Remote workers too risky, say IT managers

Nearly nine in 10 IT managers fear the security risks caused by remote working practices, in spite of the increased productivity many home workers insist results from connecting offsite, new research has revealed.

The main concerns stem from the fact that hackers can use remote connections as a “back door” into the company network or to the risk of the corporate network by the use of unauthorized software and Internet access.

The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne and TNS, also showed that 87 per cent of remote workers use their home PCs to access company data. The consumer research surveyed 1,335 U.K. adults and the IT manager research questioned 200 businesses of up to 250 employees.

With the company IT department being unable to vet or install controls on home computers, IT managers were unable to monitor whether home users install patches or scan e-mail attachments for viruses. About 90 per cent of home workers admitted that they themselves are responsible for maintaining the security arrangements of their PCs.

This problem is compounded by the fact that increasing numbers of employees are demanding remote network access from their employers. In fact, 59 per cent of the home workers questioned believed that working remotely simultaneously improved their productivity and allowed them to maintain a better work-life balance.

And 46 per cent of those surveyed admitted they were not permitted to work from home, despite believing that having this ability would improve their productivity. With technology such as voice over IP and virtual private networks increasingly enabling easy remote working, this trend can only increase over the coming years.

James Walker, a security product manager for the broadband technology vendor that commissioned the research, said: “Today we have technologies which allow us to connect from home and abroad with much greater ease than was previously possible.

“If this connection isn’t secured, a hacker who manages to steal company login details via a Trojan on a home PC, for example, can wreak havoc within a corporate network without ever stepping inside the building.”

Walker concluded that companies needed to provide remote workers with work laptops in order to provide proper security controls.

“Companies that allow the use of home PCs for work purposes are like home owners who put themselves at risk by leaving their front door open. Businesses also need to ensure that any remote access products they use segment home from work traffic.”

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