The world of work changed more in the early part of this decade than in any comparable period previous to it. Low wages in the food industry finally caught up to the guilty and forced employers to increase salaries and benefits to attract an increasingly frustrated workforce, while office workers upped and went home. Mercifully, in the latter case, they at least went home to work.
Distance-based working and highly digital workplaces seem to have become the norm but there’s a problem. Employees, for all their collective skills, aren’t always very careful with sensitive information – even their own passwords. Anti-virus firm Kaspersky notes that people already pose a risk to business security from the inside. Outside, on their own machines and in their own environments, some employees are inadvertently becoming vectors for cybercrime.
Just how widespread is this issue, though?
Plenty of things have moved away from the purely physical with no discernable problems. The most notable change caused by internet-based work and commerce is the loss of brick-and-mortar banks and retailers but, increasingly, entertainment has no physical presence to speak of either. While cinemas, bingo halls, and sport represent some of a last-stand for in-person entertainment, there’s a feeling that these, too, already offer a split product.
Sporting circus the WWE earned record profits in 2020 despite having no live events and streaming everything online, while video gaming continued to abandon physical media in favour of an almost entirely digital product. Similarly, the bingo industry has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years, despite a rather musty stereotype. The company Buzz Bingo, while continuing to operate real-life clubs, has expanded its scope to include slot games, table games, and even live-streamed content. In an attempt to capture as big an audience as possible, it offers a variety of themed slots to appeal to many demographics.
For all these companies, and in all these business niches, the same concerns about remote working apply, though.
The simple truth is that, overall, workplace security is lower when employees work from home. For instance, while on-site workers tend to use a single, heavily-monitored internet connection, homeworkers may have tens or hundreds between them, all of which are at the mercy of the individual’s security-mindedness. Compounding matters is the fact that, in the UK, 48% of people surveyed by SailPoint had been subjected to a phishing attempt in 2020. Seven per cent faced these threats daily.
While the restriction of work tasks to particular hardware can reduce some of the risks associated with remote working, it’s difficult to see how the human factor can be removed from conversations about security altogether. Of course, this was an issue when everybody worked on physical premises. Security worries seem to breed complacency over time – if nothing’s happening, why bother? – and an overreliance on built-in security software can supersede common sense browsing.
The latter point is important. While it might sound silly, there’s a school of thought online that states that internet-savvy people do not need bulletproof security software as there are only a handful of behaviours that can put users in danger. These include the things that we download, the things we click on, and the sites we visit. With all that in mind, extra and ongoing training programs could dramatically reduce the risks associated with remote working.
In any case, expect the physical workplace – and the high-street – to become leaner, less populated places in the future.
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