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Spotlight on Australia: Remote Work is Here to Stay and So are Cyberattacks

Spotlight on Australia: Remote Work is Here to Stay and So are Cyberattacks

Snap lockdowns are making remote work models a permanent feature — and leaving organisations more exposed to risk. Find out how the floodgates for cyberattacks have opened in Australia. 

As many Australians grapple with long stints of remote work due to snap lockdowns, it's looking more certain than ever before that the way we work will never go back to how it was pre-pandemic. In fact, 77% of Australian businesses plan to have employees working from home at least once a week in the next 12-24 months while 59% plan to make remote work permanent in the next 1-2 years.

The self-reported data is drawn from a commissioned study of more than 1,300 security leaders, business executives and remote employees worldwide, including 161 respondents in Australia. The study, Beyond Boundaries: The Future of Cybersecurity in the New World of Work, was conducted in April 2021 by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Tenable. 

Adoption of new technologies continues to atomise the attack surface

The pandemic response accelerated the pace of technological adoption, with IT and security teams turning to cloud-based solutions, expanding their software supply chain and quickly rolling out tools for connectivity, collaboration and productivity.

But this rapid adoption of new technologies won't be slowing down anytime soon as organisations shift out of pandemic crisis mode and adjust to a new world of work — one that's a combination of in-office and work-from-home models.

To facilitate this new work order, over the next 12-24 months Australian business and security leaders plan to continue their focus on enhancing existing digital platforms (65%), moving non-critical-business functions to the cloud (55%) and creating new digital platforms (57%). And while these changes are enabling organisations to pivot their business operations and improve the experience for employees, they're also setting the stage for increased risk.

Remote workers increase business risk

When we talk about a home office, it's easy to focus on the physical elements of what it entails — a desk, chair, printer, laptop and maybe a couple of monitors. What's unseen is the myriad of people and devices connecting to the very same home network.

Taking a glimpse into the average home in Australia, it was found that roughly nine in 10 remote workers connected six or more devices to their home networks. But that's not the worst part. The study revealed that many remote workers access corporate financial records (43%) and customer data (51%) from a personal device — oftentimes with little guidance to ensure data remains protected. 

Australian security leaders now have less control over risk, as they face a lack of compliance by homeworkers and limited visibility over the expanding home network of the remote workforce. Two in five security leaders say they lack visibility into remote employee home networks and their connected devices. Furthermore, 45% of business and security leaders say they are somewhat or largely unprepared to support their workforce strategy from a security standpoint over the next 12-24 months. 

Cyberattacks will continue to persist

These concerns are justified when you look at the threat landscape of the past 12 months. A staggering 92% of Australian organisations experienced at least one business-impacting* cyberattack with 70% falling victim to three or more.

Nearly three quarters of respondents (73%) said these attacks targeted remote workers, making them one of the biggest risks facing Australian organisations in the new world of work. The vast majority of organizations (70%) suffered an attack that resulted from vulnerabilities in systems put in place in response to the pandemic, whilst 59% attributed recent attacks to a third-party software vendor compromise. These cyberattacks underscore the need for greater visibility into the atomised attack surface. 

It's no wonder eight out of 10 business and security leaders say that their organisations are more exposed to risk as a result of a remote workforce.

Redefining what risk is

As organisations in Australia continue to embrace a hybrid work model, they must redefine and address what risk means for the new world of work. It's no longer about securing a disparate piece of software or code. It's about having visibility of their infrastructure, identifying those assets and systems that are critical to function, and scanning for flaws in the most dynamic aspects of their attack surface. In tandem, the focus must be placed on restricting access to critical systems and key internal data by addressing misconfigurations in the Active Directory to disrupt attack paths. 

Focus on vulnerabilities that matter most to the business. This allows security teams to remediate and focus on vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited by threat actors rather than the thousands that might only theoretically be used. 

Manage risks across third-party service providers. That means having a better understanding and vetting of vendors in the supply chain and consistently evaluating third-party and contractor access to enterprise data, and continuously scanning for unmanaged assets connecting to the corporate network. Closing the holes attackers look to climb through can prevent attacks from being successful.

Don't wait until today's risk becomes tomorrow's reality. Align your organisation's cybersecurity strategies today to keep pace with business changes.

*A business-impacting cyberattack is one which results in one or more of the following outcomes: loss of customer, employee, or other confidential data; interruption of day-to-day operations; ransomware payout; financial loss or theft; and/or theft of intellectual property.

View more study highlights here

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