Organizations in Asia Pacific are seeing a big increase in the cybersecurity challenges they face amid the shift to mass remote working, a study by Cisco shows.
According to the study, 69% of organizations in the region have experienced a 25% or more jump in either cyber threats or alerts since the start of COVID-19, making it the region with the largest proportion of organizations to experience this increase globally. Six percent of organizations did not know if their cyber threats or alerts have increased or decreased, highlighting the scale of challenges that organizations are facing due to the abrupt and massive shift to remote working.
“Cybersecurity has been a buzz word in the Philippines for years, but this pandemic has really pushed companies to take action within their own organizations,” said Karrie Ilagan, Managing Director of Cisco Philippines. “The good news is that the trademark Filipino resilience is also applicable to businesses in how they are able to adapt to the influx of new threats and challenges this pandemic brought in terms of cybersecurity. All they really need are the right tools and partner to make sure their efforts are worth it.”
Cisco’s Future of Secure Remote Work Report revealed many Asia Pacific organizations were unprepared to make the accelerated transition to a remote workforce at the outset of COVID-19, with 54% of organizations only ‘somewhat’ prepared and 7% not prepared to support the transition.
The study is based on a survey of over 3,000 IT decision makers globally, including over 1,900 respondents across 13 Asia Pacific markets. It highlights the cybersecurity challenges companies faced as they shifted the majority of their employees to a remote working arrangement in a really short period of time.
In the Philippines, secure access – defined as the ability to verify identity and establish trust no matter how, where, or when users log in – paired with maintaining and enforcement of policies are the top cybersecurity challenge faced by the largest portion of organizations (62%) when supporting remote workers. Unsurprisingly, data privacy (56%) is also a top concern for local businesses.
“The challenges of 2020 have shifted the goalposts around cybersecurity. As organizations transition to become cloud-first and remote-first, and employees expect to work from anywhere on any device, security needs to be the foundation behind the success of any digitalization effort. This means having visibility of the users, devices, and the corporate applications and data they are accessing, and a flexible yet holistic cybersecurity posture to protect users and businesses from the network, to the endpoint, to the cloud,” said Kerry Singleton, Managing Director, Cybersecurity, Asia Pacific, Japan and China, Cisco.
To support their needs for remote work, Philippine organizations adopted collaboration tools (74%), cybersecurity measures (66%), and cloud-based document sharing (59%). This paints a picture that majority of the work being done by organizations are heavy on tasks that require employees to work in teams, be consultative, and work on the same projects remotely. The bigger challenge lies in the need to protect information as users connect from their home Wi-Fi or use their personal devices to connect to corporate applications.
An opportunity to transform for the future
One trend emerged in recent months is that a hybrid workplace – where employees move between working remotely and in the office – is the future. The findings of this study further underlined that. Almost half (48%) of organizations in the Philippines said they expect more than half of their workforce to continue working remotely post-pandemic. This compares to an average of just 29% of Philippine organizations with more than half of their workforce working remotely before the pandemic.
The good news is that as businesses prepare for this hybrid workplace, cybersecurity now tops corporate priorities, with 93% of organizations in the Philippines saying that cybersecurity is extremely important or more important than before the pandemic. What is even better is that they are translating this into concrete action. The study shows that 69% of organizations in the Philippines plan to increase their future investment in cybersecurity due to COVID-19.
There are still challenges, though, that need to be addressed. According to the study, 66% of Philippine organizations said that a lack of employee education and awareness was the biggest challenge faced in reinforcing cybersecurity protocols for remote working, followed by having too many tools/solutions to manage (48%).
“Cybersecurity has historically been overly complex. A key aspect of building a stronger foundation for cybersecurity is doing a better job educating and building employee awareness. This will ensure that the future of remote work is smooth, seamless and secure. In addition, a simple, integrated approach to cybersecurity will help businesses address some of the challenges highlighted in the report such as managing the jump in cyber threats or alerts and streamlining the management of cybersecurity tools and solutions to one platform,” Kerry added.
Cisco’s Future of Secure Remote Work Report is launched concurrently with the Cisco 2020 Consumer Privacy Report which surveyed 2,600 adults globally to understand the challenges for organizations trying to maintain digital trust with their customers, along with the evolving privacy landscape and its impact on consumers.