological tools and cyberspace, strong and robust cybersecurity in the face of increasing cyberattacks and crimes is desired.
Britannica defines cybercrime, also known as computer crime, as “the use of a computer as an instrument for unlawful purposes, such as fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, identity theft or violation of private life”.
The January/February 2022 publication from the Council on Foreign Relations stated that the first known cyberattack dates back to 1988 when a postgraduate computer science student, Robert Morris, “released a small piece of software, eventually dubbed ‘the Morris worm’, which has created blackouts across the still nascent Internet.
The attack therefore highlighted the need for cybersecurity by creating “enhanced defence” and the “ability to conduct effective counter-threats against national interests in cyberspace.”
An insurance, technology and surveying company in the United States of America, Embroker, reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the novelty and uncertainty surrounding remote work, the cybercrime rate has risen to around 600%. It also reports that cyberattacks were ranked the fifth highest risk in 2020.
The Guardian, in one of its cybercrime articles, reported that remote work opened the floodgates for ransomware in the United States. He further reported an exponential increase in cyber threats.
Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the demand for cybersecurity professionals is on the rise and predicted a 33% growth by 2030.
Results of a global survey conducted by a UK-based next-generation cybersecurity company, Sophos, said that in 2020, reliance on technology for digital organizations has increased the demand for IT experts to ensure cybersecurity by 69%. He also reported a 60% increase in the number of cyberattacks against the organizations they worked with.
He added that due to the increase in attacks, many organizations plan to increase the “size of internal and outsourced IT teams” as well as relying on artificial intelligence to “cope with the number and complexity increasing threats”.
“Data is the new oil of the 21st century,” said Clive Humby, a British mathematician in 2006; no wonder, the global increase in cybercrimes and attacks.
Cybersecurity evangelist at KnowBe4, Anna Collard, said: “Remote working may have become an invaluable tool for the organization, but it comes with a security caveat: people must be properly trained to recognize the risks inherent in online interactions. One of the immediate defenses against cybercrime is a well-trained employee who knows how to spot and report cyberthreats. People need to know what a social engineering attack looks like and why they shouldn’t click on links or open attachments. And that underscores an urgent need for safety training.
Cybersecurity experts, while praising the advancements in technology to ensure the success of remote working, have raised concerns about the impending increase in cyberattacks and data breaches by cybercriminals against organizations and employees. unsuspecting and unprotected.
They further called for awareness of cybersecurity and “cyberhygiene” among internet users.
Commenting on the issue, a fraud risk management expert and cybercrime researcher, Chukwunonso Okoro, said that working remotely carries the risk of exposing organizations and employees to cyberattacks.
Okoro said, “This is because the desktop environment has internal architecture and access and these are protected by firewalls and software capable of detecting, preventing and mitigating intrusions. Meanwhile, these advantages are no longer there for workers who work from home because what is mainly used is the router for the Internet connection and the security layers are not provided.
“Then it is easy for an attacker or an intruder or a cybercriminal to gain access to such gadgets and there is nothing to protect such people except those who are computer experts who can put in security measures in place. But most of those who work from home don’t have that.”
Okoro further stated that remote work also undermines the integrity, confidentiality and security of documents.
He urged individuals to update their antivirus to protect their gadgets from malware attacks that would clone their devices and pose a security threat to organizations.
He also advised organizations to ensure that employees have adequate internet access that would allow updating security software on laptops and secure communication with the office.
Okoro also noted that companies should ensure their employees connect to their corporate network using only trusted VPNs to achieve a secure and encrypted network.
“Employees working from home should receive weekly reminders regarding information security and let them know that anything the company has prohibited from installing on their laptop at work, should not be installed at home because all these things are designed to keep the company safe. Employees should also be reminded of the need for privacy during working hours from home. The company should have highly trained security experts who can monitor trends emerging issues and come up with solutions before they materialize,” Okoro said.
Additionally, Moses Faya, a technology policy analyst and data protection and cybersecurity lawyer, said the transition to remote working and the heavy reliance on technology could, for day-to-day tasks, lead to an increase in cyberattacks, data breaches and ransomware.
He urged employees to be constantly aware of using company devices for work purposes only. He added that those who use personal computers to access company information should ensure that they take cybersecurity measures such as comprehensive antivirus, good encryption and well-protected Wi-Fi to avoid malicious attacks. data breaches.
He added, “Another way is to update all software, computer operating systems, but you have to be careful. Again for example the webcam which is used for conference calls and the like you need to make sure it is always off when not in use, that’s another benefit of having a different device for work. Before clicking on any links sent to your email address, make sure they come from the correct source. In addition, it is necessary to have a central place where official documents are stored and accessible to all workers. Organizations should ensure that information is protected and have duplicate sources of information stored in the cloud in case of a ransomware attack.
“Employers need to make their employees aware of the need for cybersecurity and ‘cyber hygiene’. For example, during the week and at the end of the work week, there could be an email from the IT unit telling everyone to be security careful and other security tips. If it’s done continuously, it will subconsciously register with people and be on the lookout for these things.
For her part, a software engineer and tech content creator, Adora Nwodo, said hybrid work culture is the new norm and called for improved infrastructure to boost its efficiency.
She added, “Now more than ever, it is important to educate employees about cyber threats, phishing emails, passwords and their interactions on the Internet. Companies that process sensitive data for customers should also ensure that their employees have properly configured two-factor authentication. Businesses that can afford it too should provide internet allowances to their staff so they can get personal modems for work and those that can’t afford it should properly educate people on why it’s a bad idea to use public Wi-Fi so they are aware of the types of networks they join.
All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the prior express written permission of PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]