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Study: Corona pandemic has devastating impact on IT security

The market research company Forrester carried out a study on IT security threats in the home office on behalf of the security company Tenable. The results are sobering: According to the respondents, the attack surface of companies has suddenly increased in the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which has led to an increase in successful attacks against companies. And company bosses and security experts in these companies assume that the home office – and thus the larger attack surface of companies – will become normal for the time being.

Forrester there in its 34-page study does not indicate which company representatives were specifically interviewed. The market research company consulted a total of 426 security experts, 422 executives and 479 workers in the home office for the study. In April this year employees from companies from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Mexico, India, Brazil, Japan and Saudi Arabia were contacted.

A full 92 percent of the executives surveyed stated that their company had been through a hacker attack or a data breach triggered by such an attack in the past 12 months and that its business capability was significantly affected as a result. In 70 percent of the companies there were even three or more than three attacks in the last 12 months. The worldwide reaction to the virus pandemic, and the associated exodus to the home office, seems to have had a major impact. According to the Forrester study, 67 percent of these attacks were directed against employees in the home office and 74 percent of the decision-makers surveyed in companies said that these (successful) attacks were triggered by security problems that arose in the course of responding to the virus pandemic.

Accordingly, security experts in companies are now assuming that the home office of their employees is now part of the company network. However, this goes hand in hand with the fact that 43 percent of the IT security officers surveyed state that they have too little insight into the home networks of their employees and therefore cannot protect them effectively enough against threats. One third of those questioned stated that they did not employ enough employees to adequately cover the thus greatly enlarged attack surface of their company. The good news for security experts and those who want to become one, however, is that more than half of the companies surveyed want to expand their IT security department accordingly in the next one to two years and advertise jobs accordingly.

Not much seems to have changed in the nature of the attacks. Ransomware and other malware still enter company networks mainly through social engineering and phishing. And of course the attackers use current fear topics – for example in connection with the virus pandemic or the ubiquitous vaccination campaigns. However, you don’t need a study by a market research company to guess that the attackers in home networks of employees in the home office often have an easier game than in professionally secured company networks. Even a bombproof VPN connection to the company network is of little use if the home network and thus the computer from which the VPN connection originates are under the control of an attacker.

Since 70 percent of the companies surveyed agree that the home office spook will not be over anytime soon – the companies assume that they will also have employees who will work from home in the next one to two years work – the problems described can probably be viewed as permanent. The market researchers at Forrester and, unsurprisingly, the contracting security company Tenable, see the relocation of workers to the home office as an ongoing challenge for companies. And, according to the conclusion of the study, these have to be completely reorganized in order to meet this challenge. That would inevitably lead to more expenses for the companies concerned – and thus to more work, and more sales, for IT security experts and security companies.


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