The technology industry and end-of-year predictions go together like New Years Day and the Rose Bowl Parade. But on the heels of a year like no other, where a global pandemic changed the landscape of the workforce practically overnight, prognosticating what’s in store for the year ahead is even trickier than usual.
One thing I think we can all agree on is that work from home is here to stay. Or, it at least won’t recede to pre-pandemic levels for quite some time. What is likely to change is how companies respond to their remote workforces. The security measures they take (or don’t), the educational opportunities they provide (or fail to) and their commitment to leverage technology to innovate (or the lack thereof) will separate the winners from the losers in the year ahead.
No doubt that cybersecurity securing the remote workforce will be a top concern throughout 2021, even following positive news on the vaccine development front. Another prevailing theme is that a cybersecurity skills gap will continue to haunt businesses and pose opportunities for those looking to start their careers in the field or make the switch to it. As such, automation and the adoption of AI technologies will be critical to plugging the gap.
Lastly, if 2020 hasn't taught us anything about being prepared for a disaster, I don't know what more would. And the upcoming year should be looked at as an opportunity to learn from the past and get ahead of the next one.
The remote workforce and the problem of personal devices
In 2021, many businesses will continue to operate remotely as a result of the pandemic and there must be an emphasis on training employees on security best practices, how to identify modern threats such as phishing, and where company data is being accessed and stored. Phishing is going to remain one of the most prominent ways to attack users and will become more sophisticated as it’s tailored to take advantage of work-from-home setups and distractions.
The biggest change for 2021 will be securing remote workforces and remote perimeters, which include home networks and home devices, particularly personal devices. These all add their own challenges. Home networks and their configurations are diverse. Many use out-of-date routers with insecure settings. Personal devices are often used for work and are twice as likely as business devices to encounter infections. If not addressed, this could have a serious impact on businesses in the coming year.
At the same time, we shouldn’t overlook the incredible societal and behavioral changes underway right now. These put all of us in new situations we’ve never encountered before. These new contexts create new opportunities for social engineering attacks like phishing and scare tactics to get us to open emails and click on fraudulent links. Hence the need to increase the amount of end-user security awareness training.
It really doesn’t matter the size of the company nor the length of the work-from-home stint, one thing that’s going to stay constant is that professionals at home are using their personal devices and personal network. Securing the remote perimeter is going to be the biggest challenge for cybersecurity professionals now through 2021 because laptops issued to professional workforce are much more secure than personal devices.
the cybersecurity skills shortage
Moving forward, cybersecurity professionals will need greater data analysis skills to be able to look at large sets of data and synthesize the information so organizations can derive actionable value from it. In 2021, organizations need to start implementing programs to upskill their current cybersecurity workforce to focus on the skills they’ll need for the future such as analyzing complex data, developing algorithms, and understanding machine learning techniques.
The cyber skills gap will continue to be an issue in 2021 because companies continue to believe they understand cybersecurity and, as a result, tend to spend less on external cybersecurity resources. This leads to a feeling of false security and, unfortunately, inadequate security.
Cybersecurity requires a financial investment to truly meet an organizations’ needs and to enact processes for securing systems. It’s much more effective to invest in a few, solid security processes and to address gaps at the outset than it is to implement an inexpensive, broad security solution that falls short in key areas.
business continuity and disaster recovery planning
Like I said earlier, if the pandemic hasn't taught us about the need to be prepared for the unforeseen, nothing will. I think we can all agree that almost every aspect of our lives has been turned upside down this year and the best thing we can do is leverage this next year to get ahead of the next potential business interruption.
To this extent, we're seeing lots of clients considering things they were never open to before as well as kicking these items up the priority list. Just a few of the things we're seeing significant movement on include:
- Introducing Video Conferencing like never before
- Securing remote Work-From-Home employee networks
- Moving aspects of their technology stack to the cloud
- Increasing redundancy
- Moving PBX phone system to VoIP
- Updating Business Continuity Plans
These are but a few of the things we've seen significant movement on across our client base as a response to the changes in the business computing environment. Again, I believe this is just the beginning of a trend to include more and more business continuity concepts into the every day strategic planning of IT.
Looking ahead to 2021
Whatever 2021 is, at least 2020 will be over, right? But in all seriousness, the virus doesn't care what year it is and its implications will certainly bleed over into the New Year. Much has been made of a supposed “new normal,” but to truly arrive there, companies must account for the new realities.
If there’s one takeaway from what we've experienced this year, it’s that business continuity and cybersecurity will need to be more front and center than ever before!
What do you think? Do you have any technology related predictions for the upcoming year? Let us know your thoughts or experiences in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.