Better communication remotely, but higher IT risk

Companies can, however, enable secure communication opportunities for their employees, according to Kaspersky.

A recent Kaspersky study found that 73 percent of employees in South Africa don’t feel isolated while working remotely and 44 percent of remote workers manage to communicate even better with their colleagues this way. However, although the extensive use of non-corporate communication services enables better connections, it increases the level of risk from unmonitored IT resources.

During the past 24-months, the epidemiological situation and subsequent lockdown restrictions around the globe seriously affected the communication aspect of people’s private and working life.

The new conditions have created different challenges, and social isolation along with a lack of communication with colleagues – these were among the most discussed concerns for remote employees.

Kaspersky surveyed 4,303 IT workers from 31 countries to learn how businesses and people have managed to adjust to the new reality and how the new work formats correlate with employee wellbeing in the long-term.

While most employees have successfully transitioned to the digital communications era, nearly a third (27 percent) of respondents from South Africa couldn’t adapt to a remote way of life, and still feel isolated while working at home.

One reason for better connections formed with colleagues, reported by more than half of employees, could be the extensive use of non-corporate communication services that have increased according to the survey.

Across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa region, communicating for work purposes via non-corporate services has risen for multiple channels, including email services (from 64 percent to 79 percent), messenger use (from 71 percent to 77 percent), resource planning software (from 46 percent to 52 percent), web-conferencing platforms (from 87 percent to 93 percent) – and with one exception where the use of social networks to communicate for work purposes saw a minor decrease (from 78 percent to 77 percent)

“People usually use additional tools for good reasons. And there is nothing wrong with employees trying to make their work and communications more convenient. Of course, non-corporate services or applications are not necessarily malicious (though this is possible too). Shadow IT solutions don’t let security or IT specialists gain the complete picture of the company’s digital infrastructure,” says Andrey Evdokimov, head of Information Security at Kaspersky.

He adds, “IT departments also don’t control access to shadow services and employees can compromise valuable corporate information such as by adding new members to an unauthorised work chat or not deleting former coworkers from it. Among other worrying aspects are careless utilisation of unpatched apps or wrong privacy settings which lead to data leakage. Moreover, handling personal information via unreliable services causes fines for regulatory requirement violations.”

Companies can enable secure communication opportunities for their employees by:

  • Providing clear guidelines on the usage of external services and resources. Employees should know which tools they should or shouldn’t use and why. If they want to use new software for work, there should be a clear procedure of approval with IT and other responsible roles.
  • Encouraging employees to have strong passwords for all digital services they use.
    Setting up an access policy for corporate assets, including email boxes, shared folders, and online documents. Keep it up to date and remove access if an employee leaves the company.
  • Conducting basic security awareness training for your employees. This can be done online and should cover essential practices including those that protect against phishing, such as account and password management, email security, endpoint security, and web browsing.