In a world where IT makes more things possible than could be imagined even 25 years ago, there are numerous opportunities for companies to grow, communicate more effectively and carry out processes more efficiently. But there are also threats.

An obvious example of this is if there are outages such as power failures or system crashes. Indeed, there has been talk recently that the kind of powerful solar flares that brought the spectacular display of the Northern Lights to Britain might, if they get any stronger, cause a crash of electrical systems like the Great Carrington event of 1859.

Fortunately, because the world is so much more reliant on technology than it was in 1859, most major infrastructure will be able to cope, especially as coronal mass ejections from solar flares can be seen well before they arrive and thus give time to prepare.

A Threat From CyberSpace, Not Outer Space

While any threat from outer space is at its peak just now – the sun is close to the maximum level of activity in its 11-year cycle – the biggest threats are still very much earthbound. The thing most likely to take down your systems is a cyber attack.

These can come in many forms. Some criminals are using new and sophisticated means of attacking, but others still rely on familiar methods, such as phishing emails. Indeed, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has just issued new guidance on stopping these, warning they are on the rise.

It pointed to a government survey from last year showing that 84 per cent of businesses and 83 per cent of charities had experienced at least one phishing attack in the previous 12 months, demonstrating how common this threat is.

Why Remote Workers May Be More Vulnerable

Email is useful at any time, but mostly when two people are not in the same office and cannot communicate simply by talking to each other. This is one of the things that makes remote working easier to do, but that in turn increases the reliance on email and therefore makes the vulnerability to phishing attacks greater.

Among the steps the NCSC recommended was using two-step verification systems to help identify senders, something that strong IT support can provide for your firm.

The cyber threat to remote workers has been an area of concern for some time. Before the pandemic, remote and home working was a minority pursuit. The pandemic suddenly created a situation where it was happening at a mass level and became the norm for millions of people for a lengthy period of time.

Why The Threat Was So High In 2020

During the lockdown days of 2020, the danger was that companies were sending staff home to work remotely in a hurry without having made preparations for doing so, which made many companies more vulnerable to attacks.

This was partly because they had not invested in the IT support to protect against cyber threats, partly through a lack of training for remote work security, but also because there were some specific new threats generated by the situation, such as scam emails about face masks or Covid testing kits.

Among the training issues included security issues concerning the use of work computers for non-work purposes.

Research showed many people, left to their own devices and suddenly without access to normal social contact or entertainment, spent more of it engaging in often risky use of outside internet sites.

Better training and security embedded in work devices can prevent this, which is important because while normality means people can spend more time outside and away from a screen when work is over, the temptation may still be there.

Because many people have continued working remotely since the restrictions were all lifted, the need to ensure you have IT support for this activity remains. However, companies do now have the benefit of knowing this is no longer something that has suddenly been sprung on them at short notice and can make arrangements to get the necessary security in place.

Back To The Office Or Staying Remote?

For some companies, there may be a major decision to be taken on this matter. The initial clarion call of ‘back to the office’ as Covid restrictions eased gained a muted response as the popularity of a newly-discovered way of achieving work-life balance provided a powerful force in thwarting the desires of many bosses.

Since then, there have been more attempts at various firms – and in government – to get people back into the office. A recent example was at Manchester United, where new part-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe demanded an end to home working.

His rationale was that in a work-at-home trial at a company owned by Ineos, the chemical giant he founded, productivity dropped off when staff were not in the office. This may also be seen as part of a wider drive to bring discipline and a much better culture and environment to an organisation that has seen its standards slip drastically, on and off the field of play.

Not every company, however, has found that remote working brings productivity declines. A Catalyst study published in 2021, when most people who normally worked in offices had fresh memories of logging on at home, discovered that morale and inclusion increased and burnout fell. 

Because so many firms have found that remote working brings many positive benefits in terms of staff morale and motivation without harming productivity, demands to go back to the office may become increasingly rare.

For that very reason, the focus will be increasingly on seeking IT support that enables staff to work remotely with full connectivity and efficiency, while also staying as safe as possible.

Why Everyone Needs Great IT Security

In many respects, the kind of IT security you need will be the same whether staff are in the office or at home. In either case, you will face phishing and spear phishing threats, questionable websites, attempts to use malware and ransomware. Cyber crooks will still be after passwords and data they can use nefariously.

Nonetheless, it is vital to keep up with the latest developments in security and risk – and make sure that just because they are not in the office, those working remotely still have access to the best means of keeping data and systems defended from the crooks.